In my recent columns, I’ve pleaded with fleet managers to establish a policy to audit performance by their OEMs, as well as FMCs. Now, I’m not suggesting you become a CPA/accountant, but it is essential that you become adept as an “auditor” for mpg.
Why? From January 2011 to March 2012, the average national cost for a gallon of (regular unleaded) gasoline went from $3.08 to $3.84 (about where it is as of press time). That’s 25 percent more. It also transcends into an increase of more than $650 annually for each vehicle racking up 2,000 miles per month.
To place this into perspective, you would have to increase your mpg from 28 to more than 34 just to compensate for the increase in fuel costs. That takes cunning — and professionalism.
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Intelligence is quickness in seeing things how they are.
A great many people think that polysyllables are a sign of intelligence.
While depreciation still represents a fleet’s single most costly area (even with relatively high resale values), fuel costs are pushing toward the No. 1 spot. Initial vehicle costs continue to rise and street and CAP incentives are under new pressures. Controlling fuel costs commands focus, as cost reduction is possible.
Every expert I know tells me that there is no one silver bullet to effective fuel cost reduction; however, three bullets especially stand out to me:
1. Adopting a fuel management program with Level III enhanced transaction details. You can then establish sound parameters that will feed point-of-sale data (e.g., driver ID and odometer reading), which enables the software to red flag anomalies.
A fleet manager from a large food company noted one vehicle getting much less mpg than expected. Auditing the unit for tank capacity, odometer readings, etc., she found “just too much fuel, too often.”
Another fleet manager, for an insurance fleet, expressed her focus on any vehicle that regularly exceeds 110 percent of tank capacity in fuel purchases. This is her parameter, red flagged for her with the Level III program.
2. The second bullet is vehicle selection, which used to be relatively easy until fuel costs became a major problem. This broad challenge now is complex, integrating choices of all kinds of alt-eco-turbo power, economic telematics options with work-suitability, and incentives figured for a decision. This should include providing your drivers with the tools to identify the lowest-priced fueling station in the area.
3. Modifying driver behavior through ongoing eco-driving training goes hand-in-hand with safe driving techniques, as both decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Studies show that up to 30 percent of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is impacted by driver behavior. This includes proper tire inflation, following your prescribed route optimization (for delivery/sales fleets), shedding any extra unnecessary weight, and using anti-idling initiatives.
Going green and staying mindful of sustainability now make acquisition and efficient operation much more complex, but it’s a corporate necessity. Your peers will testify that the latest technological solutions are found at the fall Green Fleet Conference. If you aren’t absolutely obsessed with mpg, you cannot be serving in your best capacity.