The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised its vehicle testing procedures in 2006 to help better reflect how people really drive in current conditions. The way you drive any vehicle affects how much fleet fuel you use, if you didn’t know. These new testing methods – whose results took effect with the 2008 model year – include factors such as high speeds, quick accelerations, air conditioning use and driving in cold temperatures. All of these items done incorrectly will cause your fuel management program havoc.
These revisions to EPA mileage estimates came after extensive real-world fuel economy testing by groups such as Consumers Union found that ratings were inaccurate, sometimes significantly. The old testing on fuel economy and fuel usage was taken place in ideal conditions in a simulated driving and not on the real street. Consumer Reports notes, however, that today’s mileage ratings are “more realistic”, although some drivers may notice they get a tad fewer miles per gallon than they may have anticipated. Still, noted Consumer Reports’ editor, the numbers are more accurate than they were previously.
Today’s EPA tests are designed to reflect typical driving conditions and driver behavior, but several factors can affect your own vehicle’s miles per gallon (MPG), including how and where you drive, the condition and maintenance of your vehicle, variations in the fleet fuel you buy, engine break-in and more. To be sure, the EPA ratings absolutely are a useful tool for comparing the fleet fuel economies of different vehicles, but do keep in mind they may not accurately predict the average MPG that you in particular will get every single day. Each day has different driving conditions for each driver, leading to different results in your fuel program.
Where to go for data
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offers on its Web site a helpful list of mileage ratings for just about all of today’s vehicles. Visit: www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm. On the site you can do side-by-side comparisons of vehicle EPA mileage ratings, and narrow your search by car class, vehicle manufacturer, and MPG. No, they don’t really have anything for truck fleets because now we are throwing a lot more into the mix with loads and other variables. These tips will still help your fuel management program and certainly help your fleet fueling.
The DOE’s Web site also offers the following tips to help you get maximum fleet fuel efficiency out of your vehicle.
- By resisting the urge to drive aggressively (e.g., speeding, rapid acceleration and braking), you can lower your gas or diesel mileage by an impressive 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. That will help all fleet fuel programs.
- While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed, mileage per gallon usually decreases rapidly at speeds of more than 60 mph. Notes the DOE, “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas that costs $2.67 per gallon.”
- Don’t keep unnecessary items in your vehicle or on your roof rack. This is especially true of heavy items. Here’s why: An extra 100 pounds in your car or on your roof rack could reduce your MPG by 2 to 5 percent. This is especially important if you drive a small car, because the reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight. Heavy loads on your roof rack also will reduce the aerodynamic capability of your car. Whenever possible, use your vehicle’s interior cargo space. This is the truck with truck fleets too. The heavier the load the fewer miles per gallon you are going to get in your fleet fueling program.
- Don’t idle too long. Cars with larger engines typically waste more gas when idling than do vehicles with smaller engines, note DOE officials. This has become commonplace in the trucking world since diesel fuel prices went over $3.50 a gallon a couple of years ago. As a fuel consulting company, we have seen some companies go back to their old habits of letting idling happen. This is not good for your fleet fueling program, the environment increasing more CO2 into the air and your company’s bottom line.
- Using cruise control and your overdrive gears also saves gas and diesel fuel, as well as reduces wear on your engine.
- Combining your errands into one trip can save both time and gas. Several short trips started when your engine is cold may use twice as much fuel as a longer, multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Proper routing of truck fleets can save a company over 25% on its fleet fuel and maybe more. As a fuel consulting company we have seen many companies that don’t properly route or control where their drivers go.
- Tuning you engine according to the specifications outlined in your owner’s manual can increase gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
- Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned, thereby increasing mileage up to 3 percent. This also reduces your fleet fuel cost.
- Routinely check and replace your filters. Clogged air and fuel filters can decrease your diesel fuel and gas mileage by up to 10 percent. Seems simple and logical but some companies think by delaying routine maintenance they are saving money. They might be saving money in one pocket but it’s going right out their fleet fueling pocket.
- Driving in cold weather will reduce your gas and diesel mileage. It will also cost you more money in your diesel fuel trucks because of having to add fuel additive to your tank. Ah, unfortunately this one you can’t control… unless you move to a warmer climate.
The key to making all fleet fuel programs successful is making sure everyone with your company is on the same page. Layout the ground rules on every area that you want to see happen. Make sure everyone understands the rules and what the results will mean to your company. Include in their buying fleet fuel at the truck stops or locations that you have determined to be in your fuel network. As a company you will always be able to get a better deal if you buy more than one of something from any supplier. The same hold truck in fleet fuel, send your drivers to the same spot. Call a fuel consultant like Sokolis Group to help you negotiate the best deals for you and create win/win situation with the fuel vendors you are buying.
If you follow these keys your fuel management program will be successful and your company will be spending less money on fleet fuel. Good luck.
Sokolis Group is a fuel management company that helps companies reduce their fuel spend by reviewing, analyzing, auditing, negotiating and creating fleet fuel programs that create value and success from their clients. got fuel? We have fleet fueling solutions for you! www.sokolisgroup.com or 267-482-6155.