Fuel and Drivers: A winning combination

Nov. 2, 2015
They represent a fleet's biggest expense and biggest opportunity for efficiency gains.

The latest report from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) is out and it shows that even at the lower fuel prices the trucking industry has been enjoying, fuel still accounts for 34% of a fleet’s marginal costs.  In addition, the combination of driver wages and benefits make up another 35% of the fleet’s cost.

Fuel and drivers are not only your biggest expenses, but also are where you can achieve your biggest freight efficiency gains.

The price of fuel is not something most fleets have a great deal of control over, but they can control how much they get out of each gallon of fuel. Making investments in fuel saving technologies like automated transmissions, APUs, battery HVAC or other idle reduction systems, tire pressure monitoring devices, low rolling resistance tires and 6x2 axles are all ways to make fuel — regardless of the price per gallon  — go farther. And there are even some things you can do to be more efficient that don’t cost anything other than a bit of your time including optimizing electronic engine parameters for fuel economy.

I’ve talked previously about the driver’s role in your success in improving fuel economy. It’s crucial that your drivers understand the role they play in helping you operate as efficiently as possible.

But you can’t just add technologies to your vehicles without spending some time explaining to your drivers how to use them and why you’ve made the investment.

All the research that’s done on employee retention shows that engaged employees — those who feel their opinions are valued and that they are part of the organization — are more likely to stay. Given the current driver shortage and predictions about just how much worse it is going to get, you’d be wise to get your drivers involved in the decision-making process when considering new technologies that will increase your MPGs.

Fuel and drivers, if you are going to improve your fleet’s efficiency those are two good places to start.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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