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8 Fuel Management Trends for Fleet Managers

January 11, 2019

8 Fuel Management Trends for Fleet Managers

January 11, 2019

A recent article highlights eight fuel management trends and strategies for fleet managers.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

With the new year, fleet managers are evaluating their fleet's 2018 performance and what they can improve upon. Fuel consumption costs are an integral part of fleet performance analysis and can have a pivotal effect on annual savings and overall efficiency. A new article by Work Truck highlights eight different fuel management trends that could help fleet managers prepare for an efficient and successful 2019. These helpful strategies are listed below:

1. Differences in Fuel Type

Fleet managers have a wide range of fuels to choose from when it comes to their fleet. As new fuels and alternative power sources become available, reassessing a fleet's current fuel is a smart way to ensure fleets perform optimally. Below are three alternatives to traditional diesel and gasoline that could save fleet directors money in the long-term.

Propane Autogas

Propane autogas is listed by Work Truck as "one the most popular fuels in the United States and is the third most popular vehicle fuel overall following gas and diesel." The majority of this fuel is produced in the U.S. and it is also more cost-effective than other alternative fuels. It also tends to be 50% cheaper than diesel and gasoline and reduces vehicle emissions.

Renewable Diesel

According to Work Truck, renewable diesel is a premium fuel that is refined from renewable materials such as fats, vegetable oils, and waste cooking oils. This fuel is traditionally more expensive than petroleum or diesel, but it can provide an improved level of vehicle performance and can increase vehicle longevity. Another benefit to this fuel is that it does not require any vehicle modification before being used, making for an easy transition.

Electrification and Mobile Auxiliary Power

Electric and hybrid technology has improved tremendously over the past decade. Fleet managers have the opportunity to invest in electric work trucks, and electrified heavy-duty trucks will soon be readily available in the market. One downside to this option, however, is the expense of purchasing a completely new vehicle. A more economical alternative to this vehicle overhaul is a fleet retrofit with mobile auxiliary power. Stealth Power's idle-reducing systems are a great example of technology that can be installed on a vehicle to help lower fuel costs, increase vehicle longevity, and reduce vehicle emissions. Such technologies provide auxiliary power for a vehicle's electric needs and are able to cut significantly the amount of fuel a fleet consumes annually.

2. Use of Fuel Cards

Fuel-specific cards are a great way to track a fleet's fuel consumption and trends. These cards also make it easy to compare drivers' fuel consumption, geographic averages, and industry trends. They can also provide real-time data, and one fuel card program can be used across multiple vehicle types.

3. On-Site vs. Off-Site Fueling

Each fleet has the option of fueling exclusively on-site, exclusively off-site, or a mixture of the two. Different fleets will benefit from different fueling practices, but a careful analysis of the pros and cons to each is important before making a decision.

On-Site Fueling

On-site fueling might be best fitted for fleets where vehicles leave in the morning before fueling up and return to home base each evening without needing to refill. Fleets who fuel up on-site don't have to wait in line to refill, which keeps drivers on the road and helps improve fleet efficiency. When drivers must refill on-site,  chances of fuel fund misuse and fraud decrease as well. An added benefit to this approach is that purchasing fuel at a wholesale price is cheaper than purchasing fuel per gallon.

Off-Site Fueling

While the price of gallon might be cheaper with on-site fueling, it has the added cost of infrastructure development. This upfront cost might not be ideal for all fleets, especially those with a smaller budget for extraneous costs. On-site fueling also isn't ideal for fleets that require vehicles to travel beyond the point where they can return in the evening to refuel. If a fleet is utilizing multiple fuel types, off-site fueling is more practical, because it can be more costly to purchase multiple fuels in bulk and to provide the appropriate infrastructure for each type.

4. Telematics Data to Monitor Fuel Trends

Fleet managers can take advantage of telematics data to track vehicle movement, vehicle and fleet fuel consumption, vehicle idling time, vehicle and fleet CO2 emissions, and more. Monitoring real-time data makes it easy for fleet directors to keep track of individual vehicles and of the whole fleet's operations. Work Truck also advises that fleets invest in idle-reducing technologies, because "idling is one of the biggest fuel wasters." Idle-reducing technologies such as Stealth Power's idle reduction products eliminate unnecessary fuel waste, lower maintenance costs, and increase vehicles' lifetime. Combining such technologies with telematics data arms fleet managers with the necessary tools to eliminate unnecessary costs.

5. Automated vs. Manual Transmission

Transmission preferences may vary fleet by fleet, but there are certain advantages and disadvantages to both. Manual transmission offers individual drivers more control over their vehicle and can help improve fuel economy. However, automated transmission technology has developed so that it takes advantage of complex algorithms designed to provide optimal fuel economy and performance. While automated transmission can take some of the guesswork for drivers, it does need to be carefully researched and adjusted for each particular fleet's needs. Putting in this initial effort can lead to a 1 mpg improvement per vehicle. Still, the latest automated transmission technology comes with an additional cost, so fleet directors need to calculate whether the extra cost outweighs the benefits for their particular fleet.

6. Eco-Driver Training

Eco-driver training is essential for optimal fuel economy. Educating drivers on the various factors that affect fuel consumption, such as "idle times, acceleration, lane changes, and cruising speeds," can help them get the most out of every gallon of fuel (Work Truck). Training them on these factors also helps them get on board with the fleet's overall mission and makes them feel more accountable for their fuel spend. Work Truck advises encouraging drivers' behavior by scoring them on their mpg performance, rewarding those with the highest scores, and making these results public for the whole fleet to see. These actions encourage drivers to be more accountable and will lead to improved fuel performance.

7. Gamification for Improved Fuel Economy

Gamification apps provide real-time scoring for drivers' individual fuel performance while also ranking them against their peers. These apps encourage drivers to employ their eco-training in order to raise their scores and save more fuel. Used in conjunction with the drivers' fuel-management education, this technology is a great way to keep drivers engaged.

8. Aerodynamics

Drivers can and do actively affect vehicles' fuel economy, but they are limited by the vehicle's aerodynamics. While completely readjusting a vehicle's structure is not feasible, small changes can be made to improve the vehicle's efficiency. According to Work Truck's article, making these changes "can improve fuel economy by 15%." Some aerodynamic options for trucks include the installing of roof caps, undercarriage systems, side skirts, side extenders, nose cones, trailer tails, front flaps, zero-offset wheels, crossmember shields, and more. There are a lot of options to consider and they can vary drastically in price and size. When implementing such changes, it is important to do some research about what options are best for a fleet, and it's crucial that these additions are installed carefully and correctly.The road to optimal fuel economy takes careful planning and deliberate implementation. By utilizing some or all of these eight tactics, fleet directors will be best equipped for an efficient and successful 2019.

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