You and your fuel program should be working together in harmony. However, with diesel fuel prices going up and down like a yo-yo, and your work schedule getting busier, not easier, it probably feels like neither you nor your fuel program is winning.

Perhaps you feel helpless against rising fuel costs. In fact, they really are out of your control, and even minor fluctuations in pricing can have a big impact on your bottom line. It's likely your focus on crude oil and fuel is magnified because you have a daily need for them. Gasoline is powering your cars and diesel fuel is moving your trucks down the highway. However, keep in mind, prices on all commodities change constantly, from light sweet crude to pork bellies. You should focus instead on putting a good fleet fuel management program in place that will gain you control, cost savings and less worry.

Another reason you may feel like you're fighting a losing battle is the obstacle of staff consolidation. Over the past few years, most companies have let people go and bounced employees around to various departments where they are strapped with new responsibilities outside of their skill set. Not everyone is readily prepared or experienced to take over a fleet fuel program. Because fuel can be a moving target and managing it is very time consuming, it tends to get pushed down on most people's list of priorities. That is a costly mistake: Avoid it.

You may also be getting sub-par attention from your service vendors who are suffering the same staff consolidations. Fleet card companies, fuel providers, and mobile fueling companies can also be understaffed and overwhelmed. As a result, there is slower customer service, especially, and inevitably, when important issues need to be addressed and resolved. There can be increased mistakes with fueling purchases such as over-charges and also the possibility theft. Even if someone is trying to manage it all, chances are they do not have the time or experience to deal with every single problem.

So, how can you win?

* Make fuel cost a priority.
* Review current processes.
* Put a fuel audit program in place.
* Determine proper staffing and/or outsourcing.
* Look over your current fuel card program.
* Evaluate fuel stops for your drivers.
* Determine optimal bulk fuel purchases.
* Collect, analyze and act on useful data from your fuel program.

There are lots of policies and procedures within a company's fuel program that should be addressed and modified in order to get your company back in the driver's seat. If you're realizing that fuel management is just not a core competency of your company, then it's a good time to consider outsourcing. Let a team of experts provide you with the proper benchmarking, automation controls and information so that you and your fuel department can become a winner.

Glen Sokolis is president of Sokolis Group, a nationwide fuel management and fuel consulting company, You can reach him at or (267) 482-6160.

Recent installments of "Friday Fuel:"

* Diesel Fuel Prices Are Falling, But Why?, 5/20/2011

* Fear and Fleet Fueling Prices, 4/8/2011

* "Outsourcing Fuel Management," 2/25/2011

* "Five W's for Fleet Fuel Buying," 2/18/2011

* "Rising Fuel Prices Mean You Need A Fleet Fueling Policy", 1/28/2011

* "Are Fuel Prices Going To Break Your Budget?" 1/7/2011

* "Happy New Year, Diesel Fuel Prices!" 12/30/2010.

* "Why Diesel Fuel Prices Need Increased Taxes," 12/3/2010