4 Ways Your Telematics Solution Can Reduce Your Fuel Costs

March 11, 2020

It’s no secret that fuel is one of the leading expenses for fleets. But just how much does fuel management impact your fleet’s bottom line? 

Fuel spend is the second leading fixed expense for fleets and on average amounts to 60% of the total operating cost, making fuel use a significant portion of a fleet’s budget.

If you’re a fleet manager, this means an uptick in gas prices or excessive vehicle idling can have a major financial impact on your entire operations. But fuel management can be a challenging feat, especially if you don’t have visibility into how your vehicles are using gas.

So, what can you do to make sure your fleet is managing their fuel wisely?

"It starts with knowing how much you're spending and why," said Samsara principal product manager Robert Bales. "Fleets that can identify and reward drivers with good habits or uncover and avoid behaviors that waste fuel will have an advantage. Getting this insight across your fleet is key to understanding costs and learning how to reduce them."

Read on to learn four ways your telematics solution can help your fleet optimize fuel use to ensure your vehicles are using gas as efficiently as possible.

1. Reduce fuel waste caused by excessive idling

The average long-haul truck will idle anywhere from six to eight hours a day, for as many as 300 days a year. That can add up to thousands of hours of fuel wasted annually.

The good news? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, fleets can save over $6,000 a year per vehicle by reducing idling time. These savings can quickly add up, especially if you’re overseeing thousands of vehicles and drivers across multiple locations. 

To help your fleet meet business or government requirements for idle time, consider a telematics solution that can provide insights into your vehicles’ fuel and energy use. Telematics tools such as Fuel Usage Reports and Idling Alerts can help you better understand fuel usage trends across your fleet. You can then determine problem areas and set goals based on what will have the biggest impact on your business.

Megan Schoff, Operations Technology Analyst for Dohrn Transfer Company, can attest to the power of telematics. Schoff partnered with Samsara to unlock data that helped her understand what was actually happening across her 600-vehicle fleet. These insights ultimately helped Dohrn identify and curb behaviors that contributed to significant fuel waste.

“Insights provided by Samsara’s tools have contributed to a 2% improvement in our mileage per year, which equates to about 150,000 fewer gallons of fuel,” said Schoff.

Samsara also helped Schoff better understand which drivers and behaviors were causing excessive idling. By using Samsara Idling Reports, she was able to see when idling was taking place and which drivers were most accountable. Based on these insights, Dohrn was able to implement a coaching program that helped the fleet reduce their idling by half.

2. Decrease instances of fuel theft

With fuel theft on the rise, it can be challenging to know if all your fuel transactions are purchases from authorized vehicles in your fleet. Without properly tracking data to understand which vehicles are at which stations at what times, there can be a lot of guesswork involved in confirming fuel purchase history. Without data, this can cause fraudulent expenses that might be difficult or time-consuming to verify. 

Luckily, the right telematics solution can provide precise information on your driver's fueling location, identifying not only the city or town where they fueled, but the exact station. By using Samsara’s real-time GPS tracking to identify a vehicle’s location, Fuel Reports can show whether or not a fuel transaction was completed by a verified vehicle in your fleet.

Leveraging fuel tank capacity with fuel purchase data can help your fleet crack down on instances of fleet skimming—a difficult to detect form of fraud that replaces a credit card scanner with a skimming device that electronically captures cardholder data. 

Look for a telematics solution that flags unauthorized purchases caused by skimming and can notify you for other types of fraudulent fuel activity. With GPS location data, for example, you can easily prove a purchase was fraudulent if you see a fuel transaction made in a location a vehicle was never in.

Additional cases of fuel theft can be flagged through telematics with alerts that automatically notify you when fuel level decreases by a predetermined percentage in a certain amount of time—something that can be hugely valuable in understanding whether theft took place. If, for example, the amount of gas pumped into your vehicle at one time exceeds the capacity of your tank, it could be a case of fuel theft. 

3. Monitor DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fuel) levels to refuel more efficiently

Ensuring each vehicle’s DEF level is properly maintained is an important step to help your business avoid emission mandate violations. Diesel exhaust fuel or DEF is an ammonia-based liquid that’s sprayed into the exhaust stream of a diesel-powered truck to reduce the amount of nitrogen emissions created by diesel engines. If vehicles don’t have the accepted level of DEF in their vehicle to meet American or European emission regulations, they are forced to essentially cease operation of that vehicle until its refueled.

But evading a violation is just part of the equation. A lack of visibility into fuel use and DEF levels can create inefficiencies that hinder or prevent fleets from completing jobs, and can even lead to thousands of dollars in engine repair costs when neglected for too long.

To help your fleet maintain proper DEF levels, telematics providers like Samsara can offer real-time insights into DEF levels with alerts that notify you when DEF goes below a predetermined threshold. By monitoring DEF, fleets can proactively refill before maintenance is compromised or worse—vehicles need to be taken off the road.

This additional insight is crucial to Joseph Casuccio, the Director of Operations at nationwide milk hauling company Red Stag Logistics. In order to get fresh milk products to customers, Red Stag Logistics needs to stay on schedule and DEF level complications are something the business simply doesn’t have time for.

“If you have a vehicle that has a 98% fuel level but a DEF level below 50, you’re going to create an additional stop for your driver,” said Casuccio. “You’re going to have to break speed, downshift, and potentially come into heavier traffic to refill—on top of that, you’re wasting fuel and inching closer to an HOS violation.”

But with Samsara, Red Stag Logistics has real-time visibility into both fuel and DEF. They simply use the Fuel Report to understand where fuel and DEF levels are so they can make sure vehicles are routed as efficiently as possible while avoiding unnecessary stops.

“There’s no reason to not take advantage of one complete stop to fuel everything up.” Casuccio said. “Samsara let’s us easily do that.”

4. Identify electrification suitability

In certain instances, the most effective way to manage the fuel efficiency of a vehicle is to electrify. Electrification can be a good option for fleets looking to significantly lower operational costs and can be particularly valuable if your fleet needs to meet certain emission or TCO requirements. 

But how do you assess electrification suitability for your fleet and what data do you need to determine which vehicles in your fleet make the most sense to electrify first?  

Generally speaking, you want to prioritize electrification for vehicles that are furthest along the vehicle life cycle based on miles logged, or vehicles with the highest operational cost in terms of maintenance and fuel. If you’re still unsure, consider the following factors when choosing to electrify:

  • Does your vehicle have consistent parking patterns? If a vehicle parks in the same or similar place whenever it’s not in use, it could be a strong candidate for electrification due to consistent charging location.

  • How long is your vehicle’s route? If it’s too short, electrification may not be worth the investment from a fuel savings perspective and if the route is too long, vehicles run the risk of running out of charge.

  • Is your vehicle a light-duty vehicle? Since light-duty electric vehicles are currently more commercially available, you might not want to consider electrifying heavy-duty vehicles first.

EVs come with their own unique operational challenges, and your telematics provider should give you the tools needed to manage an electric fleet. To learn more about how Samsara can help your fleet transition to electric, read more about our EV tools and offerings.

Manage your fuel use with Samsara

Samsara has helped customers improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel use across their fleets, saving over 24 million gallons of gasoline—or $80 million in cost savings—annually. To learn how Samsara can help your fleet improve fuel and energy efficiency with comprehensive and actionable fuel data, reach out for a free demo or trial today.

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