Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Small Fleet Vehicles Not Always the Best Option


by Greg Donelson

Rising gas prices are a source of concern for fleet managers.

When the price for a barrel of oil spikes, some managers scramble to downsize their fleet with smaller more fuel efficient options. At face value, this makes sense. Smaller vehicles tend to get better gas mileage.

However, this type of kneejerk decision making can hurt your business in the long run. Fleet managers can sometimes get blinded by the term "fuel efficient."

It’s important to consider how your company uses fleet vehicles. Going from a six-cylinder to a four-cylinder engine may be good for gas mileage, but how does it affect your business operations? Will it impact your company’s ability to successfully complete responsibilities to customers and clients?

Take this example – a fleet manager for a construction company decides to purchase smaller less powerful vehicles because of high gas prices. While the vehicles save on fuel, the maintenance budget skyrockets because the vehicles are being pushed beyond their limits.

The key is to discuss your business operations with a fleet vehicle expert. Often times this might be a dealership, which specializes in commercial vehicle sales. They can help you find the right options that can help cut fuel costs without sacrificing on performance.

In fact, purchasing high-performing fuel efficient vehicles is only part of the solution. To control fuel costs, you also need to take a multi-faceted approach. This might include:
  • Educating drivers on driving and vehicle maintenance
  • Closely monitoring fuel usage and idling
  • Installing GPS technology to improve driving routes
  • Upgrading fleet management software to improve productivity
  • Reducing vehicle cargo weight
The point is that there isn’t a single, cure-all solution for containing fleet costs because of rising fuel prices. Fleet managers have been waging this war for more than a decade now.

What you need to understand is that it’s usually better to thoroughly review your situation and identify several solutions to help cut costs. Working with an outside expert can help you identify the right vehicles as well as the right options to help you reduce fuel costs.

When shopping for fuel efficient fleet vehicles, look for ones that offer impressive fuel economy, but do not sacrifice on power and torque. In fact, some truck manufacturers have significantly improved vehicle aerodynamics and engine efficiency to provide better fuel efficiency.

Vehicle manufacturers are continually developing new technologies to improve fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance. Some of the things you might see in high performance fleet vehicles down the road to improve fuel efficiency might include:
  • Auto start/stop technology to reduce idling
  • Active grille and wheel shutters for aerodynamics
  • Drop-down front wind spoilers to improve underbody airflow
  • Power running boards that tuck up against vehicle for better aerodynamics

While gas prices continue to fluctuate, it’s good to know that there are plenty of options to help you solve the problem. Just remember, there isn’t a cure-all solution to the problem.
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