​Seven Ways Construction Fleet Managers Can Keep Costs at a Minimum as Gas Prices Soar

Fleet managers can improve efficiency, productivity, safety and customer service while keeping costs low.
By Brian Canlas
May 17, 2022

Fleet managers have already seen their share of hurdles over the last couple of years, but construction companies are hemorrhaging money as inflation continues to soar. One of the top two expenses for fleets is fuel, representing a hefty portion of the total operating budget. And as skyrocketing fuel prices have driven cost increases across numerous industries, construction companies now risk losing business as cost-conscious customers look elsewhere.

Along with the surging fuel costs that put fleet managers in tight spots, the pain can also be felt across operations and material costs. Construction sites have seen reduced job completion rates and diminished access to materials due to supplier challenges associated with the price hikes.

Amid the rocky waters fleets currently face, it is essential to know that there are several steps fleet managers in the construction industry can take to improve efficiency, productivity, safety and customer service, all while keeping costs at a minimum.

Reduce downtime with preventive maintenance

Keeping vehicles maintained adequately and running at peak efficiency is one of the most basic ways fleets can save fuel. Vehicles with older or malfunctioning parts can lack in performance and reduce fuel efficiency.

Fleet managers should track several indicators as they pertain to maintenance on vehicles, including, but not limited to:

  • The vehicle’s last oil change, based on miles driven, not date
  • Smog checks
  • Brake inspections
  • Transmission flushes

Tires should always be included in the maintenance of fleet vehicles, as having good and reliable tires is critical for healthy fleet operation. Some things that can easily be implemented into a regular maintenance schedule include:

  • Checking tire pressure
  • Monitoring tire tread depth
  • Performing regular rotation and balance
  • Checking the vehicle’s alignment every 80,000 to 100,000 miles

GPS tracking and telematics keep close tabs on these elements, alerting managers that it’s time for a maintenance check. Getting into a consistent routine will help keep vehicles running at peak performance.

Integrate fuel cards.

Using fuel cards will help managers track vehicle-related expenses, and many offer discounted gas prices from approved suppliers – a great way to cut fuel expenses. Integrating fuel cards with GPS tracking also helps prevent fraud, which can be a huge problem for fleet managers. Marrying fleet fuel cards with GPS tracking also provides an overall cost breakdown of fuel expenditures, including cost per gallon, gallons purchased, total cost of fuel, miles per gallon and cost per mile. And during desperate times when employees may be tempted to abuse fuel cards, leveraging fuel card integration means fleet managers can match miles driven against fuel purchases to ensure accountability.

Track vehicle mileage and reduce idle time

The most significant step in lowering fuel costs is knowing exactly how much fuel your fleet is burning, regardless of whether the vehicle is driving or idling.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that an idling truck will waste nearly a gallon of fuel each hour. One use case revealed that through GPS tracking and telematics, around 200 gallons of fuel were found to have been wasted due to extended idle time that equaled almost 400 hours in one month. Within three months of learning of the inefficiencies, fleet managers were able to decrease idle time by 30%.

Optimize routes, dispatching and scheduling

Keeping drivers on track with effective route planning can be one of the surefire ways to save money on fuel. Routing through GPS tracking allows managers to create pre-determined stops for delivery and service fleets that can be optimized for highway, speed and distance preferences. Setting up the route will keep drivers from taking the long way, in turn maximizing fuel usage.

By optimizing dispatching and scheduling, construction fleet managers can help to increase first-time fix rates and limit the number of repeat visits, which means less drive time between jobs. Every minute for a construction business is money, and sending out fleets during rush hour can have them sitting in stop-and-go traffic, leading to unnecessary time spent burning fuel and a decrease in job completion rate. Fleet managers should plan for their drivers to hit the roads when traffic is typically lighter, reducing idling and long travel times.

Avoid unnecessary weight

Every extra pound can contribute to a vehicle requiring more fuel. Every 100 pounds added to a truck reduces the fuel economy by about 1%. While a few extra pounds here and there might seem insignificant, they will lead to unnecessary expense over time.

Overloaded vehicles can also cause faster wear and tear on tires, requiring more frequent maintenance. Never load up more than what is necessary for any trip.

Monitor driving patterns and reduce speeding

A U.S. Department of Transportation report shows that driving behavior is the most significant contributor to fuel efficiency. The report also found up to a 35% difference in fuel consumption between a good and bad driver, adding that telematics has shown to be successful in improving vehicle efficiency.

Braking, acceleration patterns and speeding can all play a role in fuel consumption. If a driver has a lead foot, he or she will quickly burn through gas. In fact, for every five mph over 30 mph, an extra $0.20 per gallon of gas is burned. Not to mention speeding can lead to more accidents, resulting in fines, leaving vehicles out of commission and causing damage to an organization’s reputation—none of which construction businesses can afford to gamble on.

Where to go from here

As fuel prices continue to skyrocket, little relief is expected in 2022. Fortunately, the steps above can help fleet managers ensure significant savings for their fleets now and going forward. GPS tracking and telematics will provide construction fleet managers with the means to improve efficiency, productivity, safety and customer service as we continue navigating the gas price crisis.

by Brian Canlas

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