Joel dandrea

There’s never a bad time to examine fleet fuel efficiency, but the start of a new year is a particularly opportune time. The holiday rush is now behind us, so turning your attention back towards your fleet is a great way to game-plan the rest of the year.

Ultimately, fuel efficiency is about more than just mileage for a fleet owner. It’s about how hard all the components of your fueling system are working for your operation.

One strong area of focus should be your equipment. According to FleetOwner, a premium diesel fuel leaves fewer engine deposits and has been shown to improve fuel economy by as much as five percent. And as stated by The Trucker’s Report, the average commercial Class 8 truck uses about 20,500 gallons of fuel each year. A five percent fuel savings in this regard would amount to nearly 1,025 gallons. You can easily do the math for your own fleet.

Now is also a good time to examine whether or not your on-site inventory is right for your fleet. Have you added inventory in the last year – or found your operation stalled while waiting for deliveries? Maybe it’s time to upgrade your fuel storage capacity. FleetOwner also highlights that fewer deliveries mean fewer variables, which all affect how smoothly your operation runs. And if your tank size and delivery schedules

are the right fit for your operation, be sure to take the time to have your storage tank cleaned – where water and contaminants can build up – potentially harming your vehicles.

Circling back on the above nod to equipment, another factor to consider at the start of the year is wear and tear. While fuel prices have leveled as of late, the cost of new equipment, maintenance and downtime has not. Over the last decade, technology has evolved to the point that Tier 3 and Tier 4 diesel engines are much more sophisticated in order to meet standards – which can often introduce performance and maintenance challenges.

Remember, high-pressure common-rail fuel injection systems in Tier 3 and Tier 4 engines help reduce emissions but create potential maintenance issues. It’s important to note that Tier 4 engine pressures can increase to 35,000 psi, creating internal temperatures of more than 400 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, according to FleetOwner, typical No. 2 diesel fuel can begin to break down – and as “cooked” fuel carbonizes, there is a greater risk of clogged injectors and filters, which can lead to reduced power or fuel efficiency, and even injector failure.

Creating efficiences

Though it may not seem directly related to fuel efficiency, paperwork and billing play a bigger role than you might think. On-site storage, for example, will yield fewer invoices. You might also consider a fleet fuel card – particularly one that provides for consolidated invoices, volume rebates and driver rewards.

And while not all carriers will find themselves in wintry conditions as the year opens, many will – or will at some point during the year. To that end, some common best practices can go a long way towards better efficiency – both fuel and operational – and, even more importantly, worker safety.

Upward trend

Pre-trip inspections are paramount during colder months when weather is perhaps at its most uncooperative. Check the truck’s defroster and heater. Replace wiper blades and top off all necessary fluids. Drain moisture from air tanks. Completely clean windows, windshield and mirrors before departure. Use a fuel supplement below 30 degrees to prevent diesel gelling and fuel-filter icing. Keep tires correctly inflated. And don’t forget to clear snow and ice off of lights when the opportunity presents itself – to see and be seen.

The start of the year is a perfect time to assess and/or create efficiencies within your fleet – a process that will keep your people safe, your equipment functioning optimally and your business on an upward trend as the months stack up.

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