Fleet Fuel Economy: What it is & How to Improve
When it was just you and your vehicle, all you had to worry about on your drive to El Paso was filling up your tank and spotting the best roadside attractions. The 30-foot enchilada statue? Check. The boy and the boot? Less than a mile away.
Now, your business has grown to a fleet of vehicles, and though business is booming, so is your list of to-dos. The most important thing on your mind? How to improve your fleet fuel economy and figuring out how to reduce fleet fuel costs.
Simply put, without a strong fleet fuel economy, the only place your vehicles will travel is the big rig auction. Fortunately, we’re strapping into the passenger’s seat to help you navigate how to improve your fleet fuel economy to take your professional driving business farther than you ever thought possible.
What Is Fleet Fuel Economy?
Fleet fuel economy is a measurement of your fleet’s fuel efficiency. By calculating how far your fleet can travel on a specific amount of fuel, fleet fuel economy lets you know where you’re losing money on fuel-related expenses and where you can improve.
Take the following steps to calculate your fleet fuel economy:
- Know your country’s standard measurement system. The imperial system is used in the United States, meaning you’ll need to measure the amount of fuel consumed in gallons. If you’re driving abroad, you’ll likely use liters. Additionally, note the unit for distance. In the U.S, miles are used; kilometers are used nearly everywhere else.
- At your first refueling, record how much fuel you put into your vehicle and your current odometer reading.
- At your next refueling, note the change in your odometer, as well as the amount of fuel consumed. Then, subtract the first odometer reading from the current odometer reading. This number should give you the distance your vehicle can travel on a specific amount of fuel.
- Divide this distance by the amount of fuel you consumed to calculate your fuel economy. Repeat for each vehicle in your fleet and calculate the average for the whole fleet.
For example, let’s suppose you completely fill an empty 150-gallon tank and drive 800 miles before having to refuel.
As a result, your fuel economy for this truck is 5.3 mpg (800 miles/150 gallons).
Average Fleet Fuel Economy
The average mpg for a semi-truck is 6.5 mpg. Anything higher than this is considered excellent, while anything lower is considered below average.
That said, a truck’s fuel economy can vary, much like the types of coffee you’ll find at a 24/7 truck stop. Factors that impact fuel economy include:
- Payload size – The size of the payload can directly impact fuel economy. That’s because most big rigs consume more gas per mile when carrying heavier payloads.
- Route gradient and characteristics – In a perfect world, all routes would go downhill both ways. However, given the fact that modern terrains entail steep slopes, sharp curves, and the occasional city detour, this is impossible. Average fuel economy tends to decrease as big rigs travel uphill and increase as they coast downhill.
- The truck’s age – Older trucks tend to have higher fuel costs per mile than a new vehicle. While the differences in fleet fuel consumption can be attributed to several factors, the most common include developments in engine efficiency and truck mechanics.
- Driver experience – Driving a big rig successfully isn’t as simple as strapping into the driver’s seat and honking your horn at every excited kid. It takes time and experience. The best drivers increase their fuel economy by reducing the amount of time they spend idling, improperly shifting gears, and continuously braking.
Maintaining your fleet is also an important way to increase fuel economy. The last thing you want is a truck sidelined because a blown gasket caused the engine to overheat faster than a lizard on Route 66.
However, sometimes you don’t have the funds to keep your big rigs operating at peak performance.
The good news? Some fuel cards allow you to buy more than fuel, giving you the resources you need to get your fleet moving again.
How To Improve Fleet Fuel Economy
Improving your fleet’s fuel economy starts with you and your drivers. After all, what good is it to train your drivers like pitstop mechanics only for you to bypass measuring fuel consumption with the latest technologies?
Fortunately, increasing your fleet fuel economy isn’t the most difficult thing in the world. Here are a few ways to make improving your fuel saving as effortless as driving into the New Mexican sunset.
#1 Maintain Your Big Rigs
As stated above, maintaining your fleet should be at the top of your list when it comes to increasing fuel economy standards.
Improperly maintained vehicles can seriously hamper fuel efficiency. The most common fuel-impacting maintenance issues include:
- Flat and deflated tires – If you’re driving on less-than-optimal tires, chances are your fuel economy is taking a nosedive. Under-inflated tires tend to put more strain on engines, resulting in decreased fuel efficiency.
