Beyond the Filler: Four Ways to Reduce Fleet Fuel and Maintenance Expenses
Have climbing fuel prices got you down? It is safe to say a 10% or 15% reduction in monthly fuel expenses would be worth your time and effort; would it not? You can reduce fuel expenses in four ways: Buy fewer gallons of fuel by reducing engine hours operated, maximize engine efficiency, reduce miles driven, and reduce vehicle rolling resistance. While you may presume that engine hours and miles driven directly correlate and are somewhat redundant, that is frequently not so.
1. The most dramatic and immediate reductions in fuel expense can be achieved by controlling and reducing fleet idle time in both local delivery and over-the -road fleets. Local route delivery fleets historically have the largest percentage savings to be gained through implementation of effective idle time management programs. Through on-board data capture it is not unusual to learn that during a 10-hour-route-day, the route truck may spend 6 to 8 hours idling (usually while making deliveries). At a gallon per hour, that is 6 to 8 gallons of wasted fuel consumption per delivery route per day. Multiply that by the total wasted idle hours/gallons for all routes and you begin to see the dollars adding up. Determine the amount of idle time and the causes. Is idle time due to the lack of an effective idle time management policy or for mechanical reasons? If mechanical, fix the problem and then implement an across-the-board no-idle policy. Idle time elimination will also produce maintenance savings as well.
2. Generally, dairy and ice cream companies believe local delivery routes with fixed delivery schedules and patterns do not have much to gain from the use of vehicle routing systems. Use of routing systems for local delivery routes has been largely confined to route operations that have 100% customer pre-orders and a daily on-demand route delivery dispatch system. In effect, any route might deliver a customer's order on any given day. However, virtually all local delivery fixed-routing operations can probably anticipate first-time mileage savings of 10% to 15%, or more, with the implementation of computerized re-routings. Continuing with monthly or quarterly computerized re-routing of all local, fixed-schedule routes will produce significant additional and ongoing mileage and fuel consumption reductions.
3. Maintaining correct (manufacturer recommended) and consistent tire air pressures will improve vehicle fuel economy by reducing drag or rolling resistance. It will also extend tire operating life and reduce tire maintenance and replacement costs. Michelin says 10% under-inflation increases tire ware by 7% to 15%, while over-inflation increases tire impact breaks and tread ware. Consistent and correct tire rotation practices and proper matching and inflation of duals are also core components of an effective fleet tire management program.
4. Maximizing engine performance begins with building vehicle life histories through daily recording of every fleet vehicle's miles driven, fuel gallons pumped and quarts of add oil used. Vehicle histories showing total miles, life and last month's MPG averages, and add-oil quarts/thousand miles should be reviewed weekly and monthly for changes. Fleet averages for similar types of equipment, such as route delivery and over-the-road tractors, should also be developed and maintained. Changes in vehicle MPG or quarts add oil may indicate either mechanical problems or driver performance, but they are useful tools for the early spotting and correction of below-average vehicles performance problems. Consistent, regular management review and follow through on findings in these performance records will reduce fuel consumption and maintenance costs.