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Fleet Fuel Management Best Practices & Fuel Cards

Fuel expenses represent one of the largest expenditures of commercial fleets. This post shares fuel management best practices and how to pick the right fuel management solution for your fleet.

Accurate fleet fuel management is an essential aspect of running a profitable fleet.

According to a recent study conducted by G2, 32% of fleets have identified fuel as their largest expense. This figure gives us a glimpse of how serious of a problem fuel expenses can become if left unchecked.

That’s why efficient fleet fuel management systems are a must for companies hoping to run a fuel-efficient fleet.

Let’s take a closer look at what fleet fuel management is and how to develop a hyper-efficient fuel management plan for your fleet.

What is fleet fuel management?

Fleet fuel management systems monitor and control the fuel consumption of fleets.

It allows fleet managers to reduce and optimize fuel-related expenses.

Why fleet fuel management systems are important

Fleet fuel management systems are critical for these reasons:

They reduce your operational costs

A study by the American Transportation Research Institute shows that, on average, fuel expenses comprise 24% of the total average marginal costs among trucking companies. It’s the second-largest spending type after driver wages, which accounts for 32%.

The fuel spending percentage is even higher than the combined costs for repairs, insurance premiums, tolls, maintenance, tires, licensing expenses, and permits.

To help reduce and optimize your fuel expenses, fleet fuel management systems reveal which factors lead to needless fuel waste — whether it’s improper driving habits and vehicle defects or something else.

They increase your bottom line

Fuel expenses accumulate fast, especially for larger fleets where micro-management can be a bigger issue. By learning where your fuel spending goes you can become more efficient, resulting in higher profit margins — which are all good for the bottom line.

They improve your service delivery

Improved fuel efficiency can save you money that you can redirect to other growth-driving aspects of your business. You can invest more money in driver training, acquiring new vehicles, marketing, or hiring more people to further scale your operations.

Fleet fuel management best practices

Use telematics

Telematics systems provide a broad range of information regarding vehicles’ real-time locations and movements through cellular networks or high-speed wireless connections.

Telematics use built-in GPS technologies to track vehicle speed and location. Combining this data with accelerometer measurements, telematics can determine the distance covered and how drivers operate commercial vehicles.

Telematics solutions connected directly to the engine control module can also verify the number of miles traveled and compute fuel consumption.

By studying your fleet’s telematics-based fuel data, you can identify which vehicles consume more fuel on average than the rest.

Optimize routes and delivery

Selecting the best routes and delivery strategies for your commercial vehicles can reduce fuel expenses. However, doing so can be challenging since you have to consider road conditions, driver schedules, delivery priorities, and other constraints.

Leverage GPS tracking and telematics to find the cheapest and shortest (or most efficient) routes, especially for drivers who need to make several stops.

Provide driver training and coaching

The U.S. Department of Energy reported that adopting correct driving habits can improve fuel economy by around 10%.

Teach your drivers to practice fuel efficiency and eco-driving techniques, such as anticipating traffic flow, removing excess vehicle weight, and more.

If you have dashboard cameras installed in your commercial vehicles, use the video footage to monitor and correct any identified fuel-wasting driving behaviors.

Schedule consistent fleet maintenance

Vehicle maintenance can improve your fuel economy because it keeps your vehicles running at their best possible conditions.

Here are several fuel-saving fleet maintenance tips:

  • Schedule frequent engine tune-ups to reduce fuel expenses by as much as $0.14 per gallon.
  • Use your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended motor oil grade to increase fuel savings of up to $0.07 per gallon.
  • Keep your vehicle tires properly inflated to boost gas mileage by up to 3%.

What is a fleet management fuel card?

A fleet card or fuel card is a payment card used to purchase fuel at select gas stations (and maintenance shops).

It works like a charge card or a credit card and may require additional details to authorize, e.g., unit number, driver number, or current vehicle mileage.

A fleet management fuel card gathers exhaustive purchase information that can be used to monitor fuel consumption. Depending on the card, you can establish customized controls to prevent unauthorized consumption, such as:

  • Requiring driver ID entry to identify who is buying fuel.
  • Restricting purchases to at-pump only.
  • Activating alerts if someone is buying more fuel than is necessary for a commercial vehicle.

A fleet management fuel card is also advisable for businesses buying more than 1,000 gallons of fuel every month.

How to choose a fleet management fuel card

Consider these factors when picking the best fleet management fuel card for your business:

  • Security. Depending on your security preferences, choose fuel cards that allow you to set up authorization controls, purchase limits, and alerts. Opt for those functioning like credit cards over charge cards to limit access. Doing so also hastens card recovery in cases of theft and loss.
  • Fuel data. Choose cards with level-3 data capture capabilities. Level-3 data are details that reveal which card account holder completed a transaction and how much fuel the buyer purchased on which date, time, and place. Level-3 data also includes driver ID, location, fuel price per gallon, and odometer readings per transaction. However, keep your drivers’ regular operating areas in mind. Not all gas stations can give level-3 information, such as those in rural areas with family-owned stations. If that’s the case, consider opening your fleet fuel management card to all station levels.
  • Accounting. Select cards with online platforms showing detailed fuel purchasing data. Also, select cards with exception reporting capabilities to let you define and track unusual fuel-buying behaviors and establish maximum daily purchase thresholds. Your card must also generate detailed fuel usage and expense reports.
  • Controls. Consider your fleet’s operations and fuel needs when choosing the right card controls. For instance, do you want a card permitting in-store purchases or at-pump refueling only? Do your vehicles have different fuel capacities, requiring differing purchasing profiles? Should your fuel card let you override buying limits in real time in case of emergencies?
  • Customer service. Check if the fleet fuel management card has a support line that your drivers can immediately access via SMS or phone in case they forget their ID or the station declines their card.

Fleet management fuel monitoring software

Reliable fleet fuel monitoring software has robust fuel efficiency reporting features that provide visibility into your fleet’s fuel consumption.

  • It can reveal driving habits, vehicle conditions, and other factors leading to fuel waste.
  • It collects accurate odometer readings, real-time GPS coordinates, and other data.

It can also present in-depth summaries, findings, and easy-to-understand visuals. From these reports, your fuel monitoring software can present driver scorecards ranking the most and least fuel-efficient drivers. This gives you insights for driver coaching and rewarding the most fuel-efficient drivers.

Finally, the best fuel monitoring systems are comprehensive. They integrate with several other functions and solutions related to fleet management, such as dashcams, maintenance, and telematics — including features powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

Optimize your fleet fuel management

Fuel management can be intricate and tedious, especially when you use manual methods to track your fuel consumption across the fleet. 

Equipping yourself with modern fleet and fuel management technologies, including fuel cards, may help boost your vehicles’ fuel efficiency.

Leverage all relevant data and insights to lower your costs and implement the best fuel-preserving practices. That way, you can increase your savings, profits, and fleet productivity.