How To Improve Your Fleet’s Fuel Efficiency

Unloading a van

Filling your vehicles’ tanks with gas is likely one of the most expensive parts of fleet management. Fuel costs can rise without warning, potentially slashing your profits even if your business accomplishes its usual amount of work.

Implementing fuel economy tactics is one of the best ways to reduce your fleet management costs and protect your business from rising gas prices. In this guide, we’ll look at why fuel efficiency is important, which factors have the biggest impact, and provide five cost-effective tips.

Why Is Fuel Efficiency Important?

According to an annual report by the American Transportation Research Institute, fuel was the leading expense for fleet owners in 2022. While gas prices have come down from 2022 highs, fuel remains one of the biggest costs for any fleet.

For business owners, improving fleet fuel efficiency can result in significant cost savings. Say a vehicle guzzles 15,000 gallons of gas per year at an average price of $4.00 per gallon, a 10% increase in efficiency would save your company $6,000 per year on that vehicle alone. Multiply those savings across your whole fleet and you could save tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Improving fuel efficiency also buffers your business against changing fuel prices. If your vehicles use less fuel, you’ll be less impacted by a sudden rise in gas prices. For some businesses, this can determine whether a job is profitable or not.

Which Factors Have the Biggest Impact on Fuel Efficiency?

There are several key factors that largely determine your fleet’s fuel efficiency.

  • Fleet Type: Different vehicles use different amounts of fuel, with larger vehicles typically using more fuel than smaller vehicles. Vehicle design can also play a role since a more aerodynamic vehicle will generally have less wind resistance and get better mileage.
  • Vehicle Loading: Weighing down a vehicle with heavy loads will decrease its fuel efficiency. The more weight a vehicle is carrying, the more gas it will use when accelerating.
  • Routing: While the shortest route between two destinations might seem like the most fuel-efficient, that’s not always the case. Heavy traffic will typically decrease a vehicle’s fuel efficiency because it spends more time idling and accelerating from stops.
  • Driver behavior: Frequent heavy braking and sudden acceleration can increase fuel consumption. In addition, speeding can reduce fuel efficiency since vehicles experience more wind resistance at higher speeds.

5 Ways To Improve Your Fleet’s Fuel Efficiency

Improving your fleet’s fuel efficiency will help your business to be more cost-effective and weather any changes in gas prices. Let’s look at five key ways to improve fuel efficiency.

1. Reduce Idling Time

Idling vehicles waste a surprising amount of gas. By one estimate, idling uses up to half a gallon of fuel per hour—while accomplishing nothing for your business.

A good rule of thumb is that if a vehicle is idling for more than 10 seconds, it’s more fuel-efficient to turn off the engine. Training your drivers to adopt this simple behavior can help you save gas that would otherwise go to waste.

2. Use Route Optimization Software

Route optimization software can help you plot out the most fuel-efficient routes for your drivers based on traffic patterns, road closures, and delivery windows. It can also help you adjust routes in real time if traffic conditions change unexpectedly.

It’s especially helpful if your drivers need to stop at multiple destinations or if you have several drivers with overlapping routes. Optimization software can figure out the best way to divide up routes and travel between a series of destinations—a task that isn’t easily accomplished by eye.

The result is that each vehicle in your fleet uses less gas to achieve the same amount of work.

3. Train Your Drivers

Establishing a fleet driver training program can help you address driving behaviors that negatively impact your fleet’s fuel efficiency. For example, you can instruct drivers on optimal acceleration and braking, or remind them to stick to posted speed limits. This type of training not only saves fuel but also increases driver safety.

Consider establishing a rewards program for drivers who minimize these fuel-guzzling behaviors. You can use telematics to monitor drivers’ compliance and pay rewards out of the money you save on fuel costs. Installation is easy, too!

4. Stay on Top of Maintenance

Worn-out tires, rubbing brake pads, oil leaks, and other issues can significantly reduce your vehicles’ gas mileage. So, staying on top of fleet maintenance is a great way to increase fuel efficiency—and save yourself from more expensive repairs down the road.

Establish a maintenance schedule for your vehicles and respond quickly when problems arise instead of allowing them to worsen. Fleet maintenance software can help you keep records and set up maintenance reminders for each of your vehicles.

5. Right-Size Your Fleet

Using vehicles that are larger than required for a task means consuming more fuel than necessary. It’s important to make sure the vehicles in your fleet are properly sized for the work your business undertakes.

It may make sense to down-size vehicles or purchase a combination of heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles for your business. While the upfront expense of buying multiple vehicles is high, you can save a significant amount of money on fuel by using cars or light-duty trucks for everyday tasks.

Fuel Efficiency Metrics: What You Need To Measure

There are several key fleet management and fuel consumption metrics you can measure to determine how efficient your fleet is and track the impact of changes over time.

Fuel Efficiency

Calculate the average miles per gallon driven for each driver-vehicle combination. Use the formula: Total miles driven by Driver A in Vehicle X / Total gallons of fuel used. You can use this data to see whether specific drivers or vehicles have unusually high or low fuel efficiency.

Fuel Costs

Add up the total amount spent on fuel for each vehicle in your fleet over a specific period. Using the same time period for all vehicles allows you to compare fuel costs without worrying about the impact of changing gas prices.

Idle Time

Calculate the percentage of time a vehicle spends idling. Use the formula: Idle hours / Total engine hours. You can also run this vehicle idle time calculation on a per-driver basis to see which drivers spend the most time idling.

Miles Driven

An increase in fleet mileage can be a sign that your business is taking on more work. However, it can also result from accomplishing the same amount of work but using inefficient routes or traveling to job sites that are further away.

Compare your fleet’s total mileage with your business’ revenue over a specific period to help determine whether your fleet is being deployed efficiently.

Next Steps

Making your fleet more fuel-efficient is one of the best ways to save your business money and protect yourself from rising gas prices. There are several changes you can make, including reducing idling time, using route optimization software, and training your drivers on fuel-efficient driving practices. It’s also important to stay on top of maintenance and right-size your fleet.

Implementing these changes is easier with the best fleet management software. Fleet management software is also key to making your fleet more efficient overall, which includes boosting productivity and minimizing vehicle downtime.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can drivers increase fuel efficiency?
Drivers can increase their fuel efficiency by minimizing quick acceleration and heavy braking. This can be achieved by choosing routes with relatively little traffic when possible. When drivers do need to accelerate and brake, changing speed gently saves fuel compared to changing speed abruptly.
How can you avoid wasting fuel?
You can reduce fuel waste in your fleet by decreasing idling time and using the smallest vehicle possible for each job. You can also reduce fuel waste by taking the most fuel-efficient route between destinations. Depending on traffic conditions, the most fuel-efficient route may not be the shortest route.
What is the most fuel-efficient speed?
For the majority of vehicles, the most fuel-efficient speed is around 55 mph. Above this speed, wind resistance increases significantly, and fuel efficiency drops. Vehicles are typically 8% less fuel-efficient at 65 mph and 23% less fuel-efficient at 75 mph.
Written by:
Michael is a prolific business and B2B tech writer whose articles have been published on many well-known sites, including TechRadar Pro, Business Insider and Tom's Guide. Over the past six years, he has kept readers up-to-date with the latest business technology, corporate finance matters and emerging business trends. A successful small business owner and entrepreneur, Michael has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech, finance and business.