Ongoing financial worries have prompted countless businesses around the world to look at ways in which they could save
money. Amid the audible creaks of widespread belt-tightening, some of the most innovative firms discovered ingenious ways in which they could keep costs down - without having too great an impact on their quality, output or service.
As businesses start to come out the other side of these financial worries, however, the urge to retain efficient practices will remain as firms expand into growing markets. This is especially true of firms that operate vehicles, as despite financial worries beginning to ease, petrol prices look set to remain high.
For these businesses, seeking ways of increasing efficiency could mean the difference between success and failure, especially for those with large fleets comprising hundreds of vehicles. They need, therefore, some canny ways of saving money without too many side-effects.
How many miles per gallon can a fleet achieve? How close is this to the results it actually posts? How long is spent idling and how much in real-world cost does this equate to? All these questions should be posed to fleet managers, although getting accurate results can be somewhat tricky, let alone time consuming.
Extensively mapping out every single journey exactly, before offsetting this against fuel consumed isn't particularly easy or quick. It also has the potential for huge margins of error and possesses a general lack of information that's needed to account for different driving conditions.
Instead, for quicker, easier and more accurate ways of measuring fuel usage, tracking devices can be fitted to vehicles to do the job much more effectively. These devices can log the routes drivers have taken in real-time; enabling managers to collate detailed reports instantaneously. This information can then be fed to multiple devices to be accessed remotely, via a computer, tablet or smartphone.
Ultimately, they can take those questions posed earlier and answer them in real-time, accurately and in much greater depth than some managers even anticipate. This will then make it easy to identify areas for improvement and can show the effects of trials the moment they are implemented.
Companies that get their drivers to buy fuel on different accounts - or even ask them to pay for it themselves and claim the money back - very quickly find this to be a difficult and time-consuming task. It can also prove problematic for the workforce. Furthermore, trying to collate receipts and repay where needed is a logistical nightmare in itself.
For this, fuel cards were created to centralise the account and make the entire process easier for drivers. It not only allows them to fill up easily on the card, but means the outgoings figures remain accurate without needing to sift through a mountain of paperwork.
Furthermore, just as with credit cards, there's a huge number of different types; each benefiting a different kind of business. Savvy managers can find out what each different card would offer and pick one that's best for their business. Plus if all this wasn't enough, many offer discounts on fuels of four or five pence per litre, making the whole process not only easier - but cheaper too.
Keeping vehicles in tip-top condition should already be a top priority of all fleet managers. Not only will it ensure their staff are safe and comfortable in their vehicles, but also the image portrayed to the wider world is that of a company offering a clean, reliable and well-kept fleet. These aspects can have a surprising effect on how the company is perceived and make an impact on the volume of business won in the future.
Well-kept vehicles also offer savings for those who take the time to ensure everything is in good working order. Keeping an eye on tyre pressure, for example, can result in huge financial savings when it comes to fuel efficiency. Under-inflated tyres require more energy to turn than those at their optimum psi, meaning more petrol is used just for the sake of some air. Considering that fuel efficiency can drop by around five per cent just on under-inflated tyres alone, this can quickly become a real cause for concern.
Likewise, keeping oil filters and spark plugs clean will ensure maximum fuel efficiency, not to mention guarantee better running of the vehicle. So too will repairing faulty thermostats, which otherwise cause the vehicle to run too hot or too cold, which - just like the others - not only affects fuel economy, but also reliable running of the engine.
Often, the simplest techniques are among the most effective. One method that can decrease fuel expenditure is to ensure the vehicles are being driven as efficiently as possible. Training drivers to accelerate and brake gradually, change gear at the most optimal moments and cruise along motorways at the best speed will all combine to bring fuel efficiency up and expenditure down.
This issue is not solely about the physical aspect of driving, however, but can also concern the issue of planning a route well in advance and trying to avoid the thirsty-work of congestion motoring. On average, driving in this manner will reduce fuel costs by 10 per cent, with the most careful even able to boost their efficiency by a third.
Economical driving is an issue that has faced many motorists, especially with the seemingly never-ending price hikes at the forecourt. Spare a thought, then, for those with fleets to run and maintain, as the issue is even greater and could even influence whether their business succeeds or fails. These fleet managers can make the whole process much easier on themselves, however, by considering those ways listed above that could be used to help boost fuel efficiency.