Industry News

Five simple ways to control and cut fleet fuel costs

posted on 25/04/2024
Diesel drops by a record 12p a litre in one month

Fleet operators nationwide were understandably relieved when the Chancellor of the Exchequer froze fuel duty once again in the 2024 Spring Budget. Jeremy Hunt extended the 5p cut in duty previously introduced by Rishi Sunak in 2022, despite wholesale fuel prices soaring in the wake of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

But pump prices for both petrol and diesel remain resolutely high and this situation shows little sign of abating. In fact, earlier this week the RAC warned the increased tensions in the Middle East are likely to push up pump prices further, with diesel and petrol already at their most expensive since November.

So, just what strategic measures can fleets take to control - and ideally cut - fuel costs?

1. Choose fuel-efficient vehicles

Let’s begin by stating the blatantly obvious - the fuel efficiency of any fleet vehicle will ultimately impact on what’s spent on petrol and diesel. But it’s just as important to ensure that vehicles of the right size are routinely deployed for appropriate tasks.

“Choosing the appropriate vehicle size is not just practical, it also optimises resources, improves safety, and enhances driver comfort, leading to higher productivity and cost savings,” says Liam James, Corporate Sales Manager at Novuna Vehicle Solutions.

“Fleet operators should also ensure vehicle sizes match the task, and that payloads are free of non-essential items and unnecessary storage that may not be required like roof boxes or roof racks that create drag. A 45kg decrease in a vehicle can boost fuel efficiency by up to 2%.”

James adds most corporate fleets are now “well under way” on their “transition journey” to electric vehicles (EVs) – and this should ultimately pay dividends when it comes to cutting fuel costs.

“When it comes to vehicle choice, having a long-term EV strategy should be the single biggest influence on reducing fuel costs,” adds James. "Nonetheless, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will still remain in the fleet mix for some time, which means that fleet managers must find other ways to improve fuel-efficiency.

“Most obviously, newer ICE vehicles will generally offer better fuel economy.”

2. Focus on your drivers’ behaviour

Improved driver behaviour can have a massive impact on fuel economy; they should avoid harsh acceleration and braking whenever these are unnecessary. But why does driver behaviour truly matter? “It’s often overlooked but driver behaviour significantly impacts fleet productivity, including fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,” says James.

“More education, driver incentives, and effective monitoring can all address this, and it is common to see fuel savings of around 10% as well as reduced insurance costs. For example, promoting slower driving speeds may seem counterintuitive, but decreasing speeds by just 5mph can improve fuel economy by up to 14%.”

Caroline Sandall-Mansergh, Consultancy and Channels Development Manager at Alphabet GB, agrees that small changes can bring big savings.

“While there are several small changes that drivers can make to improve overall efficiency, these techniques can vary from vehicle-to-vehicle, given the vast combination of factors that play into the way fuel is used,” she says. “But the impact of a driver’s habits and behaviour cannot be understated and fleet managers should look to take this one step further by equipping their drivers with the skills to understand how their individual vehicles operate, ensuring a long-lasting impact. So, how can performance behind the wheel best be improved? “In short, drivers need to understand their vehicles better,” adds Sandall-Mansergh.

“Vehicles provide a wealth of information about their own fuel usage; however, drivers are often unaware of how to access and interpret that feedback, and what it says about their own driving patterns.” Sandall-Mansergh stressed the importance of the correct interpretation of these in-vehicle displays which provide “immediate feedback” on a driver’s behaviour. 

“One of the most significant changes businesses can make to driver behaviour is to educate employees on how to tap into the vehicle’s insights and feedback. With this knowledge, employees can better monitor their fuel usage, and make necessary changes to how they use the vehicle to maximise efficiency. Once provided with the right information to make decisions, driver habits then play a key role in putting this education into practice and establishing more fuel-efficient driving routines."

“Ultimately, the greatest results will come from developing a deeper understanding of how their vehicle operates and how their driving behaviour directly impacts fuel usage. This is also where the difference between vehicular training and wider driver education can become clear."

