WITH the cost of fuel at the pumps racing towards £4 a gallon, an increasing number of fleets are looking at ways to offset the budget-busting price rises. Warnings have also been sounded that the country could see a repeat of the 2000 fuel protests which could push prices up further and also lead to shortages.
During those protests, fleets were caught out and many drivers had to leave cars at the side of the road when they failed to find fuel.
Decision-makers are being urged to prepare early to offset the price rises and deal with potential supply problems with a number of important tactics.
A simple five-point plan to set a framework for their fuel management is a key starting point to reduce fuel use and waste.
These include combating fraud to avoid wasting fuel, reducing unnecessary mileage, penalising drivers for achieving poor fuel economy, weeding out vehicles that achieve poor fuel economy and ensuring drivers keep a look out for low fuel prices.
It has been produced by a leasing company which says the majority of fleets fail to introduce fuel management policies.
Mike Reed, operations director at contract hire and leasing firm GE Capital Fleet Services (GECFS), which is behind the recommendations, said: 'Many fleet managers, even some very good ones, have the attitude that fuel costs are basically uncontrollable.
'In fact, while fleets clearly cannot have much influence over pump prices, they can have a worthwhile impact on what their organisation spends on petrol and diesel.
'Any fleet that puts some or all of these five measures in place should mitigate some of the worst effects of rising fuel prices. The signs are that diesel and petrol prices could stay high for quite a while to come, so taking direct and effective management action is very important.'
Fleets have already been warned that regional pricing variations for fuel have created a fuel price lottery.
Castle Fuel Cards has encouraged companies to urge their drivers to seek out the cheaper filling stations when filling up.
The company estimates that a 200-strong car fleet operating in the Midlands could cut its typical fuel bill of about £330,000 by nearly £14,000 (4.2%) if it pushed drivers towards lower-priced outlets, such as supermarkets.
'Fleets are playing a postcode lottery whenever their drivers stop to refuel,' said Teresa Maynard, head of fuel at Castle Fuel Cards. 'Even so, they can play the game to their advantage by making sure their drivers always aim to buy below the average price.'
Fleets will not just have to deal with high prices at the pumps over the next few months. Experts warn it will be a 'difficult summer' as motorists have warned they would back fuel blockades that mirror demonstrations in 2000 that brought much of the country to a standstill, when the price reached 85p a litre.
There were go-slow convoys on motorways and oil refineries were picketed to prevent the delivery of supplies to petrol stations.
The UK Petrol Retailers' Association has predicted prices will continue to rise in the forecourts over the summer.
Oil prices were pushed higher towards breaking point last week as traders reacted to a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia which targeted western oil workers.
Although more expensive crude oil does not inevitably lead to a similar rise in petrol costs, it is believed that, at present levels, oil prices point to a 10% rise in the cost in petrol in the short term.
Best practice driving
DRIVE more economically or choose alternative transport. That was the message from Motor Show Live in Birmingham, where rocketing fuel prices are concerning the manufacturers. For drivers, the show produced five best-practice suggestions:
Fuel cost action plan
Source: GE Capital Fleet Services