10 Fuel-Saving Tips
Just when you thought it was safe to get on the road again, gas prices are creeping back up. Here is a compilation of tips from fleet operators to rein in your fuel spend through efficient load and route management, fuel card programs and reinforcing the message with drivers.
After Gem Plumbing weighed every part carried on its vehicles, it was able to remove about 300 pounds and increase miles per gallon.
Ship Supplies to Minimize Office Trips
"Our major fuel-saving initiative is doing a better job with our internal route optimization/scheduling program," says Larry Leahy, vice president of Foundation Management Services, a home care and hospice services provider in the Southwest.
"We are moving toward a system in which we drop ship medical supplies to the patient's home. Shipping costs are outweighed by alleviating the cost of having the clinician come into the office to pick up supplies. We are realizing other cost savings associated with less weight in the clinicians' cars, less inventory in the office and the soft savings associated with staff coming in the office and spending time just visiting."
"We are also employing a point-of-care system in which the clinician documents everything at the patient's home and transmits data over a secured, encrypted Web portal into our patient information system, further alleviating an extra trip to the office to fill out paperwork."
Rely on Turn-By-Turn Directions
"We have improved routing and saved fuel by upgrading our Onstar service to include turn-by-turn navigation, which gives our drivers the most direct and fuel-efficient route," says Carrie Dorsey, director of public relations for AT Home Care, an independent home healthcare agency in Virginia.
The system also informs the driver of improper tire pressure immediately, Dorsey says. Proper tire pressure can improve fuel economy by an average of 4 percent, according to the EPA.
Use Load Boards
JMC Restaurant Distribution uses Freightliner trucks to deliver supplies to Cici's Pizza restaurants in about 30 states. When the company makes a delivery, one of its trucks might have available space to haul cargo for another company that needs cargo moved in that specific part of the country.
"This keeps JMC trucks operating at capacity more often, which is a much more lucrative and efficient way to run a route," says Bob Kulich, president of JMC.
For a monthly subscription fee, online load boards connect brokers with haulers, whose needs are customizable by geographic location, type of truck, size and weight of the load.
Though not specifically a fuel-saver, this age-old concept is gaining traction for local shipments and even small parcels to offset high fuel costs.
Make Deliveries at Night
JMC does about 80 percent of its deliveries at night, with drivers possessing keys to the various facilities or alarm codes to enter the facilities. "If a shipment gets there at midnight it doesn't have much effect on the customer, as long as it's there in the morning when he comes in," says Kulich. "We've tried to develop our business model with as much fail-safe in it as possible so that the franchisees don't have to worry about what we do."
Efficiency shot up after the switch to nighttime deliveries because JMC didn't have traffic to deal with or people in the restaurants getting in the way, Kulich says.
Weigh Your Parts
Gem Plumbing of Lincoln, R.I., attacks fuel costs by proper load planning. The fleet department knows the exact weight of every plumbing part that is carried on a vehicle, says Larry Gemma, co-owner.
Each truck used to have 1,139 parts on it, but after the company removed about 300 pounds of unneeded parts from each truck, the miles per gallon on each truck improved from 7.1 to 7.35.