It’s an understatement to say that fuel is a significant expense for fleet managers. It makes up a notable portion of the budget for trucking businesses of any size.
If you’re looking for a way to save money on fuel, you’re in luck. These nine tips can help you cut costs while still turning a profit.
How Can Truck Fleets Save on Fuel Costs?
We want to help trucking businesses save money where they can. Here are some suggestions for how fleets can cut fuel costs.
1. Encourage Smart Driving Habits
Aggressive driving increases the risk of accidents and adversely affects fuel efficiency.
Encourage your drivers to use safer driving habits, such as:
- Braking smoothly
- Practicing progressive shifting techniques
- Accelerating less frequently
- Following the speed limit
- Reducing idling
- Using cruise control wherever possible
A driver training and monitoring program can further discourage aggressive driving by holding your drivers accountable. While these programs tend to come with a high upfront cost, they’ve proven to work. According to a study from the National Transportation Center, trucking companies that introduced a driver training program decreased aggressive driving by 50% and reduced speeding incidents by 60%.
2. Invest in Efficient Vehicles
If you plan to add to your fleet or replace old trucks, look for models designed to reduce wind resistance. Aerodynamic design boosts fuel economy by reducing the force trucks need to drive against.
Design elements to look for include:
- Composite front bumpers
- Pedestal door mirrors
- Sloped windshields
If a new truck isn’t within your budget, you can enhance your existing vehicles by installing aerodynamic parts. Retrofitting parts on old trucks is often less costly than purchasing new vehicles.
3. Use the Right Oil
Motor oil is your fleet’s lifeblood. To optimize fuel efficiency and protect your system from excessive wear, use the manufacturer-recommended oil. Synthetic oil may be better than standard oil for improving mileage.
Motor oil boosts fuel efficiency by lubricating your engine parts and emissions system. If you use the wrong oil for your engine, you could damage your truck.
It’s also crucial to stay on top of oil and fluid levels. Low oil adversely affects miles per gallon, so you should always ensure your fleet has enough to function properly.
4. Identify and Manage Excessive Idling
The less time your vehicles spend idling, the less money you’ll have to spend on fuel.
An idling truck engine burns approximately 0.8 gallons of fuel per hour. That idling time adds up quickly, especially when you consider the cost of diesel these days. Effective route planning helps drivers avoid traffic jams and delays, reducing the risk of extended idling.
If it’s in your budget, you could also invest in auxiliary power units for your fleet. An APU powers truck accessories in place of the engine, so your drivers can be comfortable during their downtime without needing to idle.
5. Reduce Drag
Aerodynamic drag is the force of air pushing against a truck as it drives. Your truck must overcome this force to achieve or maintain your desired speed. The less drag a truck has to fight, the less fuel you’ll use.
Retrofitted aerodynamic parts can reduce drag. Some examples of these include the following.
- Side skirts: Side skirts reduce the amount of air under the trailer, decreasing drag.
- Roof fairings: A sloped roof fairing reduces drag by directing incoming wind flow up and above the trailer. As a result, the whole unit becomes more aerodynamic.
- Boat tail panels: When driving, air forms a vacuum behind the trailer and creates drag. Adding short boat tail panels to the back of a trailer helps reduce that force.
- Wheel covers: As wheels catch air, they spin, disrupting airflow and increasing drag. Wheel covers streamline airflow and reduce aerodynamic drag under the trailer.
Often, you can add these parts for less than it would cost to purchase new vehicles. Combined with your potential fuel savings, adding new parts can result in excellent returns.
6. Perform Preventive Fleet Maintenance
Regular vehicle upkeep takes time, but it goes a long way toward increasing fuel economy. Following a preventive maintenance schedule keeps your fleet operating at peak efficiency.
Key parts to check include the following.
- Tire pressure: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, proper tire inflation can improve mileage by up to 3%.
- Air filter: Replacing a clogged air filter in an older vehicle can improve fuel economy and performance. Newer vehicles gain performance improvements from air filter replacements, but not mileage improvements.
- Engine: Check engine filters and listen for abnormal noises when starting the truck. Make sure to bring vehicles to a mechanic as soon as the engine light comes on.
Routine maintenance can also save you thousands in repair and maintenance costs by helping you catch problems before they lead to costly breakdowns.
7. Plan Routes in Advance
GPS has made navigating roadways significantly more efficient, but it’s best to avoid relying solely on this technology when preparing for a job. Research your routes to get an idea of the terrain.
Here are some helpful data points for informing your route planning.
- Distance vs. efficiency: Due to factors like road quality, traffic conditions, and average speed limit, a short distance could use more fuel than expected. Use research and common sense to determine whether a route is as efficient as it seems.
- Rough terrain: Drivers use more fuel driving over uneven or hilly ground. Try to stick to flat, even terrain wherever possible when planning drivers’ routes.
- Traffic: Getting stuck in traffic means drivers will be idling for long periods, which wastes fuel. Try to plan around traffic based on geography and events happening along the route.
8. Use a Fuel Management System
Specialized fleet management systems give you real-time visibility into your fleet’s fuel usage. These systems provide a centralized place for all your fleet data, which helps you identify where and how you can improve your fuel usage.
These features enable significant fuel savings:
- Customized user permissions
- Spending monitor
- Current balance checks
- Ability to reload your card
Fuel management systems often pair with fuel cards, which are another valuable way to save on fuel.
9. Use a Fuel Card
A fuel card is an easy-to-use way to save money on fuel for your whole fleet. With the TCS fuel card, you load money to it in advance and your drivers swipe it at the pump. The primary benefit of signing up for a fuel card is the discount on fuel at participating locations, but there are other advantages.
A good fuel card program also offers perks like discounted oil changes and preventive maintenance. When deciding between fuel cards, consider how each one fits into your budget. Some companies charge an annual membership fee, while others do not.
Apply for a TCS Fleet Fuel Card Today
With the TCS Fleet Fuel Card, you can save big on fuel at any of our more than 1,500 in-network fueling locations. Plus, you can customize your card settings to meet your fleet’s unique needs.