VansA2Z's 10 Fuel Saving Tips for Vans
Fuel is a big cost for all van drivers. So here are VansA2Z editor Neil McIntee's top tips for using petrol efficiently.
As fuel represents the second biggest cost of a van after the actual purchase of the vehicle, it’s obvious that everything should be done to make sure each gallon is used as efficiently as possible.
There are many ways in which van fleet operators can trim back on fuel costs, some obvious and others not. When setting up a fuel-saving strategy, there are two areas of concern; the drivers and the vehicles themselves, so let’s start with the drivers first...
1. Choose your drivers carefully
This is probably the most important tip here. By weeding out any unsafe drivers before they actually start working for you, you’ll save a fortune in fuel. During an interview, take time to look into a prospective employee’s driving background and chat with him or her about their general attitude towards driving. Their answers can tell a lot about how they are likely to act while out on the road.
A practical test in a van before being employed is a must, to make sure they know how to drive a commercial vehicle; it’s different from driving a car, but some people don’t seem to realise that!
Don’t forget that once you have taken a driver on, it may not be easy to get rid of him or her, so it’s much easier to weed out the bad ones at this stage.
2. Get your drivers trained
A lot of drivers don’t see the need for training and feel it’s an affront to their professionalism to suggest it. But most of them begrudingly admit afterwards that they have learned a few new tricks, all of which can be used to help drive down those fuel costs. Admittedly it does mean a cash outlay for your firm, but this should be recouped at the pumps.
3. Share out the savings
Many drivers won’t bother trying to save fuel just to add profits for the firm, but set up a fuel economy league table with a few decent prizes at the end of each month and just watch them ease off on the throttle! Try putting up a chart in the office with each driver’s fuel economy figure beside it and sit back as battle commences.
Figures can be gleaned from information provided either by a telematics systems (see Tip 8) or a fuel card (see Tip 9).
Now let’s turn to the vehicles themselves...
4. Ensure that you buy the right vans
It may sound obvious, but it is reckoned that 30 per cent of people are running round in vans that are bigger than necessary, wasting fuel as a consequence. When buying new vehicles, ask yourself if the next size down wouldn’t do the job just as well. We’ve covered this subject in greater detail in my previous blog.
5. Use engine technology to help
Did you know that a van travelling at 80mph uses 20 per cent more fuel than one travelling at 70mph? As 70mph is the maximum speed limit for vans in the UK, it makes sense to fit limiters set at this speed.
Some drivers will complain, but if they do they are in effect admitting to breaking the law and should rightly be disciplined. In our experience, most drivers get used to speed limiters after a week or two and actually grow to like them as it means they won’t be accidentally breaking the law and leaving themselves open to prosecution on motorways by allowing speed to creep up, which is easily done.
6. Don’t skimp on maintenance
When a van is used by several different drivers, it’s easy to forget essential maintenance, which will inevitably have a knock-on effect on fuel economy. There should be a walk-round inspection every morning and oil and tyres should be checked once a week. It’s reckoned that if tyres are under inflated by 2 – 3psi, fuel usage will be 2 – 3 per cent higher.
7. Keep your vans clean
A lot of vans nowadays are carrying all sorts of unnecessary items and these will all mean that extra fuel will be used. This is especially true of outer accoutrements such as roof racks. It’s a pain, but these should be removed when not being used as they can add around eight per cent to fuel bills by adding extra drag on to the vehicle.
8. Install a telematics system
Modern technology allows the fleet operator to keep tabs on every area of a van, including where it is, how it is being driven and how much fuel is being used.
A telematics system will pay for itself in about three months and will cut out any little private side trips a driver might be thinking of making, as well as allowing you to route your vehicles in a more cost-effective way.
9. Use a fuel card
Pay and reclaim systems for fuel leave the company open to all kinds of financial chicanery. Modern fuel cards not only cut out any additional hidden purchases a driver might make but will also provide you with lots of information about how much fuel is being used by each driver. This will allow you to weed out the speeders and discipline them or send them on a driver training course.
10. Explore alternative fuels
If you use small vans and don’t travel very far on a daily basis in the course of your business, it’s worth looking at buying (or leasing) electric vehicles. Modern examples such as the Renault Kangoo ZE or Nissan eNV200 are much cheaper to buy than their predecessors and fuel costs are minimal compared to diesel. Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) seems to have fallen out of favour lately, but it’s still worth investigating.