Fuel is one of the highest costs for fleet managers. Unfortunately, the price of gas and diesel fluctuates often. The past few years have been challenging because of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
These factors have caused gas prices to skyrocket and stay high, and fleet owners must find ways to cut costs. Here’s how they can encourage their drivers to save fuel while on the road.
Enforcing New Policies
The most direct way to encourage fuel-efficient driving habits is to enforce new policies for drivers. Fleet managers could set efficiency metrics for the team and have them aim for specific targets each quarter. Some companies establish a speed limit for their drivers to ensure they get the best mileage possible.
Training Drivers From the Start
One way to make policies effective is for fleet managers to communicate their expectations from the start. Hiring managers and supervisors can encourage fuel-efficient driving habits by showing new people in training. These workers could be entry-level, first-time employees or seasoned veterans. Either way, fleet managers should ensure they know the expectations and metrics they need to reach.
Giving Feedback to Drivers
One of the best methods to improve driving habits is to give feedback. Letting employees know how they’re doing and if they’re being fuel-efficient gives them direct knowledge of whether they’re performing well or need improvement. Today’s technology is beneficial because supervisors don’t have to sit with people while they operate. They can use telematics to give feedback from anywhere.
Telematics serves multiple beneficial purposes for fleet owners, but the best one may be the ability to increase fuel efficiency. These devices recognize drivers’ habits and provide real-time feedback to improve performance. Sometimes drivers may accelerate too quickly on the highway or leave the truck running idle for longer than allowed. Telematics devices can also tell people if there’s a better route with less traffic.
Altering Driver Schedules
Using telematics is one of the best tools at a fleet manager’s disposal. The ability to see traffic patterns can help companies ease supply chain pains by delivering on time and early. Managers can also keep this in mind for their drivers. Paying attention to trends by the time of day or year can encourage fuel-efficient driving.
Fleet managers should create routes daily based on traffic patterns in the area. The time of day can impact congestion significantly. One highway could have traffic jams frequently in the morning but be mostly clear by midday. Driving at night typically brings less traffic on most routes.
Another factor to consider is holidays, which could come in the middle of the week if the government doesn’t fix them on a particular day. Also, fleet managers should consider holidays that are exclusive to specific states and counties. These days can affect traffic significantly, so supervisors must be mindful of the traffic patterns.
Being Mindful of Fuel Capacity
Drivers can go for long stretches in rural areas without seeing a gas station. For example, vehicles on Interstate 70 in Utah can travel for over 100 miles without coming across a service station. Drivers who encounter roads like this should calculate their vehicles’ fuel range to avoid running out of gas.
For example, say a driver’s car gets 30 MPG and has a 12-gallon fuel tank. They should be able to travel 360 miles on a single tank. Practicing fuel-efficient habits can increase mileage. However, fleet managers should encourage drivers to refuel once the tank reaches 25% remaining. Drivers should multiply the range by .75 and refuel after 270 miles.
Incentivizing Drivers With Rewards
Employees like to receive recognition for their hard work. Those who regularly put in their best effort and advance the company’s goals deserve praise. One survey found that about 40% of employees did not feel recognized for what they did during the pandemic. COVID-19 has stretched fleet managers thin amid protocols and other challenges.
One way to boost morale and improve fuel efficiency is by creating an incentive program. Fleet managers can use this tactic by tracking employee data and seeing who has performed the best and saved the most fuel per drive. Drivers who don’t rank highly can reflect on measures they can take to improve. Supervisors can reward the top workers with special privileges like monetary bonuses, gift cards or other prizes.
Lightening the Load
There are a few ways drivers can benefit their managers by implementing fuel-efficient tactics. However, fleet managers can also take measures to set their drivers up for success. An excellent way to start is by monitoring the amount of weight on each vehicle used.
Heavy vehicles have difficulty saving fuel. Most automobiles have gotten lighter over the years, but freight can still weigh down a fleet. Every 100 pounds of cargo reduces the miles per gallon by 1%. That can add up quickly on a long-haul truck. Fleet managers can encourage fuel efficiency by lowering cargo weight, removing unnecessary items and replacing drag in vehicles.
Purchasing Fuel-Efficient Parts
Another way fleet managers can help their drivers save fuel is by changing particular vehicle parts to make them more aerodynamically efficient. Semi-trucks can weigh about 35,000 when empty, so every pound goes a long way. One way to improve aerodynamic efficiency is by installing drive wheel fairings, which reduce the distance between the wheels and the trailer. The reduced airflow lowers the amount of drag and enhances efficiency.
Managers can also install fairings on the rear to lower the amount of turbulence the trailer encounters. Employees can easily take them apart when unloading and reattach them when finished. Some fleets employ cab extenders and attach them to the cabin. They help the airflow and restrict the amount of crosswind that can affect drag and fuel efficiency.
Getting Maintenance Checks
Fleet managers can extend the life of their fleet by getting routine maintenance checks. These appointments increase fuel efficiency by ensuring all parts work at their peak level. Some of the elements fleet owners should examine are:
- Tires: Tires can have a significant impact on fuel efficiency. Fleet managers and drivers should track the PSI constantly and ensure it’s optimal for each tire. Underinflated tires compromise fuel mileage by about 0.2% for every pound dropped.
- Air filter: Another maintenance point affecting fuel economy is the air filter. It will have difficulty with airflow once it traps debris and dirt from the road, resulting in lower efficiency. Fleet managers should regularly replace the air filter to improve fuel economy.
- Engine: Engine tuneups are a necessity for fleets. Supervisors may see they need to replace the spark plugs or oxygen sensors when tuning the motor. Another way to help the engine is to upgrade the oil to a low-viscosity blend.
Creating Fuel-Efficient Drivers
Fuel costs are unpredictable and one of the largest expenses fleet managers have to deal with. They can mitigate costs by encouraging fuel-efficient driving habits. Small changes here and there can add up to significant savings in the long run.
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