Mobility is a key part of running any business but we all know that moving around your products, stock and labour can be expensive. With fuel costs only expected to rise as we enter 2017, now more than ever should SMEs be thinking about ways they can reduce fuel use and save money when out on the road.
1. Monitor to minimise
It’s can be difficult to save fuel unless you know how much you’re using. By utilising a fuel card, SMEs can monitor fuel use and analyse where it could be saved. Most providers offer real-time reporting showing how much is being used and which drivers and vehicles are using it. Alongside this, the introduction of telematics can benefit fleets from just two or more vehicles. Essentially a ‘little black box’, telematics use GPS to send automated, paperless reports on data such as fuel use and mileage patterns, and driver timesheets. They also allow analysis of driving style to avoid harsh braking and accelerating which reduces fuel use and vehicle wear and tear.
2. Maintain, maintain, maintain
It’s important to bear in mind areas of inefficiency are not necessarily caused by poor driving or fleet mis-management. In the first instance make sure the vehicle is thoroughly checked for any issues that may be causing excess fuel consumption. This could be as simple as ensuring you have the correct tyres for your vehicles and that these are properly inflated. If tyres are underinflated by even 15 psi or one pressure bar, this can lead up to six percent greater fuel consumption. A significant amount over a year of driving.
Fuel card providers achieve savings on petrol and diesel through bulk-buying and should pass these on to their customers, allowing cheaper prices than advertised at the pump. At the time of writing, rising fuel prices are helping to push up inflation meaning everyone should be keeping tighter control of their business mileage spend. One way of being smart about fuel spend is to negotiate a rate with your fuel card provider. It’s always best to see what deal you can get to help keep costs down.
4. Be tax efficient
Using a fuel card means all mileage accrued on business journeys can be easily identified. This has the benefit of helping you to quickly and easily claim back tax on all fuel going through your business. This is the simplest and most efficient way to save 20 percent on the price of your fuel.
5. Invest in driver training
Your drivers will be confident they maintain a safe driving practice and efficient driving style. However, research has shown driver training can achieve up to 15 percent improved fuel consumption, lower CO2 emissions and an improved safety record. Telematics can analyse driver behaviour in real-time alerting fleet managers to inefficient driving habits such as harsh acceleration and braking, excessive idling and incidents of speeding. With this knowledge, fleet managers are able to invest in training for drivers where needed, ultimately leading to improved driver performance, a more efficient driving style and ultimately cost savings.
Many drivers are conscious of the need to conserve fuel and providing incentives for best practice is a great way to reward this behaviour. Knowing who is driving inefficiently allows for implementation of performance related pay structures and drivers can be rewarded for saving money behind the wheel. You could even introduce league tables with a prize for those who drive most efficiently each month.
7. Plan ahead
Route planning is key to any journey and can save you a lot of time and fuel. Plan which route to take, when it is best to travel and factor in estimated breaks. By doing this, it avoids traffic and additional fuel use. Did you know, vehicle idling for just one hour uses around two litres of fuel? This could get you 20 plus miles down the road in the average vehicle. With telematics, drivers will receive live traffic reports allowing them to navigate along the quickest route and providing them with accurate estimated times of arrival for colleagues or customers.
8. Watch where you fill up
Thanks to a captive market, motorway services can bump up prices but money can still be saved at the pump. Supermarkets generally offer the most competitive prices and at the time of writing, the big four supermarkets can be up to 5p per litre cheaper than other major suppliers. Fuel cards offer the best rates for drawing fuel as many providers have a fixed rate below the pump price allowing you to control your cash flow and see exactly where money is being spent on fuel. The top fuel cards such as UK Fuels’ Crystal fuel card offers reduced prices the more fuel you commit to.
9. Empty vehicles
It should be best practice on both business and personal journeys to only travel with what you need. For example, if you are a builder and have half a tonne of bricks in your van when they’re not needed, this will have a significant effect on vehicle performance and more importantly, fuel use. It’s always best to make a checklist of what is needed when travelling and remove any unneeded heavy goods.
10. Windows v air-con
A study from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) shows that driving with the windows up and the air con on is typically a more fuel-efficient way to drive. This study found that when driving at 55 mph with the windows down, there’s a decrease in fuel efficiency of around 20 percent. Although using the air con also decreases fuel efficiency, cooling the air through the compressor only decreases fuel efficiency by about 10 percent. I find when driving around a residential area, having my windows is the most fuel efficient way to cool down, but at higher speeds its best to use air con – plus it’s a lot quieter!