The route to tackling rising fuel prices

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 08:57
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Scott Chesworth, operations director at RAM Tracking

Supermarkets, on the whole, are known for offering the cheapest fuel prices. However, the RAC Fuel Watch has found that since 21 February, supermarket prices at the pumps have been increasing almost every day, whether that be in line with wholesale costs or not. Fuel costs are a large expense for fleet owners and finding ways to reduce them is essential – tracking systems and other technologies could be the solution.

The UK population buys 45 percent of its fuel from supermarkets, largely because they offer cheaper prices than other petrol stations. More attractive prices at the pumps also have the added benefit of drawing people into the store for their shopping after filling up.

However, although still the least expensive option, supermarket fuel prices have been consistently rising. According to the RAC, on average, prices in general increased by 8.61p between February and May of this year, with supermarket prices rising by a staggering 9.69p. A concerning trend that could cause financial issues for many fleets.

Fuel costs make up the largest proportion of operating costs for fleet vehicles. Unfortunately, it is a cost that cannot be avoided, but it can be reduced and informing drivers on how to improve their fuel efficiency is vital. It goes without saying that more efficient driving means fewer trips to fill up.

There are a number of behaviours that can negatively affect fuel efficiency, including speeding and excessive idling, two very different issues that are both extremely common. While there is no optimum speed for minimal fuel consumption, it is recommended that people drive in the highest gear possible within the speed limit and avoid sudden acceleration.

Excessive idling is a more difficult problem to solve. The UK’s roads are full of congestion, meaning long periods of start-stop driving that are sometimes unavoidable. Turning off the engine when stopped for over 10 seconds is the best way to improve fuel efficiency in traffic. Contrary to popular belief, turning an engine back on does not consume more fuel than being sat idling.

Fuel efficiency is not purely down to driver behaviour – poor vehicle maintenance can also lead to increased consumption. From under or overinflated tyres to an engine in need of a service, failing to maintain a fleet vehicle properly can lead to fuel inefficiency.

To help ensure that vehicles are not needing to be filled up more than necessary, technology such as tracking systems can assist. GPS features allow fleet managers to be alerted to incidents of speeding through recording location, distance covered and time. If it is a recurring issue, further action can be taken.

Effective route planning is also essential to keeping fuel consumption to a minimum, and GPS technology can make drivers aware of congested routes and even provide them with alternatives, lessening the chances of extended periods of stationary idling. Having the ability to choose the quickest or shortest route to a job can increase productivity and improve customer service, as well as keep journeys efficient.

Mobile apps are another form of technology that can help to reduce fuel costs. Some apps allow fleet owners to set alerts for when vehicles are due a service, ensuring that fleets are correctly maintained and as efficient as possible.

Fleet owners need to be savvy when it comes to fuel efficiency in order to counter climbing fuel costs. Investing in technology can be a great way to keep outputs as low as possible in an already difficult financial climate.

Author: Scott Chesworth, operations director, RAM Tracking

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