Pain Points At The Pump

A by-the-numbers look at how to save fuel with GPS tracking

If your business has a fleet of vehicles, you're probably aware that fuel costs are a major expense that can impact your company's profits.

GPS vehicle tracking can allow a fleet manager to monitor actual mileage per gallon of fuel consumed, idle times of vehicles, and emissions, assisting them in identifying inefficient drivers, correcting bad habits and picking out vehicles in need of maintenance. By taking active control of fuel consumption and educating drivers, managers can optimize and streamline fuel costs as a segment of total fleet costs. In addition to fuel cost management, there is an environmental benefit as less fuel used means less pollution. Finally, GPS tracking can help managers pick out vehicles for preventative repairs or parts replacement, avoiding costly problems before they occur.

Limiting Idle Times

One of the cost savings that can be achieved through fleet tracking involves idle times. Conventional wisdom dictates that switching off a vehicle's motor instead of letting the engine idle can be detrimental as far as maintenance is concerned; it's not true. An EPA study states that restarting an engine costs the same fuel as 30 seconds of idling, and there is little impact to a vehicle's component durability. GPS tracking systems can tell you how long a vehicle has been idling, and an automated alert for drivers can be set up so they are told to shut off their engine if a time limit is reached.

A different study by the Ford Motor Company says that one hour of idling is equivalent to 25 miles of driving. Therefore, if a truck drives 50 miles in a day and idles for 4 hours that day, it's as if the truck drove 150 miles, not 50. Not only is this information important for fuel cost savings, there is also a maintenance impact. Oil, oil filters, fuel filters and engine coolant all need replacement based on miles driven. Even if the actual miles traveled were 50, maintenance needs to be performed based on the miles of wear, which would be 150 in this scenario. If these measurements were typical for a day, in a given month, the miles of wear for the truck's engine would be 4,500, rather than the 1,500 miles actually traveled. Fleet tracking systems allow maintenance alerts to be set up based on mileage, engine-on time or calendar time. Proactive maintenance means lower maintenance costs overall, not to mention a decrease in the chance of accidents.

Monitoring Speed

Another benefit of GPS tracking is the ability to monitor driving speed. The U.S. Department of Energy says that each 5 mph driven over a 60-mph speed limit results in a cost of 24 cents more per gallon of fuel used. If every vehicle in your fleet averages 10 mph over this speed, and fuel costs $2.75 per gallon, that's a 17.45% cost overrun.

Speeding is also a safety hazard, and excessive speed can increase wear and tear on a vehicle. Most GPS tracking systems can not only report a vehicle's speed, but they can also alert you automatically when speed thresholds have been surpassed. Companies that employed fleet tracking have reported savings and reduced accidents when they used it to track speed; some have even reported that drivers call into dispatchers to check what speeds they were averaging. With fleet tracking, incentives can be given to drivers who learn to curb excess speed, and likewise, slow drivers can be educated about appropriate driving standards.

Managing Routing Efficiency

Fleet tracking can give a company the benefit of monitoring routes taken and being able to guide drivers who are lost. "Geofences," or location-based perimeters, can be set up, and alerts can be activated when a vehicle goes outside of them. Drivers who take "scenic routes" can now be discovered and advised.

The ability to see locations also gives dispatchers knowledge about which vehicles are closest to pick-up or drop-off locations if spontaneous needs arise. The most efficient route between two points can now be determined by combining real-time map-based traffic updates and GPS-reported speed and idle times. Reports can be generated for historical performance analysis and optimization.

Truth Tracking

Finally, fleet tracking can eliminate driver cheating and/or time or mileage reporting discrepancies that depart from GPS tracking data. Frivolous, personal, or off-hour use of vehicles can be recorded and documented. Fuel costs associated with these uses can be separated from on-the-job use and billed accordingly.

When considering the numbers, managing a fleet with GPS is the only sure-fire way to cut costs on fuel, bringing about unparalleled efficiency in any sized fleet.