Low supply and high demand continue to force gas prices higher in the U.S. The average price of unleaded inched up to $1.79 on April 12th, up almost a penny from the week before. For companies running a fleet of cars, that penny can quickly turn into dollars. While small businesses have no control over crude oil prices, there are steps they can take to keep their fuel costs at a manageable level. Enterprise Fleet Services suggests six simple steps businesses can do to help keep fuel costs down. “Driving wisely and maintaining vehicles on a routine basis goes a long way in improving mileage and increasing efficiencies," said Steve Bloom, senior vice president for Enterprise Fleet Services. He recommends business owners talk to company drivers about driving habits that can make a big difference in the long run. The following are just a few: · Go easy on the brakes and gas pedal. Avoid "jackrabbit" starts by accelerating gradually whenever possible. Also anticipate stops to avoid sudden braking. · Slow down. You can improve your gas mileage about 15 percent by driving at 55 mph rather than 65 mph. · Avoid long idles. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a long wait time. Idling burns more gas than restarting the engine. (Two minutes is generally the balance between how much fuel is used idling compared to the amount of fuel required to restart the vehicle.) · Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Periodic wheel alignments and keeping tires inflated to your vehicle's recommended pressure can improve gas mileage. · Get regular engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks. Tune-ups improve performance, as well as gas mileage. Check your owner's manual for recommended maintenance schedules. By following the manufacturer's recommendations, you should avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid, or the transmission not going into high gear. · Check your vehicle's air filter regularly. A dirty air filter can also adversely affect gas mileage. Another way to manage fluctuating fuel costs is to implement a fuel card program that enables business owners to track the cost of fuel for all drivers in the company, and do so in a way that is efficient and timely. For example, businesses using Enterprise's fuel card program receive a separate ID number for each driver, a number that is immediately recorded electronically at the point of fuel purchase. Drivers carry a single card to purchase their fuel and have access to more fueling locations than any individual retailer's card. At the end of the month, the fleet manager receives one report that tracks all fuel purchases. Because the program provides detailed information about each driver and the vehicle in one easy-to-read report, as well as exception reports that help pinpoint unauthorized purchases, companies are better able to control costs while giving their drivers maximum convenience. Other fleet management companies have similar programs. Enterprise Fleet Services, a division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is a full-service fleet management company for businesses with 15 to 125 vehicles.