With the skyrocketing costs of ﬂeet operations and maintenance, ﬂeet management in 2023 can feel deﬁned by a constant search for cost savings.
According to a recent report by the American Trucking Association’s Technology & Maintenance Council and Decisiv Inc., ﬂeet maintenance costs in 2022 were up 10% from 2021. Conventional fuel prices have been especially volatile in recent years, with U.S. gasoline prices reaching an all-time high of $5.016 in June 2022, adding to the pressure. And if the rising costs weren’t hard enough on budgets, ﬂeet managers are increasingly being asked to lower carbon and boost sustainability — directives often beset with cost-intensive solutions.
As fuel, labor, maintenance, repairs, and more costs continue to increase with inﬂation and the ﬂuctuating economy, ﬂeet managers looking to keep costs low need to uncover savings anywhere they can. They can begin by looking closer at fueling.
At ﬁrst glance, fueling costs start and stop with the sticker price at the pump. But the true cost of fueling is much more complex, spanning operations and maintenance as well. To keep the holistic costs of fueling at bay, here are three hidden costs that owners and operators should be aware of:
1. Hidden Labor Costs
Most ﬂeets rely on gas station fueling to ﬁll their vehicles, which means trips to the gas station punctuate many, if not most, of their drivers’ shifts. Each trip takes time — to get there, pay, fuel, and get back on route.
The average gas station errand takes about 20 minutes, according to Geotab. That time adds up quickly — to about 61 hours annually spent on gas station fueling per driver. For example, a ﬂeet of 20 vehicles would lose 1,220 hours of work time refueling, equaling about 153 eight-hour workdays. Consider the rising costs of labor, which spiked 14.2% from 2021 to 2022, and you’ve got a signiﬁcant spend on your hands.
This amounts to signiﬁcant money spent on labor time for the gas station errand alone. The labor cost for fueling time adds up to about $1,436 annually. For a ﬂeet of 20, that’s nearly $30,000.
Batching fueling with mobile fuel delivery offers a solution. In this model, vehicles are fueled at ﬂeet yards in non-operating hours, so drivers begin each shift with the fuel needed — no gas station trips are required. By spending fewer labor hours on fueling errands, drivers can redirect that time to core business objectives, like delivering packages or making house calls.
2. Hidden Fuel Burn
Many ﬂeet managers think about the money they spend on fuel, but few think about the money they spend getting fuel. Deviating from carefully planned service or delivery routes by adding gas station stops interferes with efﬁciency, and the extra miles add up quickly for ﬂeets, contributing to unnecessary fuel spend.
According to Geotab, each off-route gas station trip averages about 2.2 miles. At an average fuel economy of 17.5 miles per gallon for light trucks and vans, a ﬂeet of 20 vehicles would burn about 460 extra gallons of gas annually just driving to and from fueling stops.
Driver behaviors may also play a role. Idling is common at gas stations as drivers wait for a pump to open up or run inside for a snack. At about half a gallon of fuel spend per hour, idling for a few minutes each day can cost several dollars per week.
Boosting fuel economy can also minimize hidden fuel burn. One solution is to implement safe driving practices — the DOE wrote that obeying the speed limit, accelerating and braking gently and gradually, and reading the road ahead can improve a vehicle’s fuel economy by 15%–30% at highway speeds and 10%–40% in stop-and-go trafﬁc.
To monitor driver behaviors and implement safe driving practices, ﬂeet managers can turn to telematics tracking accompanied by safe driving training programs. According to Geotab, GPS tracking through telematics devices can save a ﬂeet an average of $157 per driver.
3. Hidden Wear-and-Tear & Maintenance Costs
Every mile traveled contributes to vehicle depreciation, also known as wear and tear.
When ﬂeet vehicles travel unnecessary miles to and from fueling locations, they unwittingly add unnecessary wear and tear to ﬂeet costs. Each ﬂeet vehicle might see about $160 in depreciation on average annually due to fueling errands alone.
Added miles also require more vehicle maintenance, which signiﬁcantly affects fuel economy. A few fuel-related facts to keep in mind include:
- Keeping tires ﬁlled to the recommended PSI can improve gas mileage by up to 3%.
- Underinﬂated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 PSI drop in the average pressure of all tires.
- Improper wheel alignment can increase fuel consumption by 2.2%.
- Low engine oil can reduce fuel economy by more than 2%.
To minimize wear and tear costs and improper maintenance, ﬂeet managers might consider a combined approach of reducing extraneous miles by adopting mobile fueling while using telematics for predictive ﬂeet maintenance. Predictive ﬂeet maintenance leverages real-time analytics and long-term ﬂeet data trends to optimize the timing of ﬂeet maintenance activities, keeping ﬂeets running at tip-top shape with their best fuel economy.
Rethinking Work Truck Fleet Fueling
You’re likely spending much more on fueling than you realize. The time, fuel, and wear and tear associated with endless treks to and from the gas station add up quickly, adding signiﬁcant stress to already tight budgets.
Fleet managers looking to balance tight budgets amid rising ﬂeet costs should implement telematics and data analytics, teach safe driving practices, and consider adopting mobile fuel delivery to streamline fueling and save on costs.
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