When establishing a fleet, many businesspeople think of things like the cost of vehicles, maintenance and drivers. Fuel, however, is usually the largest ongoing expense involved in trucking. Whether the vehicles make short runs around town or are driven across the country, simply keeping them running eats up a huge amount of budget. What can be done to keep these costs in check?
The first thing you can do is look at driving habits. Even though the maximum legal highway speed is 65 or over in most places, it’s a good idea to have drivers stick to a maximum of 55 when it’s safe to do so. This can cut fuel costs by 10-15 percent. Making a company-wide speed limit can be a huge cost saver right off the bat.
Idling is another big cause of fuel waste in fleets. A surprising number of drivers will just leave a truck or car running as they eat lunch. Instruct drivers to turn the vehicle off if they make an off-road stop and expect to be idling longer than 30 seconds. This is a bigger issue than it may seem – after installing fleet tracking equipment, one company found drivers who routinely let their trucks idle for up to 40 minutes!
Getting lost is a big problem for drivers who have to deliver to stops that aren’t on a fixed route. If they call a customer for directions, the person they speak to may not realize they need special truck routes and just tell them to take the roads they use to get to work. This results in lost time and confusion as the truck driver is left looking for a legal route on his own. Even if the driver can call his dispatcher, it still wastes extra time.
To avoid the problems associated with getting lost, install in-cab navigation systems. Such systems are good for far more than big rigs. They are great additions to service trucks, local delivery vehicles and any other car or truck used to reach “last mile” destinations.
Fleet maintenance is another big part of fuel management. Simply checking the tires, air filters and other common parts will help ensure that vehicles are running at peak efficiency. Another surprising tip is to keep the windows closed at highway speeds. When driving over 50 mph, a vehicle will experience aerodynamic drag that will force the engine to work harder and use more fuel.
When implementing fuel management practices, remember that common sense goes a long way. Also, be sure to prioritize safety. A slow truck uses less fuel, but that only counts if it doesn’t get rammed by faster traffic. By looking at practices with a logical eye, you’ll be able to find solutions that are both safe and effective.
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