Any business that requires employees to be on the move accepts that fuel can become a considerable outlay. However, what businesses often don’t factor in is the time it takes to ensure the smooth running of their fleets. For small businesses that may not necessarily have a dedicated fleet manager, this can mean another manager is taken away from their key, value-adding tasks, such as customer service or driving new business.
Businesses also seem to forget that fuel costs aren’t non-negotiable. A few small changes can significantly reduce your monthly fuel bills and have the welcome knock-on effect of increasing employee productivity.
Ok, so you can’t walk into a fuel forecourt and start negotiating with the retail assistant behind the counter. However, what you can do is approach the oil companies or fuel card resellers working on their behalf and negotiate a deal on a fuel card. This could see you paying several pence per litre less than the price stated at the pump. When you consider all the miles your drivers clock up over a year, this can seriously add up. Beyond this, fuel cards can also help you reduce fuel costs by helping you spot inefficiencies within your fleet. Often these inefficiencies fall into two camps: drivers or vehicles.
Boosting fleet efficiency
Harsh braking and acceleration, speeding or even unnecessary idling all have a dramatic impact on fuel use. Just ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting a modern engine. You will learn this and other fuel efficiency tips on a driver training course, which research has shown can achieve up to 20 per cent improved fuel consumption. How much would that be worth in your fleet?
While driving style has a significant impact on fuel consumption, sometimes inefficiency is the fault of the vehicle. For instance, underinflated tyres can be responsible for as much as ten per cent extra fuel usage. To ensure your vehicles are operating as efficiently as possible, it’s important to have a maintenance schedule in place where vehicles are checked thoroughly for any running issues. This will make your vehicles safer as well as more economical.
Making your employees more productive
If you are really serious about improving efficiency in your fleet then there is no technology better than telematics for doing so, particularly when used in conjunction with a fuel card. The combined data sets give you a complete overview of your fleet’s operation and spotting inefficiencies, whether its drivers or vehicles, becomes a whole lot easier.
With telematics installed you’ll also have the full picture of where your vehicles are. This makes job allocation and route planning more effective. In one fell swoop you’ll be reducing fuel use and boosting employee productivity.
Time is money and for a small business, fleet management can be a financial drain. From checking and processing driver expense reports, separating business and private mileage in order to keep HMRC happy and then claiming back VAT paid on fuel, the basics of running a fleet can take up days of time every month. Never mind how much more time could be spent ensuring drivers are using the most direct routes and filling up at competitive forecourts.
With technology like fuel cards and telematics all of this becomes automated, meaning it is quicker and more accurate. Filing expense reports and claiming back VAT could now be completed in minutes rather than days. With free time on your hands you can ensure your fleet is operating as efficiently as possible. Alternatively, you could now start focusing on those jobs that will be bringing money into the business, rather than taking it out.
Plan to save in 2016
Fuel costs account for up to 30 per cent of a fleet’s operating cost. Whether the responsibility to manage this falls to a fulltime fleet manager, HR director or the business owner themselves, monitoring is vital for maximising efficiency. The above ideas can help you keep costs and time spent in check. Why not put them into practice now and see how much it impacts your bottom line in 2016.
By Jakes de Kock, Marketing Director, UK Fuels’ group