Analyses
3 oct 23

Fuel efficiency tips amid rising US fuel prices

Although the average price of regular gasoline in the United States dropped from $5.00 in mid-2022 to $3.00 at the beginning of 2023, numbers at the pumps have risen 30% this year ($3.90 average on Oct. 1) so finding ways to conserve fuel is as important as always for fleet managers.

With more than 266 million vehicles on US roads travelling more than 2.6 trillion miles per year and a vast majority of them still being internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, improving fuel efficiency - especially for medium-duty (class 5-6) trucks - is key and you can bet that a large part of that is in the hands of vehicle fleet managers of large fleets. With that said, let’s shed light on the strategies needed to conserve fuel and increase bottom line.

Idle Reduction: Among the things that increase vehicle idling are keeping vehicles warm or cool, and things like powering emergency lighting, communications, or off-board equipment so finding ways to reduce or optimize these actions as well as iplementing stop-start engine technologies can not only save fuel but cut down on pollution, green house gas emissions, noise, and engine wear. Don't leave engines running if you can avoid it.  

Parts & Equipment: As no more than 30% of vehicle energy usage stems from its propulsion system, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE), remember that much of energy lost is due to driveline inefficiencies such as exhaust heat, or those related to power accessories like air conditioning. 

As such, fleet managers can conserve fuel and maximize their operational efficiency by outfitting their vehicles with commercially available equipment designed to save fuel, including the implementation of fuel-efficient strategies, systems, and programs.

Vehicle Maintenance: Performing preventative maintenance activities such as tune-ups, using manufacturers’ grade motor oil, and having tires with low rolling resistance (maintaining proper tire inflation) can collectively increase fuel efficiency by more than 5%. Develop a comprehensive vehicle maintenance strategy.

Efficient Driving: Fleet managers and drivers can improve the efficiency of their vehicles, conserve fuel, save money, and reduce emissions through simple changes in driving behavior. According to the DOE, aggressive driving behavior such as abrupt acceleration and braking and speeding can lower fuel economy by more than 30% so slow down and drive conservatively.

Fleet managers, make sure to train drivers, give them feedback, and provide incentives. Implement policies that optimize routes, properly maintain vehicles, combine trips, reduce vehicle loads, and always get direct feedback.

Rightsizing your fleet: This is a management practice that can help vehicle fleet managers build and maintain an ideal vehicle inventory. When building your fleet, ask yourself a few questions:

•    What tasks are accomplished by each vehicle?
•    What is the daily, weekly, or monthly mileage of each vehicle?
•    Are your fleet vehicles the optimal vehicle type, class, and size for the job?
•    Do you have any vehicles that are no longer cost effective to operate or are no longer fulfilling their purpose?
•    Do you have any vehicles that are no longer being used or have experienced a lot of downtime?
•    What is the fuel consumption of each of your vehicles? Can they be replaced by more fuel-efficient models like hybrids or electric vehicles?
•    What is the age of your vehicles? Can they be replaced by new more efficient models?
•    Are there any alternatives to owning or leasing a vehicle? (shuttle bus, motor pool, shared vehicles, public transportation, short-term rentals, etc.)
•    Considering these answers, what is the optimal composition of the fleet required to properly support your needs?

In the end, there are many things that you can do to help conserve fuel in your fleet operations and increase the bottom line of your company. It is  just a matter of developing your strategy and implementing it. Considering the current economic outlook in the US, it does not look like gasoline prices will be dropping significantly for any long period of time soon so you will need to take control of building your savings strategy on your own. 

Top Photo: gasoline pump (courtesy of Shell)

Authored by: Daniel Bland