5 strategies to reduce your fleet’s fuel costs

October 22 2021

It’s never been more important for businesses to bring down the overall costs of their commercial vehicles. One major area of focus is reducing their fleet’s fuel costs. Fuel is by far the biggest operational expense for commercial fleets - with some sources estimating fuel accounts for 60% of a fleet’s operational expenditure.

And this cost has only risen as a result of the recent fuel shortages in the UK, making it more difficult for companies to control their spending on fuel. With this in mind, fleet managers need to be armed with a plan to improve the fuel efficiency of their fleets. Small improvements across a number of areas can add up to big savings, giving you more room for manoeuvre with your operations budget. Read on to find out our top five strategies for reducing your fleet’s fuel costs.

Invest in driver monitoring and training

A major cause of poor fuel efficiency is bad driving habits. With so many aspects to consider around the fuel efficiency of the vehicles themselves, it can be easy for fleet managers to overlook how they are actually driven. There are a plethora of driving habits that have a detrimental impact on fuel efficiency, including:

  • Aggressive braking and steering
  • Accelerating and decelerating frequently
  • Inefficient gear changes
  • Idling

To truly iron out these inefficiencies, fleet managers should utilise both monitoring technology (such as vehicle telematics) and driver training. Monitoring each driver’s behaviour out on the road will help you spot their biggest areas for improvement and use this to inform their training. While this requires a reasonable initial outlay, that spend should be vastly outweighed by the resultant fuel efficiency savings.

Implement more efficient route planning

The routes your drivers take to reach their destinations can have a major bearing on fuel consumption. Fleet managers must take the time and care to plan routes that use the least fuel while still fulfilling his or her fleet’s time and service requirements. Route factors that will have a bearing on fuel consumption include:

  • Distance travelled. This is the most obvious contributor to the fuel a vehicle uses, so mileage should be kept to a minimum where possible. However, it’s not the only consideration for fleet managers.
  • Traffic. Heavy traffic can have a detrimental effect on fuel efficiency because of the amount of stopping, starting and idling it causes - all major reasons for poor fuel economy. Known traffic hotspots should be avoided if possible or, if schedules allow, only used during non-peak hours.
  • Road conditions. The terrain, smoothness, incline and speed limit of a road can all affect how much fuel is used.

These are just some of the considerations you’ll need to take when trying to choose the most efficient routes. Route optimisation software and telematics can play an important role - helping fleet managers use data about their current routes to spot opportunities for fuel saving. But a strong knowledge of the roads themselves is also crucial, so fleet managers should seek advice from drivers too.

Make sure your fleet is the right size and shape

The size and composition of a fleet of commercial vehicles is also a very important consideration when it comes to fuel economy. Managers should continually be reviewing their fleets to ensure they have the optimal number of vehicles and the right type of vehicles for their needs.

If capacity allows, reducing the number of vehicles in a fleet can be a great way to save money on fuel - as well as a host of other maintenance and running costs. However, overburdening the remaining vehicles in terms of payload and mileage can have a detrimental effect that outweighs the benefits of this, so be careful to make an informed choice. Phasing out older, less fuel-efficient vehicles first is usually the path to the biggest savings.

For some businesses, the solution will lie not in reducing their fleet size, but in transitioning to different types of vehicles. Investing in smaller, lighter vehicles will certainly be beneficial for fuel consumption, while it may even be worth looking at electric or hybrid vehicles.

Find the best fuel card for your fleet’s needs

When it comes to actually purchasing the fuel itself, the fuel card your business uses for its fleet can make all the difference. It’s important to shop around for the best deals as they come up in order to secure the biggest savings. In addition, fleet managers should re-evaluate the fuel card they are on as the size and composition of their fleet changes. The chances are that what was the right plan before won’t be in the future.

Equally as vital is managing the usage of fuel cards by drivers. Fuel theft is a common problem faced by many fleet managers; as most fuel cards are registered to vehicles rather than drivers, it can often be too easy to use them to fill up non-company vehicles.

Extra levels of verification, real-time fuelling alerts and integrating refuelling data into your fleet management software can all prevent fraudulent use of fuel cards, saving thousands and giving you a better picture of every vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

Embrace preventative maintenance

While maintenance is a key part of every fleet manager’s remit, did you know that it can also reduce your fuel costs? Preventative maintenance helps identify and resolve the problems in a fleet that will eventually result in poor fuel efficiency. One of the most important areas to proactively monitor is oil. Using an energy-conserving brand of oil that is recommended by the manufacturer is the best approach.

Preventative maintenance is highly recommended for monitoring tyre pressure - as even slightly deflated tyres can reduce fuel efficiency by 3%. Fine-tuning your vehicle’s engine is also a sure-fire way to increase the miles-per-gallon of the vehicles in your fleet. Fleet washing can also be considered preventative maintenance. Poor washing will over time lead to decreasing levels of performance and a higher chance of breakdowns.

Corrosion, rust and engine overheating are common consequences of poor washing, which can all increase fuel consumption. Danger spots like the undercarriage are easily missed when washing is done manually or by a sub-standard wash system. Additionally, transporting vehicles to an external site for wash purposes regularly is an oft-overlooked drain on fuel.

Investing in a cutting-edge wash system for your own site can noticeably improve fuel efficiency for your fleet over the long term.

Automatic fleet washing is another opportunity for cost saving

While fuel represents a fleet’s biggest operational expense, businesses should be looking to streamline costs wherever they can. The wash process is a major area for improvement, and one which is often overlooked by fleet managers. Fleets relying on third-party companies to take care of their washing needs often pay a very high cost per wash and have to contend with greater downtime when transporting vehicles to the wash site.

Investing in an automatic wash system for your fleet on your own site is likely to be much more cost-efficient for most mid to large sized fleets, cutting your wash costs considerably over the long term. What’s more, it’s a scalable solution, meaning your average wash price per vehicle decreases as your fleet grows.

Wilcomatic have over 50 years of experience in delivering the best wash solutions for fleets in the UK and beyond. We are the exclusive supplier of Otto Christ systems in the UK - with our cutting edge technology and experienced engineers saving hundreds of businesses money on their wash process.

Find out how we can help your business with one of our market-leading wash systems by contacting our team today.

How wash system leasing can help you maximise your fleet's budget  Fleet wash systems are usually considered a capital expense - but using your  operational budget instead can make them more cost-effective. Find out how in  the new guide. Download

Need a hand? Ask the experts.

Wash systems are complicated. Get in touch with us to find out what we can do for your business.