By Matt Ellis
Everyone is feeling the pinch from rising gas prices. Already, the cost of a gallon of gasoline is 11 percent higher than it was last December. The increase is hitting businesses particularly hard and is prompting them to discover new tools to battle bulging fuel costs.
“We have taken serious steps to improving our fuel efficiencies and that means relying on technology and on our people to make a difference,” said Premier Maintenance President Michael Diamond. “Our goal is to reduce consumption by 20 percent across the board.”
On average, the AffinEco companies of Premier Maintenance and United Services spend between $5,000 and $7,000 a month on gasoline, so a 20 percent savings certainly adds up. AffinEco leases its vehicles from Enterprise Fleet Management which works with customers to implement strategies aimed at achieving that level of fuel savings.
“We like to talk about driver habits: hard accelerating and braking or driving at excessive speed,” said Jason Malandro, the AffinEco account manager for Enterprise Fleet Management. “Most vehicles are meant to run between 55 and 65 miles per hour for optimum efficiency. If you’re going 75, you might lose up to 8 to 12 percent on your fuel economy.”
Diamond says his managers have been able to rein in bad driving habits by using driver data reports produced by SageQuest, which provides software for GPS vehicle tracking and management.
“With SageQuest, our managers are able to show drivers how fast they accelerate, how hard they hit the brakes and how long they sit idling so they know we are serious about safe, efficient driving. We receive emails when vehicles idle over a pre-determined time period or if they are exceeding a preset speed limit” said Diamond.
Enterprise also monitors the age of AffinEco’s fleet, so older, less efficient vehicles are swapped for newer models that run farther on a gallon of gas. In the four years that Malandro has worked with AffinEco, he says the company has downsized some vehicles in order to achieve greater efficiency. According to Diamond, even before gas prices started climbing, the company was focused on reducing its carbon footprint in keeping with its overall business approach.
“We have historically been using Chevy and Ford cargo vans but about two years ago we introduced Ford Transit Connects, which are smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles and it cut our consumption. That meant when prices started spiking, we were already ahead of where of our competitors were,” said Diamond.
Enterprise Fleet recommends using a fuel card which tracks who fills up a vehicle when, and how long it’s been since the last fill-up. Additionally it provides average MPG and efficiency ratings. It gives the company a clear idea of how much gas is being used and by whom.
“Fuel cards prevent fraud because there is data associated with the card and amount of gas.” Malandro says he monitors the data collected on fuel consumption and driver habits, analyzes it and shares that information with AffinEco.
Another important step is ensuring the vehicles are properly maintained so they operate at peak performance levels. Malandro says AfffinEco utilizes the Enterprise Fleet maintenance program to be efficient and green. Everything is checked and calibrated with an eye on fuel efficiency. “Just having properly inflated tires can save you 10 percent on your fuel costs,” he said.
With the increasing popularity in hybrid and electric vehicles, Malandro says more customers are weighing whether to swap traditional fleet cars and trucks for hybrids. But, he warns, the savings are not as great as you might think, especially in the short run.
“Look at a Toyota Camry that runs on gas versus a Camry hybrid. The hybrid costs $3500 more and gets about 40 miles per gallon versus 30. But, in three years of running that hybrid, you won’t make up the difference. It would take you seven or eight years.” Malandro says the hybrid does better in the city but if you rack up most miles on the highway, you’re better off with the standard vehicle because it is more efficient at sustained highway speeds.
Malandro also points out that hybrids have a bigger carbon footprint to build because they have more parts sourced from more places. He emphasizes he is not a hybrid-hater; he just looks at the cost benefit. “The hybrid may be better for a personal vehicle instead of a corporate vehicle because most people drive between 12 and15 thousand miles a year versus corporate vehicles that go 20 to 30 thousand a year.”
Diamond says by implementing efficiencies, AffinEco is not only keeping its carbon footprint smaller; it is also keeping costs down for its customers.
To learn more about how you or your company can be more fuel efficient, go to www.fueleconomy.gov.