Creating a more fuel-efficient fleet should be measured in more than increased miles per gallon or dollars saved at the pump. Even with lower fuel prices, a more efficient fuel system can be integral to the long-term success of a fleet.
“Too many fleet owners look at fuel efficiency simply as the miles per gallon,” says Ron Jessen, director of fuel product management at CHS, which operates one of the country’s largest commercial-hauling fleets. “But fuel efficiency should also be measured against other factors that can have meaningful impact on an operation’s bottom line.”
According to Jessen, fleet owners should take a holistic view of all the components of their fueling system — from the type of fuel that’s put in the tank to billing and invoicing cycles. When evaluating the rest of 2017, Jessen recommends the following steps to clean up your fleet’s fuel system.
Maximize Vehicle Performance
Nothing is a larger drain on efficiency than ill-maintained equipment. “Proactive maintenance with today’s diesel engines is critical to achieving the best fuel efficiency,” says Jessen. “It’s all about keeping vital engine components like fuel injectors, pumps and filters clean so your vehicles stay on the road and operate as efficiently as possible.”
One key component to keeping engines clean is the fuel itself. A premium diesel with an enhanced additives package will leave fewer damaging engine deposits and can increase fuel economy, says Jessen. “Our fleet uses Cenex Roadmaster XL® premium diesel, which has shown to improve our fuel efficiently by as much as 5 percent.”
Maintain bulk-storage tanks
Onsite fuel tanks provide fleet owners the convenience of available fuel and the ability to purchase fuel in bulk. However, onsite tanks come with specific maintenance needs. If tanks are not properly maintained, fuel can become polluted and can lead to equipment performance issues and potential downtime. “You can invest in the highest quality fuel the industry has to offer,” says Jessen. “But the fuel is only as clean as the tank it’s stored in.”
As a general rule of thumb, bulk fuel tanks should be inspected and cleaned on an annual basis and filters should be changed on a quarterly basis to maintain optimal fuel quality.
Right-size onsite fuel storage
The size and capacity of a fuel storage tank can also impact an operation’s efficiency. “Quite often if we look at fleets, they grow in size and add trucks annually,” says Jessen. “But unfortunately, they don’t update their fuel storage capacity at the same rate, and those tanks become undersized for the operation’s demand.”
Jessen recommends that fleet owners who have added equipment should consider upgrading their fuel storage capacity. Even if a fleet hasn’t increased in size, more fuel storage results in less frequent deliveries and fewer delivery fees.
Streamline invoicing and billing
Reducing paperwork and finding ways to simplify billing can also create efficiencies for a fleet’s fuel system. For example, a benefit of adding onsite storage is dealing with fewer invoices. Another way to consolidate paperwork is to incorporate a fleet fuel card for drivers. A fleet card that offers consolidated invoices and volume rebates and rewards can help a fleet’s finance department run more smoothly.
By evaluating fuel efficiency beyond miles per gallon, fleet owners can find long-term operational savings, regardless of the price at the pump. For more information on improving fleet operations or the value of premium diesel fuel, read Jessen’s co-authored blogs on Cenex.com.