Fuel typically represents one of a fleet’s highest operating expenses. Even though fuel prices have somewhat stabilized, a periodic review of operating and maintenance practices can help further improve your fleet’s fuel efficiency. Here are some key areas to consider:
- Vehicle maintenance. Make sure vehicles are being well maintained. Regular and proper maintenance is essential to keeping vehicles running efficiently. The better vehicles are maintained, the more miles per gallon they will achieve.
- Tires. As discussed last month, there needs to be a tire management program and policy in place, and adhered to. Poor tire condition and improper inflation are major contributors to reduced fuel economy and also adversely affect vehicle handling, traction and braking.
- Vehicle inspections. Be certain drivers are diligent in doing their pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections and are reporting any deficiencies or problems. Additionally, be sure service personnel are correcting these issues. Have them pay particular attention to any reported performance problems that may be decreasing fuel mileage.
- Driving techniques. No matter how well maintained any vehicle is, it will not achieve good fuel economy or life if it is driven “irresponsibly.” It is critical to educate your drivers on how to drive your trucks to get the best fuel economy, and why this matters. Drivers are the biggest factor in fuel economy â€” good or bad.
Remind drivers to slow down and operate their vehicles at lower rpms. Vehicle speed has the single largest impact on how much fuel is consumed. The faster a truck runs, the more fuel it burns.
Along with improving fuel mileage, driving a little slower is also safer, extends tire life and minimizes the wear and tear on the vehicle and driver.
Drivers should be reminded to drive steadily because constantly speeding up and slowing down wastes fuel. They also should try to anticipate driving situations and traffic flow to avoid too-frequent slow-downs, stops, starts and speed-ups, and avoid aggressive driving and hard braking.
Studies have shown that it is not uncommon for fleets with identically spec’d trucks to see as much as a 35 percent fuel economy difference between trucks â€” a difference that is solely due to variances in skills and attitudes of the drivers.
- Idling. Eliminate unnecessary idle time as it wastes fuel and costs money. Have your drivers shut off the engine whenever possible. For example, if they anticipate a lengthy wait or delivery, or are stuck in a traffic jam.
- Information. The only way to accurately gauge fuel savings is to track such measures as fuel consumed, fuel mileage, average vehicle speed, idle time and so forth. Tracking such information can help you identify drivers who are getting poor fuel mileage, giving you an opportunity to help them improve. What’s more, by keeping fuel mileage records, you can create incentive programs and bonus opportunities to reward drivers for achieving specific fuel economy targets. This has been shown to be an effective way to increase fleet fuel economy.
- Routing. Check your routes to ensure they are optimized for fuel mileage. It doesn’t make sense to save a few miles from one stop to another if a truck will burn more fuel traveling between the stops. A wide variety of routing optimization software programs are available. Make your drivers aware of such things as sporting events, road closures, road construction and route conditions. This can help them avoid traffic congestion, which produces high-idle time situations and wasted time.
- Equipment specification. When spec’ing new vehicles, be sure to include a balance of fuel economy and performance as a key consideration, along with durability, dependability, serviceability and driver retention.
Decide upon the fuel economy expectations and requirements for your vehicles. Don’t forget to review current and past specs to see how effective they have been in squeezing more miles per gallon.
Consider the use of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. A hybrid vehicle is one that uses two or more distinct power sources to directly or indirectly provide propulsion power. There are hybrids that capture and store energy generated from braking and convert it into an auxiliary source of energy to help power the vehicle.
Alternative fuels refer to all fuels that can replace diesel and gasoline. These include bio-fuels, compressed or liquid natural gas and electricity. Alternative fuels do not have the energy density of gasoline or diesel fuel, but in many cases, they have a lower cost per energy unit.
Take advantage of the knowledge and experience of vehicle and component manufacturers. They are good resources and can keep you informed about the latest advances and products for fuel economy and vehicle life. BI