Cost control

Effective fuel management can lessen your pain at the pump
By Jack Lee
February 1, 2009
AUTO : BUSINESS, MANAGEMENT

If you’re like most managers, you wear a lot of hats. You probably manage people, resources, equipment, timelines, budgets and more. Fleet businesses like yours might have general managers, human resource managers, equipment managers, and fleet or operations managers, but very few have a fuel manager.

Why now?

With average retail gasoline prices hovering around $1.64 per gallon at press time, fuel costs may not be as burdensome as they were last July when prices skyrocketed to more than $4.00 a gallon in many parts of the country. Read more...

Without effective fuel management, your company is wasting thousands of dollars each month. Like any other expense, fuel can be controlled only if it is measured, along with a number of other critical operating practices.

The good news is that technology exists so just about anyone can become a fuel manager. Good fuel management includes route planning, measuring fuel consumption and managing equipment operating practices.

Route planning
First, you can add a global positioning system, or GPS, unit to all of your mobile trucks or vans. For a modest expense, you can put billions of dollars worth of technology to work for you to help plan your fleet’s daily travel. GPS employs 27 earth-orbiting satellites that were developed by the U.S. military. Today, it is available to everyone in a pocket-sized receiver that finds your exact position, anywhere in the world. The system is ideal for planning travel routes, avoiding certain roads and reducing drive time. Less driving cuts fuel costs. GPS can track distance traveled, but it can’t track fuel consumption or savings. You can do that yourself using simple math.

Measuring fuel consumption
Now that you can minimize your travel time with GPS, what about more important data directly related to fuel consumption? There is technology available that can show you exactly where all of that fuel goes. Once you have that data, you are on your way to better fuel management.

Some onsite fuel providers use wireless systems to record fuel data: the amount and type of fuel pumped, the vehicle that received it, and the time and date. This data is then made available online where you can see your entire fleet or each unit’s fuel consumption by date or fuel type. For example, the Fuel Management Online system available at www.4FMO.com, lets users track docket data, price history and years of fuel data at no charge. With this data you can compare fuel consumption from unit to unit and make decisions. To find the system that’s right for you, type in “fuel management systems” in Google or another online search engine, and you’ll see a variety of options.

Managing equipment operating practices
Next, you need technology that can assist you in gathering and delivering key information about your fleet’s fuel consumption and operating data. The latest advanced mobile asset management technology can record all refueling information and deliver it, via e-mail, to your desktop. A wireless data capture chip is attached to each piece of equipment for positive identification. Fuel and engine performance information is recorded, giving you the data you need for effective fuel management.

Even more valuable is software that can help you analyze key operating information such as excessive idling, speeding, aggressive acceleration and improper equipment maintenance. A recent study conducted by a natural resource company showed differences of up to 3 gallons per 62 miles between a company’s most and least fuel-efficient drivers. In fact, poor driving habits can consume up to 35 percent more fuel. Once you have this data, you can set thresholds for each category, compare each unit’s performance and cut costs.

We can’t control the cost of fuel, but we can control how much we consume. Using technology can help you measure and manage fuel consumption, and it will save you thousands of dollars. You do the math … it adds up!

The author is president and CEO of 4Refuel Inc., a leader in fuel management. Write him at askthefuelexpert@4refuel.com.