Fleet News

Guest opinion: Stop worrying about rising fuel costs

"If I said ‘rising fuel costs shouldn’t worry UK fleets’, many Fleet News readers might dismiss it as a bit of outrageous head-in-the-sand nonsense, and move on.

However if you stop to think about it, this bold statement rings true. As long as you’re prepared to manage your fuel costs effectively, you can counter the effects of rising prices.

We all know fuel is an expensive commodity and the fleet industry can’t operate without it. Yes it’s annoying that such costs keep on rising. But my argument is that through effective fleet control and analysis of fuel data, these costs can be controlled.

What do I mean by effective fleet control? Let’s look at what we’re working with.

Amongst other things, effective management usually requires that you, the manager, reduce the ‘variables’ within your fleet operation to within manageable levels. So what’s the biggest variable – and what (or rather who) is responsible?

Modern engine technology now means we can expect diesel vehicles to be producing mpgs in the high 50s, with petrol vehicles managing high 40s or low 50s. So we have the potential for major savings, if we get drivers to take advantage of the efficiency of the modern engine.

So here’s the first important factor to consider, the DRIVER!

If the driver of the vehicle can be made to understand the importance of achieving ‘acceptable’ mpg figures and can be made to understand his/her responsibility in this regard, your expenditure on fuel can be vastly reduced.

Simple but effective ‘tweaks’ in their driving habits can produce massive savings.

These could include things like not sitting in traffic jams or car parks with engines running, allowing more time for journeys and therefore reducing speed (and fuel usage) on all trips.

Added to that, you can make quite a difference in the way fuel is purchased. Using fuel cards, or bunkering fuel stock can also lead to significant savings compared to the cost of fuel bought on the forecourt at 'pump price'.

Of course this brings us back to the old rule of 'if you can't measure it, you can't manage it'. Yes you knew I was going to get round to this part, didn’t you? But though there’s an element of ‘he would say that, wouldn’t he’ here, it’s nevertheless true to say that good fleet management software systems are absolutely invaluable. If used correctly.

What do I mean by this?

I’m talking here about taking direct transactional information from fuel card companies and fuel dispenser systems and importing them into a fleet software system which is capable of giving you the right kind of reporting.

The right kind of reporting comes from a system which will instantly alert you to the fact that certain vehicles are performing below their expected mpgs - allowing you to take corrective action. What action you take is up to you. It can be ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’.

Perhaps rewarding drivers for increased performance, or penalising them for below-average consumption. Possibly a combination of the two. You’ll find out which works best after a little experimentation.

Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the figures below, showing the kind of savings in fuel costs which can result from just a slight increase in mpg.

A 200-vehicle fleet doing 4,000,000 miles a year (20,000 miles per vehicle) can save over £21,000 by increasing its mpg by just two miles per gallon. Just look at what that same fleet will achieve if its average mpg rises by five miles per gallon. Just short of £50,000. (If you want to keep playing with these figures, see the mpg calculator on our website at www.chevincomputers.com).

What could you do with that extra money? I’m sure you can think of quite a few things.

Now wouldn’t you agree that – though we all regard rising fuel prices as a nuisance – there ARE a lot of things we can do to counteract their effect?"

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