5 Ways to Increase the Fuel Efficiency of Your Fleet

October 30, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Gas mileage expenses are the second leading fixed expense for fleets. On average, they can amount to 60% of the total operating cost. Here are five ways your telematics solution can provide visibility into how your vehicles are using gas so you can increase your fleet fuel efficiency.

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Gas mileage expenses are the second leading fixed expense for fleets. On average, they 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?

Read on to learn five ways your telematics solution can provide visibility into how your vehicles are using gas and help your fleet save money by using less fuel.

1. Increase efficient driving 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, it can cause their vehicle to consume 20% more fuel. These behaviors can add up to thousands of hours of fuel wasted annually.

Common habits like driving above the speed limit, harsh braking, coasting, and more can also have a major impact on your fuel efficiency. These driving habits, though seemingly inconsequential, can in aggregate have a significant impact on fuel expenses and vehicle lifespan.

To help your fleet reduce idling and promote habits that create better fuel economy, consider a telematics solution that can provide insights into your vehicles’ fuel and energy use. Samsara telematics tools such as Fuel & Energy Reports and Idling Alerts can help you better understand fuel and energy trends across your fleet. You can then determine problem areas and set goals for better gas mileage.

Drivers play a huge part in the performance of the vehicles they’re driving. Tracking driver behavior can help you quickly identify the biggest opportunity for cost-savings. While each fleet has different priorities, there are simple driving techniques that can decrease the wear and tear on your vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and promote sustainability. By tracking these driving habits with the Samsara Fleet Efficiency Report, you can gain insights that surface inefficient driving habits, incentivize good behavior, and facilitate effective feedback. 

2. Follow a preventative maintenance schedule

Regular car maintenance will keep your vehicles running smoothly, ensuring there aren’t any issues that might be using more fuel than necessary—like old air filters or unchanged motor oil. To do this, determine a consistent schedule to check things like your fleet’s tire pressure and wheel alignment. Tires that aren’t fully inflated don’t roll as easily, so it requires more fuel to keep them moving. Similarly, properly-aligned wheels on trucks and trailers minimize rolling resistance, enabling you to get more miles per gallon and reduce aerodynamic drag.

It’s equally important to ensure your vehicle’s engine is in good shape. Telematics systems like Samsara can send instant alerts for engine fault codes and help you set up a schedule for regular maintenance. Even better, catch issues before they arise (and before they affect your fuel efficiency) by setting up a preventative maintenance schedule based on vehicle engine hours, miles driven, or time period.

driver efficiency

 3. Drive the speed limit

Driving the speed limit isn’t just about safety; it’s also an important factor in fuel mileage rates. Every vehicle has a speed or speed range where it reaches optimal fuel efficiency. In general, there’s a steep drop off in fuel economy past 50 miles per hour, comparable to paying an additional $0.20 per gallon of gas for every 5 mile per hour increase.

By encouraging your drivers to stick to posted road and highway speed limits, you’ll be promoting both safety and efficient fuel management that will help your fleet attain better mileage. Technology platforms like Samsara can give you insight into the speed of all of your vehicles and even let you set up alerts in case a vehicle exceeds a specific speed or goes a certain amount above the speed limit.

4. Keep an eye out for 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 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 fuel pump 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. Plus, you can now integrate Samsara with fuel card transaction data from FLEETCOR-issued brands, such as Fuelman and Comdata, for a more comprehensive view of your fleet’s fuel economy. This type of integration can help you identify suspicious card activity and reduce fraud by flagging gas tank 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. 

5. 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 fleet management features.

Track your fleet’s fuel efficiency with the Samsara

One of the biggest benefits of a telematics solution can be getting better visibility into key efficiency metrics that can drive cost savings. Here are some ways fleets can 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:

This report can help you surface inefficient driving habits, incentivize good behavior, and facilitate effective feedback to promote better 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 all impact fuel efficiency:

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

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

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

  4. Coasting: Time spent without engaging the accelerator. 

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

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

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

The Samsara 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.

3. Samsara Fuel Reporting:

Take control of your fuel economy and reduce overall spend with Samsara Fuel Reporting. Visibility into fuel trends help identify inefficient or abnormal activity. Get Fuel Reports daily, weekly, or monthly, directly in your inbox, and monitor vehicle performance, true idle time and improve your fuel efficiency.

To learn more about how Samsara can help your fleet understand and measure efficiency, while coaching drivers on efficiency best practices, check out our complete guide to improving fleet efficiency or reach out for a free trial today.

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