Photo via iStockPhoto.com. -

Photo via iStockPhoto.com.

There’s hardly a fleet out there that wouldn’t like to save money on fuel costs. Maybe you’re not sure where to start. Maybe you feel like you’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit and you’re looking for new ideas. Here’s help:

EQUIPMENT

1. Buy higher-mpg vehicles. Crunch the numbers to see what the payback would be of buying a new model. 

2. Make engine and transmission work as a team. Consider both the experience level of your drivers and vehicle application when spec’ing your truck, according to Navistar. This will help you select the most fuel-efficient transmission and engine pairing for your application.

3. Rightsize the engine. Engine displacement as well as torque and horsepower requirements should be carefully considered, as more than one combination may work for you. Resist over-spec’ing in size and power except in harsh environments where extra durability could be to your advantage.

4. Move away from manual transmissions. An excellent “fuel-miser” driver may be able to beat an automated manual transmission (AMT) on his or her best days, but AMTs provide a level of consistency that saves fuel day in and day out.

5. Spec for lighter weight. Lightweight components will ultimately save fuel, but they tend to be expensive at the outset and may not be as robust as heavier, traditional parts. 

TIRES

6. Buy fuel-efficient tires. Getting the right tire at the right wheel position can improve fuel economy by several percentage points. 

7. Use automatic tire monitoring and inflation systems. A U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) field test of automatic tire inflation and tire pressure monitoring systems found a 1.4-percent reduction in fuel consumption for fleets using the systems.

8. Keep tires and wheels balanced. Because tires are part of a rotating mass that revolves around the axle spindle, the entire package — hub, brake drum or rotor, wheel, and tire — can affect fuel efficiency. When a tire is not balanced, it vibrates (roughly 10 times a second at 66 mph), causing irregular wear (which contributes to tires being pulled before they wear down to their most fuel-efficient tread thickness) and wasting energy meant to propel the truck forward.

FUEL PURCHASING & USE

9. Negotiate fuel discounts. Negotiate fuel discounts and build a network of best-priced truck stops, advised the Sokolis Group, tsourced fuel management and fuel consulting company.

10. Look into a fuel card program. If your fleet fills up on the road, look into a card program. There are several excellent programs and companies, for all sizes of fleets, offering discounts and helping to track and control fuel purchases. One is bound to fit your needs. Some even offer a reporting tool that can drop into most accounting systems.

11. Check your fuel invoices. Nearly 40 percent of respondents to a survey by FuelQuest suspect errors in their fuel invoices.

12. Watch out for fuel quality. Fuel quality should be carefully considered, according to J.J. Keller, a provider of regulatory compliance and risk management products and services. Compare fuel mileage vendor to vendor.

13. Use your telematics information. Much as a vehicle’s telematics system gathers information from various components, trucking management software ties all that and more together in the back office to allow fleets to make the best decisions possible.

14. Track that fuel data. There are many options to help keep track of data such as fuel consumption, mpg, idle time, hard braking, and road speed.

15. Optimize your routes. Effective routing has been a problem for truck fleets since before computers were invented, but today’s technologies provide another tool for solving this problem.

16. Avoid left turns. When optimizing routes, think about left turns — namely avoiding them. UPS learned through time studies that avoiding left-hand turns conserves fuel, saves time, lowers emissions, and avoids collisions. For several decades, UPS has designed routes in a series of loops with as few left-hand turns as possible. Today, UPS has technology that automates the process for minimizing left-hand turns, combining personal and historical experience with computer programs to design delivery routes.

17. Research alt-fuel options. Fleets may be able to save on fuel costs through the use of alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas (CNG). Research alternative fuels to see if they would be a money-saver for your operations.

18. Use data to find your fuel-wasting trucks. Aggressive data collection and analysis allows fleet managers to drill down into their operations and isolate the causes of fuel-guzzling vehicles, noted FleetAdvantage.

IDLE MANAGEMENT

19. Use an idle shutdown timer. Idle shutdown timers can help and are used extensively by larger fleets, but they do have some drawbacks when it comes to driver comfort and satisfaction. Ambient temperature override programs can allow the engine to idle in extreme low and high temperatures.

20. Use an auxiliary power unit. There are many auxiliary power units available, some fired by diesel, others by battery. You can get them from truck makers, refrigeration unit manufacturers, and many independent companies.

21. Turn off the engine whenever possible or research the growing availability of stop-start technology. Letting the engine run for more than 10 seconds without moving uses more fuel than it takes to restart the vehicle, according to PHH Arval, and trucks with larger engines waste even more fuel while idling. Drivers should consider turning off their engines if they have stopped for more than a minute, except while in traffic. This action has minimal impact on the starter system. The U.S. DOT estimates that medium-duty trucks burn about 2.5 billion gallons of fuel while idling each year or 6.7 percent of the total fuel they consume.

22. Harness the power of the sun. Still new on the scene are ways to use solar panels to power auxiliary power units and liftgates instead of idling the engine.

DRIVERS

23. Keep in touch with drivers about mpg, and invest in driver training. The difference in fuel efficiency between your worst and best drivers can be as much as 30 percent. Automated transmissions can certainly help bring poor-to-mediocre drivers up to near expert level, but shifting is only one part of a driver’s duties.

24. Use scorecards. An old business adage is that before you can manage something, you have to be able to measure it. One of the ways fleets use the data collected by their telematics system is to develop scorecards for drivers, vehicles, and fleets.

Fleets can use their technology to control fuel use by managing data such as idle time, speed, and driving habits. Scorecards show drivers where they rank according to company standards for idle time or mpg, against other drivers within their group or terminal, and across the whole fleet.

25. Stay on the highway. Two-lane roads and the towns they go through can be scenic and folksy, but the stop-and-go exercises kill economy. You’ll cruise more economically at a steady speed on the interstates. 

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