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How to Reduce Fleet Fuel Costs

The cost of diesel fuel has traditionally been one of the largest expenses for trucking and transportation businesses. As a company owner or fleet manager, finding ways to utilize fuel more efficiently can reduce your operating costs and boost productivity. For most companies, a multi-pronged approach to reducing fuel consumption can deliver the best results. In this article, you’ll learn how monitoring and improving driver behavior, instituting stringent vehicle maintenance practices, implementing telematics, and taking the time to "spec" trucks can reduce fuel cost and consumption for your fleet.

1. Improve Driver Behaviors That Increase Fuel Consumption

The way your drivers operate your trucks directly impacts fuel consumption and how much your company spends on fuel. Even the most conscientious drivers can develop wasteful habits. One of the most reliable ways to reduce fleet fuel costs is providing coaching and training to help your operators modify their behaviors while they're behind the wheel.

Your training should focus on fuel-efficient driving practices such as:

  • Not exceeding the posted speed limit.
  • Managing idling time more efficiently.
  • Avoiding "jackrabbit " driving (rapid starting and stopping).
  • Maintaining a steady speed in areas with a series of traffic lights to maintain green light synchronization.
  • Only turning on the air conditioning when traveling at a consistent speed of 40 mph or higher (turn off the A/C and open the windows at slower speeds).
  • Operating the cruise control during long stretches of highway driving.
  • Taking the foot off the accelerator during downhill driving.

2. Perform Preventative Vehicle Maintenance

Trucks spend a lot of time on the road, especially those used in long-haul operations. Regular maintenance helps to prevent unexpected breakdowns that put drivers well behind schedule and pose potential safety risks. A well-maintained vehicle also runs more efficiently and consumes less fuel, leading to significant cost savings.

When setting up your fleet's maintenance schedule, consider factors such as your vehicles' engine service hours, miles driven, and the time interval — heavily used trucks require more frequent service. You and your drivers should pay close attention to engine fault codes, as they allow you to identify minor issues before they become serious performance problems.

Tire pressure is another simple but often overlooked maintenance area that directly impacts fuel consumption. Underinflated tires require more acceleration to achieve the desired speed, which burns extra fuel.

3. Invest In Telematics

A Fleet Telematics System (FTS) facilitates the exchange of information between vehicles and fleet managers. By providing more insight into a truck's operation and condition, these systems can help to reduce fleet fuel costs in several ways:

  • Improve Driver Behavior: Telematics enables you to track how your operators are driving your vehicles and identify fuel-wasting habits like excessive idling, speeding, and rapid starting and stopping. You can then use training to modify these behaviors.
  • Reduce Fuel Theft: Fuel theft typically occurs via unauthorized fuel purchases made with a company's fleet card. Telematics allows you to monitor all fuel purchases and verify their legitimacy.
  • Monitor DEF Levels: Diesel exhaust fuel is an ammonia-based liquid that that reduces the level of diesel engine nitrogen emissions. By using telematics, you can detect DEF inefficiencies that are negatively impacting fuel performance.
  • Assess Electrification Compatibility: With the growing trend toward using hybrid and electric vehicles, many transportation companies are exploring these options to reduce fuel costs. Telematics helps you evaluate several factors to determine if electrification is a viable solution for your business.

4. Match the Job to Vehicle Specs

Choosing the most appropriate truck specs is another way to reduce fleet costs. For example, truck engines are available in multiple sizes, each of which can accommodate different load types. If your drivers typically carry heavy loads over rough terrain, a low-horsepower engine will require additional fuel to meet the increased demand. Conversely, a high-horsepower engine isn't the most fuel-efficient solution when hauling lighter loads.

Trailer aerodynamics is another vehicle spec that affects fuel consumption. Attaching trailer skirts to the underbody can reduce fuel-wasting drag by preventing wind from reaching underneath during highway travel. If your fleet consists of older trucks, installing a gap management device can often correct aerodynamics-related issues.

Rand McNally Fleet Can Show You How to Lower Fleet Fuel Costs

Rand McNally Fleet offers a full complement of fleet management solutions that can help your transportation company reduce fuel costs. We can provide advanced telematics to track your drivers' habits and monitor your vehicles' maintenance needs. You'll save money on diesel fuel and experience improved fleet performance.

Contact us today to learn more about our telematics solutions and how they can benefit your business or request a product demo. We can also provide more helpful tips for lowering fleet fuel costs in your trucking operations.

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