Contractors and construction company employees are constantly on the move, headed from one jobsite to another to check in on progress, complete small tasks, pick up supplies, and visit prospective customers. That means their fleet of vehicles is a critical business tool. It also means that fuel spend becomes a key line item in the budget.
Fuel prices continue to remain significantly below levels from a few years past, but even a slight rise in the price per gallon can mean a big difference to the bottom line. While companies can’t control the prices at the pump, they have much more control about how that fuel is spent. In some cases, construction companies and contractors can cut their annual fuel spend by 10 percent or more. Those pennies really add up.
Many companies don’t pay enough attention to these little costs, until they grow, day after day, to become big costs. If a fleet is a key business tool, companies need to look for ways to make it the most efficient it can be, and that means looking at ways to cut fuel spend. There are five key changes that companies can make to help trim their fuel costs significantly:
1. RETHINK ROUTES
Many companies start with a smart plan for their day: Drive from job to job using a logical route that takes the least amount of time and mileage, while fitting in with client schedules. However, in the construction world, a day is never that perfect—a team at Site D may have an urgent need for equipment or supplies that are at Site A. Customer B may cancel their appointment. An accident may slow traffic on the way to Customer F. Even a well-thought-out route can quickly become disrupted.
Construction companies and contractors need the ability to not only set a route for the day, but adjust it in real time as circumstances such as traffic and scheduled stops change. Businesses who don’t plan—and adjust—the most-efficient routes possible are spending much more on fuel than they should.
Optimizing routes has another hidden bonus for businesses: They might find enough time in their day to squeeze in one more job, consult, or estimate. Those extra opportunities could mean a significant boost to business.
2. REIN IN AGGRESSIVE DRIVING
One of the biggest costs for fleets is vehicle maintenance, so the ability to track and correct driver behavior can help reduce maintenance costs, while also trimming fuel costs. It might even help reduce insurance costs. Every driver wants to get to their destination, but aggressive driving is unsafe and wastes fuel. Reduce aggressive driving incidents, and you’ve made your business safer and more cost-efficient. Aggressive driving behaviors include:
- Speeding: Drivers that consistently exceed posted speed limits are burning more fuel than those that don’t.
- Rapid acceleration: Drivers that race off the line or accelerate rapidly around stopped traffic are creating unsafe situations—and wasting fuel.
- Aggressive braking: Hard braking shows up not only in your fuel costs, but also on your maintenance ledger.
- Hard cornering: Hard cornering can consume fuel excessively and create additional wear in tires, which can impact mpg.
3. REDUCE IDLING
Drivers who spend significant time in a vehicle want to be comfortable, and this often means they’re idling the engine while stopped to keep the vehicle warm in winter and cool in summer. The thought process is simple—it’s only a few minutes at each stop, what harm could it do?
According to the America Trucking Association, idling can cost more than fuel; one extra hour a day of idling is equivalent to 64,000 miles of engine wear—and it burns excessive fuel. Take a tip from delivery companies like UPS and FedEx, whose drivers turn off the vehicle at every delivery stop: idling wastes fuel, and, as mentioned above, those pennies add up.
4. TAKE CARE OF YOUR VEHICLES
Downtime is never good, but it’s important that companies take the vehicle out of service for a short time to undergo routine vehicle maintenance. Avoiding this could mean more costly repairs down the road—and even more downtime than originally anticipated, as overworked vehicles may eventually break down.
At the same time, a vehicle that’s overdue for maintenance is also not operating efficiently, using extra fuel. Simple maintenance such as checking tire pressure, rotating tires, changing oil, and replacing air filters can make a big difference in fuel consumption. According to fueleconomy.gov, regular maintenance can improve fuel efficiency by 6 to 10 percent.
TAKE COMPANY-WIDE VIEW OF FUEL SPEND
Even if construction companies only have a few vehicles in their fleet, tracking fuel spend can be labor intensive. Fuel card integration incorporates gas card data, fuel card transactions, and maintenance purchase information, making it easier to track spend and trends in fuel use.
THE ROLE OF FLEET TRACKING
GPS fleet tracking solutions make it easy for construction companies and contractors with fleets to manage the five areas above using comprehensive a dashboard that provides insight into driver behavior, maintenance records, fuel spend, and route optimization.
For example, a GPS fleet tracking solution can monitor poor driver behavior such as speeding and idling, and provide management with a driver’s safety scorecard that alerts them to the driver issues and frequency, ultimately helping companies improve driver behavior and reduce fuel spend.
Fleet tracking can also help optimize routes by taking the driver’s stops during a workday and creating the shortest and most-efficient route. If circumstances change because of traffic or construction, drivers can be re-routed on the fly via robust dispatching functionality. Optimized routes mean drivers are on the road less, but getting more done.
That equates to less fuel consumed and more money saved.
Finally, fleet tracking solutions should include a vehicle maintenance module that can help companies extend the life of their vehicles and ensure they are operating at high fuel efficiency. Maintenance schedules take the guesswork out of maintenance, and ensure preventative upkeep is top of mind. Maintenance logs allow companies to track maintenance and view details of the services performed to ensure the company is meeting regulatory requirements.
Vehicles are the lifeblood of any construction or contracting company, and fuel costs are a big line item. Fleet tracking can help companies keep those costs in check, and boost the bottom line. ■
About the Author: Wyn Partington is the vice president of product and marketing of NexTraq. With nearly 20 years of experience in the technology industry, Partington brings extensive knowledge and strategic insight to his role. He has a diverse background in development, database management, marketing, and demand generation and has worked overseas on a wide array of projects. For more information, visit www.nextraq.com, or call 800.358.6178.
Modern Contractor Solutions, May 2017
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Contractor Solutions magazine.