In these unthinkable days of $4 gas prices, every company providing GPS-based tracking services is promising to slash your fuel bills. And while it's true that knowing the location of your vehicles will lead to increased efficiency, that knowledge is only the first step towards building a strategy to effectively understand and optimize your fleet's fuel usage in the long term.
Make sure that the GPS tracking provider you choose to work with has the resources and experience to help you build such a strategy. As a minimum, they should have a plan for dealing with the following aspects of your business:
- Idling — An hour's worth of idling can use up 1-1.75 gallons of fuel in typical commercial vehicles. But having the ability to measure this idle time alone won't help you translate it into savings; you need to know where the idling events are occurring. A GPS tracking service should provide you with reports that can identify the location of the idling events along with the time, and help you to analyze the information so you can determine which patterns are wasteful.
- Routing — As little as four miles off-route can translate to a gallon of fuel wasted. When evaluating GPS tracking vendors, make sure you will be able to use location-based information to plan and create new routes, as well as analyze historical ones. Detailed vehicle activity reports should be available to show "productive" vs. "unproductive" stops, so that you can identify patterns of excess. At today's fuel prices, can you afford to be paying for driving not related to work?
- Maintenance management — The U.S. Department of Energy reports that simple vehicle maintenance can have a major impact on fuel costs over time: keeping tires properly inflated and aligned improves gas mileage by 3.3 percent, and replacing clogged air filters by up to 10 percent. Excessive speeding can lower highway gas mileage by as much as 30 percent. A good vehicle tracking service offers the ability to manage and schedule maintenance as part of a complete fleet management solution.
A deep cut requires more than just a Band-Aid. With no sign of the gas price crisis letting up soon, simple vehicle location information is not enough to reduce your fuel costs. You need to be able to analyze the performance of your mobile workforce from every angle to see where you could be more efficient and more productive.
At a time of record-high gas prices and a corresponding surge in transit ridership, Americans are driving less for the sixth month in a row, highlighting the need to find a more sustainable and effective way to fund highway construction and maintenance, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters.
The secretary said that Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 than at the same time a year earlier and 400 million miles less than in March of this year. She added that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all public roads for April 2008 fell 1.8 percent as compared with April 2007 travel. This marks a decline of nearly 20 billion miles traveled this year, and nearly 30 billion miles traveled since November.
"We're burning less fuel as energy costs change driving patterns, steer people toward more fuel-efficient vehicles and encourage more to use transit. Which is exactly why we need a more effective funding source than the gas tax," Secretary Peters said.
The secretary said as Americans drive less, the federal Highway Trust Fund receives less revenue from gasoline and diesel sales — 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon, respectively.
The secretary noted that data show midsize SUV sales were down last month 38 percent over May of last year; car sales, which had accounted for less than half of the industry volume in 2007, rose to 57 percent in May. She said past trends have shown Americans will continue to drive despite high gas prices, but will drive more fuel-efficient vehicles that consume less fuel. "History shows that we're going to continue to see congested roads while gas tax revenues decline even further," she said.
"As positive as any move toward greater fuel efficiency is, we need to make sure we have the kind of sustainable funding measures in place to support needed highway and transit improvements well into the future," said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray.