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17.08.2020, 20:00

Prioritising Fuel Management for Commercial Fleets

Thomas Goodall considers the options that are available to commercial fleet operators seeking to reduce their fuel consumption.


Managing commercial fleets presents a variety of complex challenges. Ensuring vehicles are well maintained, customer service is at a high level, and driver safety is as good as it can be are all critical areas for fleet managers to focus on. Another crucial area is fuel management. There are several reasons why fuel management should be a priority for companies operating commercial fleets, and there are several ways this can be addressed, which we are going to cover in this article. 


Why should fuel management be a priority for fleet managers?

There are two key reasons why fuel usage and management should be a priority for businesses operating a commercial fleet and their fleet managers. Firstly, the environmental impact of vehicles powered by fossil fuels should not be underestimated. Years of research have shown the links between climate change and the emissions produced by vehicles. 


For commercial vehicles, which often have to do large mileage totals each week, the environmental impact can be significant. When calculated from an entire business point of view, where commercial fleets can contain vehicle numbers in the hundreds, this impact can be even more significant. With governments around the world taking actions to tackle emissions, businesses are following suit.


Secondly, there is the financial impact. Fuel can represent a significant expense for companies with a commercial fleet, and the higher the number of vehicles in that fleet, the higher the cost. As fuel is a necessity, businesses are impacted in the same way all other motorists are, in that as fuel prices rise and fall their costs change. This makes planning for fuel costs each year challenging. 


What can be done about fuel usage?

Fuel usage for commercial fleets can be reduced in several different ways. Using telematics allows fleet managers to gain a far greater understanding of how their fleet and, more specifically, individual vehicles are performing daily. By having access to more data about fleet performance, fleet managers can make changes which positively impact areas such as fuel usage. 


One of the main ways fuel usage can be reduced is through the routes that drivers take every day. Route planning is a crucial part of operating a commercial fleet and impacts everything from fuel usage to customer service and even driver safety. The benefit of having access to vehicle tracking is that it provides fleet managers with data showing the routes vehicles have taken in the past. By analysing this data, areas for improvement can be identified. Routes can play a key role in how much fuel vehicles are using. It can often be more complicated than saying that vehicles taking longer routes use more fuel. By analysing the data fleet managers can determine if longer routes, which may have less traffic, are actually more fuel-efficient than shorter but more congested routes. 


The aim is to have vehicles taking more time and fuel-efficient routes. This way, less fuel is used, which is beneficial to the company from both a financial and an environmental point of view. Furthermore, by taking the most efficient routes companies can often see more customers throughout the day, increasing productivity and customer satisfaction.   


The other way in which fuel usage can be reduced is by installing vehicle tracking systems which alert commercial drivers to high fuel usage. The in-cab systems track actions such as speeding and engine idling and then alert drivers through audio and visual indicators to their actions. Engine idling is common when vehicles are sat stationary in traffic and so either avoiding traffic by using improved route planning where possible or switching the engine off when alerted to engine idling can both reduce fuel usage.


One of the other ways fuel management can be improved is by fleet managers analysing the data produced by vehicle tracking systems on the way individual drivers are performing. A fleet manager can look at their fleet and see which drivers are letting their engine idle more than others. By identifying areas such as this, training programs can be set up to help those specific drivers drive in a more fuel-efficient manner.


Fuel management is a constant challenge for businesses. Furthermore, with the shift towards electric vehicles currently taking place, businesses will have further challenges in the future when it comes to transitioning their commercial vehicles away from fossil fuels. As of right now, it’s vital that businesses operating a commercial fleet take fuel management seriously, not only for the health of the environment but for their businesses finances as well. In what is an uncertain time for businesses, being able to manage something as crucial as fuel as effectively as possible will be essential.  



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