Fuel is the largest vehicle-based cost for fleets per mile. In 2019 fleets spent an average of $0.40 per mile when fuel was $2.60 per gallon. This year, this average is likely to almost double—in March 2022 fuel prices hit an all-time high of $4.17. No doubt, rising fuel costs will have a dramatic impact on this year’s bottom line, making it essential for fleets to improve fuel economy. If you’re a company owner or fleet manager asking “How can I reduce my fleet fuel costs?,” here are five key strategies.

Achieving Fuel Efficiency Makes a Big Impact

While small gains on a single vehicle’s fuel economy may seem insignificant, they have a major impact when extended across a fleet of tens, hundreds, or thousands of vehicles. 

On average, tractor-trailers get a paltry 6.4 mpg. With a few small changes, however, it’s possible to surpass 10 mpg in real world conditions, according to a three-week study by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) in 2017. If 1.7 million North America-based trucks achieved this level of efficiency, they would save a combined $24.3 billion in diesel costs and 98 million tons of CO2 each year.

Notably, when NACFE repeated this study in 2019 it came close to duplicating these initial results, achieving 8.3 mpg. If this level of fuel efficiency was extended across regional long-haul fleets, the industry would save more than $9 billion in diesel costs and 30.6 million tons of CO2 annually. 

How to Reduce Fuel Costs 

These are just some of NACFE’s fuel saving recommendations for better fleet efficiency.

  1. Help drivers optimize their vehicle speeds

Although different vehicles reach their optimal fuel economy at different speeds, gas mileage rapidly decreases at speeds above 50 mph. In fact, every 5 mph above 50 mph can increase fuel costs by $0.30 to $0.61 per gallon (or higher, depending on fuel prices). Reducing speed by 5 to 10 mph can improve fuel economy by 7 to 14 percent. Fleets can help drivers to pay better attention to their speed by using an advanced telematics solution, which provides smartphone notifications about posted speed limits to ensure drivers always drive at fuel-saving speeds. 

  1. Train and incentivize drivers to be conscientious

Fleets should provide drivers with regular training about fuel economy basics, like the best use of adaptive cruise control, fuel-efficient driving techniques, and the importance of minimal idling. Drivers should also be taught how fleet telematics can help them take real time corrective action and regularly track their fuel saving performance. At the same time, incentive programs can provide drivers with motivation for meeting important fuel economy goals and milestones. 

  1. Keep vehicles well maintained

Fleets that follow rigorous preventive maintenance programs can increase fuel efficiency between 5 and 10 percent. To this end, strong record keeping is essential. While paper driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs) leave considerable room for human error, an advanced telematics system ensures vehicles stay on a regular maintenance schedule. Telematics systems also provide dashboards for real time insights into vehicle health to ensure fleets can get ahead of any issue before a vehicle starts burning excess fuel.  

  1. Embrace low rolling resistance tires

Low rolling resistance (LRR) tires increase fuel efficiency. Normally, tires deform against the ground as they move underneath the weight of a truck. Deformation must be overcome by stepping on the gas to maintain forward motion. This tire rolling resistance contributes between one quarter and one third of a Class 8 truck’s total fuel consumption. Compare that to the minimal deformation of LRR tires, which decrease friction by about 10 percent and reduce fuel costs between 1 and 3 percent

  1. Provide tools to reduce idle time

Although idling may seem innocuous, a heavy-duty truck that’s idling consumes about 0.8 gallon of fuel per hour. So, even when diesel gas prices on route cost as little as $2.50 a gallon, idling during a single 10-hour rest period can cost upwards of $20. Telematics systems can help drivers avoid excessive idling by providing a dashboard that tracks their idle time. It’s important to remember, however, that idling often occurs because drivers want to stay comfortable on the road—especially during extreme weather. In an extremely tight driver labor market, keeping drivers happy is essential for retention. So make sure to set fleet idling goals that enable drivers to balance fuel efficiency with a positive trip experience. 

Final Thoughts

Maximizing a fleet’s fuel economy is complex because there are multiple factors to monitor and optimize, like driver behavior, vehicle maintenance, tire type and tire pressure, idling, fleet technology, and more. To achieve maximum fuel efficiency fleets must take a holistic approach that’s supported by both driver training and real time data. Advanced telematics systems help fleets achieve transparency for a wide range of inefficiencies to help save on fueling costs. Contact Netradyne to learn more.

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