“Whilst vehicular training is beneficial to understanding the specifics of specific vehicles, driver education will result in more long-term optimisation, as it fosters the competency of the driver so that they can interpret information from the car and take guidance from its data, regardless of the make or model.”

3. Maintain vehicles properly

Regular maintenance of fleet vehicles is equally important when it comes to maximising their fuel efficiency. And it’s also essential to ensure that tyres are correctly inflated to ensure the best possible economy, according to Novuna Vehicle Solutions’ James.

“Fleet vehicles are more prone to mechanical problems due to their extensive daily usage, which can lead to issues like fuel injection complications or defective exhaust systems that can impact fuel economy,” explains James.

“Regular maintenance may feel costly but addressing minor issues early reduces the chances of major problems developing and avoids costly repairs. Under-inflated tyres create more resistance, causing engines to work harder and consume more fuel, whereas maintaining correct tyre pressure can improve fuel efficiency by up to 3%. Properly-inflated tyres also last longer and enhance safety.”

James adds that fleet managers should also be mindful of fuel efficiency grades, which tyres are now labelled with. He asserts that higher grades can improve petrol and diesel consumption by as much as 6%.

“What this means is that choosing a budget tyre strategy could be more expensive in the long run – while also increasing the overall environmental impact,” adds James.

4. Optimise routes

Driving the most efficient route to your destination while simultaneously avoiding traffic jams and unnecessary detours rests at the heart of route optimisation. Recently, software has also been developed that harnesses the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve route optimisation even more - with further implications for improved fuel consumption.

Paul Lawrence, Managing Director (UK, North America and Australia) of fleet management technology provider AddSecure, places the importance of this area in context thus: “Ignoring optimised routes of travel is a major contributor to increased fuel consumption. This wasted fuel is driving expenditure to new heights, leading to increased cost pressures for fleet operators.”

James adds that route optimisation software can also bring other net benefits for fleets, including reduced maintenance costs and carbon emissions as well as the optimal use of drivers’ time while on the road. “Route planning solutions are effective methods to prevent fuel and time wastage despite traffic conditions,” he says.

“It really is important that drivers are encouraged to utilise the full functionality of these devices to facilitate route optimisation. In 2022, each UK driver lost around 80 hours due to traffic congestion alone. Considering not just the shortest but also the least congested routes and travel times can improve vehicle efficiency and reduce emissions. It’s also likely to lower maintenance costs by minimising wear and tear.

AI-based route optimisation can adapt to traffic trends over time and automatically incorporate this during real-time routing.”

5. Review your fuel procurement policy

Some fleets might find it possible to reduce their fuel bill by reviewing their procurement policy. Fuel cards are often seen by fleets as a more cost-effective and simpler substitute for credit cards, avoiding benefit-in-kind implications and providing better visibility of what’s been spent on fuel to make the reimbursement process as straightforward as possible.

It might also be worth informing drivers clearly whether they need to restrict themselves to supermarket petrol stations, due to them generally being cheaper than other leading forecourt brands. In addition, consider asking colleagues to avoid costlier high-performance fuels due to their obvious impact on operational expenses.

Paul Holland, Managing Director of Allstar, explains: “The fleet world is undoubtedly in flux from increasing costs, unpredictable world events which are impacting operations as well as the changing times as many move to electric vehicles. It’s important, therefore, to choose a fuel card operator that aligns with the specific requirements of your business and can support your end goals."

“While fuel is a major and unavoidable cost, fuel cards offer the simplest and most cost-effective way of buying it, from better rates at the pump, access to supermarket forecourts and now, some can even provide access to a network of charging points. Companies can also set rules on their cards to ensure their spending policies are fulfilled."

“This could include limiting the type of transactions that can be made, the amount of charge or volume of fuel, or even the days and hours of the week it is used.” Holland adds that by pairing information from a fuel card with telematics, businesses can access a “more intricate level” of vehicle data that can help reduce fuel consumption even more.

“Fuel cards combined with telematics can provide data surrounding the routes taken by drivers and how average speeds are impacting overall efficiencies,” he explains. “But maximising convenience is key to driving down fuel and time cost implications - not just for drivers on the road but those behind the scenes too.”



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