- Clogged filters and faulty sensors – An engine’s magic works through airflow. Without good airflow, an engine cannot run as efficiently, causing your fuel economy to tank. To increase airflow, make sure your filters aren't clogged with dust and debris. Also, make sure your oxygen sensors are working properly.
- Improper lubrication – Regular oil changes can go a long way in fuel economy improvement. What’s more, make sure all parts of the engine are properly lubricated to reduce friction.
In short, preventative maintenance measures can help your fleet run smoothly for years to come and find ways to reduce fleet expenses in the long term.
#2 Place a Premium on Lower Payloads
Heavier payloads typically decrease a truck’s fuel economy because the truck is forced to do more work to transport goods.
In fact, payload weight is so important to fuel economy that studies suggest fuel economy drops 0.5 percent for every 1,000-pound increase.
To reduce your payload and increase fuel economy, do the following:
- Clean out the clutter – Sometimes your truck is filled to the brim with pallets upon pallets of necessary goods. Other times, your big rig may be carrying unnecessary weight. For starters, see if you can dispose of any extra tires. Then, see if you’re carrying any unnecessary tools. While cleaning out unnecessary items may not decrease your weight dramatically, it can bump up your fuel economy a few tenths of a percentage point.
- Spread out the weight – Sure, you could place ten tons of goods on a single truck, but you’ll pay for it in reduced fuel efficiency. Instead, spread out the weight among all of your trucks so that one truck isn’t huffing and puffing and blowing down all of your fuel efficiency.
- Go lighter – Some semi-trucks are long. Some are short. All are heavy. That said, smaller trucks tend to be lighter than larger trucks. If you’re seriously trying to reduce your fuel economy, it may be advantageous to reduce your fleet’s total length. You might start by considering the sleeping space in your cab.
#3 Invest in Fuel Management Technologies
Fuel management technologies help you pinpoint exactly where your fuel economy is floundering and what you can do to improve.
The most common fuel management technologies include:
- Fuel trackers – Fuel trackers give your business ample data about your fleet’s fuel consumption. Want to compare each driver’s fuel usage? Fuel trackers have you covered. Curious about the most fuel-efficient routes? Fuel management software can help you find the best routes for your fuel needs. With this information, you can make a science out of fuel economy.
- Fleet fuel cards – Similar to traditional lines of credit, fleet fuel cards are credit cards that can be used to purchase fuel and unlock other benefits. What’s more, the best fleet fuel cards provide you with the analytics you need to propel your fleet forward. When looking for a fleet fuel card, select a card that has no setup fees or out-of-network station fees. That way, you save money on fuel anytime, anywhere.
#4 Choose More Efficient Routes
Although a straight line is the easiest way to get from point A to point B, it may not be the most fuel-efficient route. That’s because this route may have more twists, turns, curves, and uphill sections than a less-direct route.
As a result, when selecting driving routes, look for avenues that are more fuel-efficient rather than shorter.
In general, fuel-efficient routes feature the following:
- More flat terrain
- More use of highways
- Less uphill sections
- Less idle time
- Less city traffic
Also, avoid city driving whenever possible. Fuel economy decreases significantly when you’re driving in the city versus more rural areas.
Plus, taking more efficient routes may lead you to unexpected roadside attractions. Did someone say Cabazon Dinosaurs?
Improve Fleet Fuel Economy with AtoB
When you’re in the professional driving business, fleet fuel economy is more than a number. It determines your livelihood.
That’s why increasing your fuel economy is just as important as finding the right drivers.
In addition to maintaining your big rigs, choosing more efficient routes, and hauling lighter payloads, consider signing up for an AtoB fuel card.
With zero limits on discounted gallons, zero set-up fees, and zero late fees, AtoB fuel cards can help improve your fuel economy wherever and whenever you swipe for fuel.
Meet the open road—not an open wallet—with AtoB.
Arrow Truck Sales. Manage Your Semi-Truck’s Fuel Use with These Tips.
International Trucks. Fuel Economy Weight.
Pulpo. Calculating Fleet Fuel Economy to Achieve Better Results.
ScienceDirect. Fuel Economy.
Trucking Truth. Truck Drivers & Fuel Efficiency.