The cost to fuel a fleet is one of the largest expenses in fleet management second only to depreciation. And today’s cost of fuel makes a fuel management program even more important. One of the main ways to lower fuel costs is by reducing fuel consumption.
Driver behavior is a major factor in overall fuel economy. Idling and harsh acceleration and braking have a significant impact on fuel costs. According to the US Department of Energy, a large sedan uses almost a half of a gallon of gas per hour of idling and a medium duty truck will burn almost an entire gallon per hour. Telematics gives you the data you need to target those drivers with wasteful driving habits.
Drivers sometimes need to idle due to hot or cold weather, but according to the Environmental Defense Fund excessive idling can cost “up to $70-650 a year, depending on fuel prices, idling habits and vehicle type”. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates, “personal-vehicle idling wastes about 3 billion gallons of fuel— generating around 30 million tons of CO2—annually in the U.S.” emphasizing that “In today’s vehicles, driving the vehicle helps the engine reach its ideal operating temperature faster than idling it.”
Once drivers know they are being monitored they are less likely to leave a vehicle idling for extended periods of time. The use of in cab buzzers that activate after a certain period can be very effective in reminding drivers just how long they have been idling.
Harsh acceleration / harsh braking
Harsh acceleration and braking can also lead to excessive fuel consumption. According to www.fueleconomy.gov, “Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic”. Significant fuel savings can be realized across a fleet by monitoring driver behavior, letting drivers know that they are being monitored and coaching them how to drive in a smoother fashion. And the plus point is that it also reduces accident rates. Many companies develop driver rankings to encourage drivers to perform as well as possible since peer pressure is often a better motivator.
Speeding is also closely linked to fuel economy. By reducing speeding, fuel consumption can be significantly reduced. According to www.fueleconomy.gov (the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information), “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.34 per gallon for gas”. Reducing driver speed can be achieved by coaching but is often more successful when combined with in cab buzzers that warn drivers when they are above the speed limit for a configured threshold. Best practice would be to allow some flexibility and set thresholds at ten miles above the speed limit for one minute. Once performance improves the threshold can be reduced.
Telematics is also very useful for detecting fuel fraud which also tends to increase once the price of fuel increases and even more so in areas like California where fuel is very expensive. Telematics can leverage multiple data points to reduce fraud by:
- Cross checking the GPS coordinates of the vehicle with those of the fueling station – was the vehicle at the same location where the card was swiped?
- Leveraging tank capacity of vehicles and the amount of gas dispensed to cross check if all the fuel is going into the vehicle. Equally, does the amount of fuel used tie in with the amount of fuel being dispensed.
- Monitoring where and when vehicles are being filled over time to see trends that might not stand out by looking at individual cases. Trends over time help to identify fraud.
- By knowing where and when your drivers fill up, you can also help coach them to use fuel stations with the cheapest fuel and even use telematics to guide their routes to these gas stations.
These driver behaviors as well as potential fraud may not seem consequential in isolation, but when considered in totality across your fleet, they can have a huge impact on fuel cost. A recent study cited by www.fueleconomy.gov suggests that driver feedback devices “can help the average driver improve fuel economy by about 3% and that those using them to save fuel can improve gas mileage by about 10%”.
Contact us today about using telematics to track and improve these behaviors to reduce your fuel spend.