In Memoriam: Coach's Insights

How's Your IQ on MPG?

December 21, 2012

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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.

Intelligence is characterized by a natural inability to understand life.

-Henri Bergson

Intelligence is quickness in seeing things how they are.

-George Santayana

A great many people think that polysyllables are a sign of intelligence.

-Barbara Walters

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.

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  1. 1. Bob Patterson [ December 28, 2012 @ 07:50AM ]

    Everyone is becoming concerned about "going green". Is anyone looking at the "big picture". Greenness may a regional rather than a national concern. Greenness has a higher priority in highly densely poputated areas, i.e. coastal regions vs. the heartland. Fewer miles are driven whether delivery or in sales. Therefore, the green concept can be greater utilized for more cost effective operation. However, future resale values of green vehicles could become an issue affecting depreciation! How many people are going to be interested in buying a green vehicle with 100k + miles in three to five years with unknown maintenance and useful life issues? Has anyone determined how to recycle the battery technology, and what cost? Considering CNG, the cost is low today, but what will it be tomorrow with increased use and what about the cost of fueling stations? Also, CNG is not as energy effective as gas or diesel, requiring more fuel to be consumed and resulting in less energy for given payload conditionsl. How will this factor into the cast of going green compared to today's technology of building more fuel efficient gas and diesel power? What about the increased cost to maintain the green technology? I think we may be rushing into an area that has not been completely considered as to its ultimate effect on the total cost of transportation in the next three to five years. Better fuel economy at what cost!

  2. 2. Ed Miller [ January 02, 2013 @ 12:51PM ]

    "Going green" is not about a rational fuel conservation or replacement strategy. It's an agenda.

  3. 3. Anthony Foster [ July 09, 2013 @ 05:46PM ]

    Just wanted to comment about CNG… Yes from a technical perspective it provides less BTU and should get a lower MPG. However, what I found it changes the driver’s habits and you actually get a better MPG than a gasoline. From another perspective, the new eco-boost is supposed to get better MPG, but in real life, it is lower.


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Author Bio

Ed Bobit

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Former Editor & Publisher

With more than 50 years in the fleet industry, Ed Bobit, former Automotive Fleet editor and publisher, reflected on issues affecting today’s fleets in his blog. He drew insight from his own experiences in the field and offered a perspective similar to that of a sports coach guiding his players.


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