The Benefits of a GPS Tracking System with Fuel Sensors

March 18, 2021

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Key Takeaways

A GPS tracking system that includes fuel sensors or fuel monitoring capabilities can provide your fleet data on fuel use and idling to ultimately help your business meet fuel efficiency goals. Real-time GPS trackers that measure fuel use through a gateway that connects on an OBD port can help improve your fuel monitoring while providing your business with insights into your end-to-end operations.

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GPS vehicle tracking systems that include fuel monitoring technology can be a helpful way to gain useful insights into your fleet’s fuel efficiency and performance. These sensors can help you understand fuel tank levels, idling, fuel use, and more to provide you with high-quality data that can inform your fuel efficiency strategy. If your fleet is serious about improving vehicle fuel use or meeting business sustainability goals, consider a fleet tracking platform that includes fuel monitoring functionality.  

The benefits of a fuel monitoring system

Fuel spend is the second-leading fixed expense for fleets. On average, it can amount to 60% of the total operating cost. If you’re a fleet manager, this means an uptick in fuel consumption or excessive vehicle idling can have a major financial impact on your operations. So, what can you do to increase fuel efficiency and decrease fuel costs across your fleet?

A fleet management platform that includes fuel sensors is a great place to start. Read on to learn five ways GPS vehicle trackers with fuel monitoring capabilities can provide visibility into fuel consumption: 

1. Reduce fuel waste caused by driver habits

The average long-haul truck will idle anywhere from six to eight hours a day, for as many as 300 days a year. And when a driver’s speed suddenly increases or decreases, the vehicle can consume 20% more fuel. These behaviors can add up to thousands of hours of fuel wasted annually.

To help your fleet reduce idling and curb habits that cause waste, a GPS tracking device that provides insights into your vehicles’ fuel usage can be hugely beneficial. Telematics tools such as fuel reports and idling alerts can help you better understand fuel usage trends across your fleet. You can then easily uncover problem areas and set goals based on what will have the biggest impact on your business.

Some necessary and common driver habits, like acceleration, deceleration, coasting, and cruising, can also have a major impact on your fuel efficiency and vehicle longevity. In aggregate, these behaviors have a significant impact on fuel expenses and vehicle lifespan.

By following and tracking the results of these driving habits with the Samsara Driver Efficiency Report, you can gain insight into inefficient driving habits, incentivize good behavior, and facilitate effective feedback.

Understanding these data insights helped Samsara customer and poultry processor Mar-Jac Transportation, LLC. take action with their fleet. “Coaching drivers on their driving drove the change for us,” said Alan Hewell, a fleet manager at Mar-Jac Transportation. “We’ve been able to set parameters for incentives and fuel bonus programs.” 

2. Decrease instances of fuel theft

With fuel theft on the rise, it can be challenging to know if all your fuel transactions are legitimate 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. This can cause fraudulent expenses that might be difficult or time-consuming to verify. 

Luckily, a telematics solution with fuel sensors or fuel monitoring can provide precise information on your driver's fueling location. 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. 

Plus, you can integrate fuel card transaction data from FLEETCOR-issued brands, such as Fuelman and Comdata, with Samsara for a more comprehensive view of your fleet’s fuel economy and IFTA reporting. This type of integration can help you identify suspicious card activity and reduce fraud by flagging transactions that don’t correlate with GPS coordinates at the time of purchase. Not only can these additional insights help you verify fuel purchases, but they can help you identify inefficiencies across your vehicles and drivers. 

These insights can also indicate instances fuel theft of fleet skimming—a 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 misuse, theft, fraud, or other types of fraudulent fuel activity. For example, with alerts that automatically notify you when a vehicle's fuel level decreases drastically during a short period of time, you can proactively detect other types of fuel theft, too—like siphoning.

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 required level of DEF to meet US emission regulations, they are forced to cease operation of that vehicle until it’s refueled.

But avoiding 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, GPS tracking systems with fuel sensors or fuel monitoring 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. 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.”

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 improve the fuel efficiency of your fleet 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 lifecycle 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. If the route is too long, vehicles run the risk of running out of charge.

  • Is it a light-duty vehicle? Since light-duty electric vehicles are currently more commercially available, you might want to consider electrifying light-duty vehicles before heavy-duty vehicles.

Electric vehicles (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 fleet management features.

Track your fleet’s fuel efficiency with Samsara

One of the biggest benefits of an IoT solution is getting better visibility into key efficiency metrics that can drive cost savings. Here are some ways fleets leverage Samsara telematics data to improve their fuel efficiency:

1. Idling alerts:

Samsara 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. You can also customize which vehicles to set an alert for, how much idle time should pass before you receive an alert, and what time frame you'd like to receive alerts. 

2. Samsara Driver Efficiency Report:

The Samsara Efficiency Report can help you surface inefficient driving habits, incentivize good behavior, and facilitate effective feedback to optimize fuel efficiency across your fleet. Its central feature is the efficiency score, which aggregates a number for your fleet based on seven different criteria that impact fuel efficiency:

  • Idling: Time spent with the vehicle on and not moving for more than two minutes, excluding times where PTO or auxiliary inputs are engaged. 

  • Over speed: Time spent over the efficient speed threshold.

  • Cruise control: Time spent with cruise control on and the accelerator disengaged. 

  • Coasting: Time spent without engaging the accelerator. 

  • High torque: Time spent with engine torque greater than 90%. 

  • Anticipation events: Number of braking events where the time from accelerator to brake is less than one second. 

  • Green band: Time spent in the most efficient RPM. 

The Samsara Driver Efficiency Report can help you understand the impact of your coaching, as well. The report’s efficiency trends graph plots how each driving behavior changes over time, so that you can easily visualize how coaching efforts or programmatic changes impact your fleet’s fuel efficiency. You can also customize the weighted score to reflect the metrics that matter most to your fleet. For example, if your drivers spend more time on straight roadways where they can use cruise control more frequently, you have the option to give that category more weight.

Make real-time fuel data a competitive advantage with Samsara

By integrating telematics, AI-enabled cameras, and cloud-based software, Samsara’s all-in-one connected operations platform helps fleets make measurable improvements in efficiency and provides ROI in the moments that matter. 

To learn more about how Samsara can help your business make data a competitive advantage, read about how we can partner with you for the long-term, or reach out for a free trial today.

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