7 steps to better… Fuel Management
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to preserve assets, limit down-time, decrease road risk and reduce fuel consumption is to ensure all vehicles are regularly maintained. Vehicles that receive appropriate maintenance run more efficiently and use less fuel, and regular checks to ensure vehicles are up to standard should be company policy for both business and grey fleet vehicles.
Studies suggest that fuel economy can be improved hugely just by keeping tyres properly inflated. Encouraging all drivers to give a quick once-over of their tyres could result in significant fuel savings, as well as reducing the risk of a salesman finding himself at the side of the road with a flat instead of sitting down with a client.
Have an overview
Telematics technology, which is now increasingly used by businesses of all sizes, provides fleet managers with real-time information about the location, movements, status and behaviour of a vehicle using GPS systems.
‘Telematics solutions are a proven approach to fuel management and provide fleet managers the insight that is essential for them to manage the most efficient fleet of vehicles,’ comments John Cameron, general manager of Trimble Field Service Management. ‘Only this kind of understanding can give operators the ability to make truly informed business decisions.’
Organisations typically pay out almost a quarter more in fuel and mileage expenses than they need to, and telematics can offer in-depth analysis to make sure businesses don’t pay over the odds for fuel allowances.
Communicate with drivers
As well as providing an invaluable insight into the efficiency of a fleet operation, telematics can help educate drivers on the knock-on effects of their poor behaviour behind the wheel.
‘Telematics systems like Masternaut Connect can link fuel economy and safety to behaviour to deliver driver buy-in,’ explains Alex Rothwell, chief technology officer at Masternaut. ‘Once you have driver buy-in it provides an opportunity for “gamification”, by ranking drivers on their driver score and identifying areas where fuel economy could be improved.’
Using the information gathered, fleet operators are well-equipped to educate business drivers on how making small changes such as accelerating and braking less sharply can help them drive more efficiently.'
Specialist driver training, such as IAM’s Drive & Survive’s “Ecolution” training course, can reinforce the correct driving style for drivers who have been identified as inefficient or careless behind the wheel.
‘The art of eco driving is all about being smooth,’ says IAM’s head of technical policy, Tim Shallcross. ‘Keeping a fairly constant speed through all kinds of traffic involves looking way ahead, anticipating what's going to happen and making small adjustments early. Most of us do the opposite; we focus on other things, never look beyond the car in front and stop when it does. Smooth, planned driving saves fuel and stress.’
Targeted driver training can also have significant safety benefits by encouraging drivers to be more observant and aware of their behaviour on the road.
For businesses that are determined to reduce fuel spend and have the capital to support the higher initial purchase price, electric and hybrid vehicles can offer a viable solution.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, to fully charge an electric car costs approximately £2-£3 and will give a typical range of 100 miles. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car will cost around £12-£18 in fuel. The cost savings will be even higher for drivers with access to an overnight low-rate electricity tariff.
Electric vehicle users can now apply for funding from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles to install a home charger for their vehicle, and British Gas and fleet leasing partner Hitachi Capital offer advice and support for installing office charging points.
Consider fuel cards
While businesses are currently reaping the benefits of falling fuel prices, it is important that both operators and drivers are not complacent about fuel costs.
‘In most cases company car drivers have to reimburse fuel usage for journeys classified as private, which will encourage them to keep costs down by filling up at the cheapest retailers such as supermarkets,’ says Jenny Powley, sales director corporate at RAC Business.
‘This benefits the driver as they obviously have less to reimburse, as well as the business as they are using the cheapest possible fuel, which keeps costs down. Using fuel cards, which are mainly only used at supermarkets, also gives fleet managers much more reliable information about fuel consumption across their group of vehicles.’
The AA rescued 150,000 misfuelled vehicles in 2011, and according to Bruce Compton, managing director of Auto Fuel Fix (AFF), the rise of diesel has exacerbated the issue: ‘Modern diesels are quieter and less “diesel-like”, therefore it’s become far harder to distinguish between petrol and diesel engines. In many case the larger filler neck in diesel cars can easily accept both nozzles, and other factors such as tiredness and distraction can cause problems.’
As well as litres of wasted fuel, misfuelling can lead to expensive repair bills and vehicle downtime. While roadside drainage services, such as those offered by AFF, can help to limit damage when a vehicle is misfuelled, prevention is always better than cure. Misfuelling caps can be a low-cost way to reduce risk, and driver education about the correct fuel-type to use is essential.
CASE STUDY: eco driving
Commercial Group, one of the UK’s largest office suppliers, invested in IAM Drive & Survive’s Ecolution training in 2009. IAM Drive & Survive partnered with Commercial Group to identify elements of concern, and in addition, assess its need for on-going fuel savings across the fleet.
Training took place off and on road, with each driver completing a three part circuit. The first allowed the driver to complete an observed run, the second involved instructor training and the third was performed by the driver, using their newly acquired skills and techniques.
According to Commercial Group, all drivers experienced between 20% and 40% improvement in environmental driving in the six months following their Ecolution training, resulting in an average fuel cost saving of over £750 per driver.
CASE STUDY: using telematics
Trimble’s Fleet Management and Driver Safety solution was recently deployed across Indesit UK’s fleet, resulting in a claimed increase in miles per gallon of over 18%.
According to the domestic appliances distributor, improvements are owed to ongoing support from Trimble’s professional services team and its analytics technology offering, which resulted into a reduction in vehicle idling and RPM as well as an increase in more efficient driving across the fleet, indicated by improved Driver Safety scores.
In addition, Trimble’s Fleet Management solution has enabled Atlantic Tower Services (ATS) to decrease fuel consumption by almost 30%. Every month, the operations manager receives Fleet Management-generated reports from ATS headquarters on fuel station stops and fuel consumption, allowing better understanding of fuel utilisation at an individual level.