With gas and diesel prices hovering near $4.00 per gallon nationally (and expected to go higher), fleet owners are bracing for an expensive summer. The damage can be mitigated, cautions Steve Eppinger, if fleet owners and operators implement focused strategies that target excessive fuel consumption. Eppinger is the Founder and CEO of Ownersite.com, the cloud-based vehicle asset management platform optimized for small to medium-sized fleet owners.
"Fleet owners often hear how much fuel they can save by driving conservatively or using cruise control, and indeed these two tactics can reduce fuel consumption by up to 25 percent," said Eppinger. "But there are many other steps owners can take that cumulatively have just as much value—and also extend the life of their vehicles, These include not only better maintaining their vehicles but also implementing tracking and reporting systems that keep them apprised of fuel efficiency breakdowns."
In a 30-vehicle fleet with an average MPG of 27.3 (the corporate fuel economy standard in 2011) and an average mileage of 25,000 per vehicle per year, a one-dollar increase in gas prices equates to nearly $28,000 yearly in added fuel cost. Improving that number of 15 percent nets the fleet owner more than $4,000 in lost revenue, Eppinger points out.
"Some methods of improving mileage may appear negligible, given the amount of manual effort they require," said Eppinger. "However, dismissing these "lesser" improvements can be a fleet owners' biggest and most expensive mistake."
Eppinger offers these advanced strategies for fleet owners alarmed by the spike in fuel prices:
- Look at MPG reduction potential cumulatively, not individually. The MPG loss from an out-of-tune engine (4 percent), under-inflated tires (1.5 percent), and the wrong oil (1.5 percent) combined is greater than driving at high speeds 20 percent of the time (6 percent). Run with increased rolling resistance tires and you'll net another 4 percent increase in MPG for a total of 11 percent.
- Evaluate fleet vehicles as a group and not just individually. Rank vehicle fuel economy (compared to what you expect) and then examine the worst underperformers more closely. If two 2006 Ford Econoline vans are 25 percent apart in fuel economy, the poorest performer—or its driver—needs serious help.
- Track mileage with each fill-up individually, not just averaged over time, to pinpoint the underlying causes of bad fuel economy. Reasons for poor MPG can be very specific. For example, a driver who fills in on the weekends may have a lead foot or not know how to use the GPS efficiently, throwing off a vehicle's figures for the entire week.
- Get help in the form of tracking software. It's not easy to stay on top of fuel-saving strategies unless you run an easy-to-use (preferably mobile) vehicle maintenance and management solution. The best programs not only track mileage and remind you to do important maintenance; they also generate reports that help you identify problems.
Source for all statistics in this news release: Transportation Research Institute at The University of Michigan, September 2011