- Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

With tensions rising in Russia’s War on Ukraine, gas prices are hitting fleet operations hard. Prices have surpassed record highs from the 2008 Great Recession. They will only get higher, after President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian imports of oil in early March.

Here are 10 ways your fleet operation can reduce fuel costs.

1.Reduce Idling When Possible

Idling not only wastes fuel, but it also increases engine wear, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC). Each year, vehicles consume roughly three billion gallons of fuel while idling, according to the AFDC. Work to reduce the amount of time idling. Consider adding fleet policies that do not allow vehicles to be left running unnecessarily.

2.Be a Smarter Driver

Fleet managers and drivers can improve vehicle efficiency and conserve fuel simply with driving behavior changes. Analysis by Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed aggressive driving behaviors like speeding and rapid acceleration and braking can lower fuel economy by up to 30% at highway speeds and up to 40% in stop-and-go traffic.

Drivers should also empty their vehicles of unnecessary items when possible; more weight in a vehicle equals more gas consumed.

3.Use Cruise Control When Appropriate

Changes in a vehicle’s momentum make the engine work harder, wasting more fuel. Cruise control can smooth a driver’s speed-ups and slowdowns. It is most effective at highway speeds on flatter terrains.

4.Combine Tasks When Driving

Fleet managers can encourage customers to carpool while going to meetings when possible to minimize the number of vehicles on the road.  Drivers should combine when possible to reduce the number of trips needed.

5.Limit Vehicle A/C Use

Running your car’s air conditioning is the main contributor to reduced fuel economy in hot weather, according to fueleconomy.gov. Under very hot conditions, A/C use can reduce a conventional vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25%, particularly on short trips.

An open window can also reduce fuel economy. Open windows increase aerodynamic drag, making your vehicle use more energy to push through the air. Fueleconomy.gov suggests rolling the windows down only when driving at lower speeds and using the A/C at higher speeds. When you start your car, drive with the windows open for a short time before turning on the A/C. Letting the hot air out of the cabin first will put less demand on the A/C and help your vehicle cool faster.

6.Keep Up with Regular Maintenance

Properly inflated tires last longer, increase fuel economy, and are safer. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all four tires, according to fueleconomy.gov

Use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil in your engine. According to the AFDC, that can improve fuel economy by 1-2%.

Regular engine tune-ups ensure your vehicle is running efficiently. Tuning a neglected vehicle or fixing one that previously failed an emissions test can increase fuel economy by an average of 4%.

7.Consider Strategic Upfitting

Upfitting your fleet’s vehicles with commercially available equipment designed to save fuel can help customers boost their fuel economy.

One example is with low rolling resistance tires. Rolling resistance is the energy lost from the drag and friction of a tire rolling over a surface. Conventionally fueled passenger vehicles use up to 11% of their fuel just to overcome this.

Aerodynamic equipment reduces the drag imposed on a vehicle traveling at high speeds. According to the AFDC, this equipment eases the load on the engine and improves the fuel economy of a vehicle. Airfoils, trailer gap reducers, side skirts, and tails are examples of aerodynamic equipment.

8.Make the Most of Fuel-Tracking Devices and Telematics Systems

Data collection devices installed in vehicles can track fuel economy, maintenance schedules, and fleet performance. This can help fleets monitor fuel consumption, improve fuel economy, and increase asset utilization.

Telematics systems provide fleet managers with data about vehicle use and miles driven, idle time, fuel economy, driver behavior, and engine maintenance requirements.

9.Make Smart Vehicle Purchases

When fleet managers are replacing older vehicles, they may decide to purchase more fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles. One alternative may include transitioning to smaller engines. Using smaller engines can help fleets meet operational needs without downgrading vehicle class. This may mean switching from a 6-cylinder to a 4-cylinder engine to help reduce fuel use and emissions.

Another alternative is choosing lighter vehicles. Lightweight materials like aluminum frames, as well as smaller components, can reduce rolling resistance and drag. Try to avoid unnecessarily large body configurations and heavy accessories, suggested the AFDC.

When replacing vehicles, consider the fuel economy of the vehicles that are at the end of their lifecycles. It might be a good idea to prioritize replacing the vehicles that get the lowest mileage.

10.Research Alternative Moods of Transportation

Rideshare programs in your area may offer discounts to government customers. This may be a good option for one-way trips (i.e., when picking up a vehicle from a vendor). The same can be said for mass transit, where available.

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