10 Ways to Increase Your Fleet's Fuel Economy

Although fuel prices have gone through the roof, you can still minimize your fleet’s fuel expenditure. Here are 10 suggestions to maximize fuel economy, most of which won’t cost you a cent.

1. Ensure Tires are Inflated to the Correct Pressure

About one out of four employees drive vehicles with one or more underinflated tires. In a survey of 250 vehicles randomly selected in a parking lot study, Goodyear found that 28 percent had one or more underinflated tires. When a tire is underinflated, let’s say 4 to 5 psi below the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure, fuel consumption increases by 10 percent and, over time, will cause a 15-percent reduction in tire tread life. Additionally, if an employee drives on underinflated tires, the likelihood of getting a flat tire dramatically increases. Running on soft tires generates extra heat, which can cause premature failure.

2. Avoid Long Idling

The worst mileage is 0 miles per gallon, which occurs when a vehicle idles. Idling for long periods consumes gas that could be saved by turning off the engine. Restarting an engine uses about the same amount of gas as idling for 30 seconds. When idling for longer periods, shut off the engine. However, a word of caution, turning off the engine may also disable airbags from deploying.

3. Use the Appropriate Fuel type

…Unless specifically required by the vehicle owner’s manual, don’t use premium fuel. Your fuel cost could go down as much as 10 cents per gallon if you use regular fuel instead of premium.

4. Clean Out the Trunk to Eliminate Unnecessary Weight
Every 200 lbs. of extra weight trims one mile off fuel efficiency. Drivers accumulate material in their trunks, much of it unnecessary. The less weight, the less fuel consumed. Instruct drivers to remove all unnecessary items from the trunk.

5. Make Drivers Conscious of Fuel Economy

Similar to turning off the lights in unoccupied rooms at home, your drivers should practice energy conservation habits in their vehicles. Use the air conditioner only when needed. Don’t use it as a fan to simply circulate air. Use the vent setting as much as possible. An air conditioner can reduce fuel economy by 5 to 20 percent, depending on the type of vehicle and the way it is driven.

6. Monitor Preventive Maintenance Schedules

Regular PM increases fuel economy. A dirty air filter clogs an engine’s air supply, causing a higher fuel-to-air ratio, increasing gas consumption. Keep wheels aligned. Misaligned tires will “fight” each other, wasting fuel.

7. Minimize Drag

Wind drag is a key source of reduced fuel mileage, causing an engine to work harder, reducing fuel economy. The faster you drive, the more air a vehicle must push out of the way. Some trucks, vans, and SUVs have the aerodynamics of a brick. One way to minimize wind drag is to keep the windows rolled up. This allows air to flow over the body, rather than drawing it inside the cabin and slowing down the vehicle. Also, unnecessary changes in speed are wasteful, and the use of cruise control helps improve fuel economy. If a vehicle has a trip computer, encourage drivers to use the “instant fuel economy” display to refine driving habits.

8. Develop a More Efficient Routing Plan

If you manage a delivery fleet or have vehicles that follow a set daily pattern, efficient routing is an effective way for fleets to manage fuel expenses. Not only does a routing plan make trips more fuel efficient, it also increases time efficiency as well.

9. When Feasible, Have Two Employees Per Vehicle

If several employees are going to the same work location or job site, have them take one vehicle instead of driving separately.

10. Modify Driving Habits

The largest waste of fuel occurs with aggressive driving. Limiting acceleration and fast braking increases fuel economy. The EPA advises that by not driving aggressively, drivers can increase fuel economy by 20 percent. Time studies show that fast starts and weaving in and out of traffic don’t save time but waste fuel and result in faster wear of tires and brakes.

It’s Cumulative

Paying attention to these details will add up to large savings during the course of a year. If a single driver rigorously adheres to these suggestions, a vehicle’s fuel economy can be increased by approximately 10 percent. Imagine if hundreds or thousands of your drivers practiced these suggestions.

Reprinted with permission of Automotive Fleet magazine from the June 2006 issue.

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