fleet fuel gauge

Be Cool, Man: Chilling Out on Summer Fuel Consumption

Posted 02 August 2016 by Stacey Papp

A walk-in freezer. The Antarctic. Planet Hoth. The Mariana Trench. These are some of the (literally) coolest places to be, and ones you might be dreaming about, now that the dog days of summer are here and it is hot as H-E-double-hockey-sticks out there. 

The good news is that we live in the 21st century and air conditioning exists. The bad news is that a lot of fleet businesses still have to work outside for at least part of the day, and a lot of drivers and field techs try to get some relief by cranking the AC while they’re in the truck – even if the truck is parked outside the jobsite as they’re eating lunch.

All that idling time can add up to a big hit to the bottom line, though. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour – which is crazy. And while you certainly don’t want your guys to suffer in the hot weather, you also don’t want to waste money. 

Like many things, it starts with training. Fleet managers and operations leaders should impart the importance of reducing idling and conserving fuel to their drivers. Consider an annual refresher meeting every time it starts to warm up, and remind them to be conscious of the fuel they are using. Hang signs up around the office or warehouse, reminding drivers that aggressive driving, excessive idling and taking the long way all add up to wasted fuel – which can affect the business’ bottom line, which could in turn affect them in terms of pay raises or overtime. 

Of course, there will always be times when a truck has to idle with the air conditioning on – for example, when it’s a humid 100 degrees with no breeze and the truck is stopped dead in traffic because of an accident. But you can remind your staff there are other ways to be smarter about how they stay cool: 

Know when to use AC. While some climates are never temperate enough in the summer to go au naturel – looking at you, Southwest U.S. – there are definitely days in other parts of the country where you can stay cool with a nice breeze. Roll down the windows at lower speeds (50 mph and under) and flip on the air conditioning at highway speeds for maximum efficiency.

Know how to use the AC. Driving with the windows open briefly before turning the AC on will let the hot air out of the cabin, putting less demand on the AC and helping the vehicle cool faster. It also doesn’t make sense to turn the AC on before starting a trip – most AC systems cool the vehicle faster while driving, so using it before you get moving means you’re blowing hot air into the cabin.

Get made in the shade. Park in the shade whenever possible, or use a sunshade to keep the cabin cooler. A business could invest in custom-made sunshades with the company logo and phone number/website on them – if you provide them, your drivers are more likely to use them, and they can serve as some extra advertising as well.

Pair driver training with technology. As much as you might try to drill it into them, and as good as their intentions might be, your guys are never going to be 100 percent on any of these things – and that’s where technology can come in to help keep fuel costs down. Fleet management software can schedule reminders for preventive maintenance like tire balances or inflations or alignments – both of which can affect fuel costs. Its GPS capabilities can route drivers around congestion or accidents, meaning they’re not stuck in the stop-and-go traffic that sucks fuel. It also can keep an eye on drivers so you are aware if  they’re keeping the pedal to the metal or driving aggressively – which not only affect fuel usage, but also are safety issues. A fuel monitoring system can show how much fuel is purchased – and lost – over a selected period of time.

These tips can help your field crews be cool about fuel consumption this summer – and won’t have you feeling hot under the collar about the bottom line.

For more tips on how to be fuel efficient no matter the weather, check out our blog.

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