It wasn't too long ago that fuel prices were lingering between $3.80 and $4.40 per gallon. At that point many companies took an aggressive stance on fuel conservation. However, for most it was just a flavor of the month. Many companies jumped on the U.S. EPA "SmartWay" bandwagon, which is designed to improve fuel efficiencies and reduced the environmental impact. That is all well and good but unfortunately, if a company doesn't have an aggressive fuel conservation program in place, being "SmartWay" certified should be considered consistent with permitting the tail to wag the dog. Or maybe Ready, Shoot, Aim is a more apt metaphor.
There are numerous companies that actually pay an outside SMA (Subject Matter Expert) to fill out the required "SmartWay" documentation. There obviously isn't anything wrong with being "SmartWay" certified or using an outside resource to fill out the documentation. But the point is, are you really impacting fuel economy or the environment if you are not managing the one (1) factor that has a 30 to 35 percent impact of fuel economy, which is the driver? There is not one (1) single technology on the market today that will have more of an impact on your fuel economy than holding drivers accountable; and since you're now required to hold them accountable for safety (CSA 2010), why not put the tools and controls in place to hold them accountable for fuel performance?
Here are a few suggestions on how to put these controls in place:
- Ensure your equipment is performing to specifications and your preventative maintenance program maintains it as such.
- Put a fuel procurement process in place that will ensure you are maximizing your full-procurement potential. What are you paying compared to pump price? Rebates not cutting it?
- Develop an equipment certification process, including some type of notification on the equipment. (Visible decal, sticker or notification on DVIR book.)
- Ensure tire pressures are monitored on a regular basis - no longer than 90 day intervals.
- Obtain a "Proper Driving Techniques" video from your engine or tractor manufacturer and require your drivers to view it. Then, hold them accountable for their performance.
- There are a plethora of products on the market that will improve fuel economy. Just don't waste your hard earned revenue on them until you have set the ground work within the culture of the organization.
- Put a "Driver Performance Program" in place to ensure they are driving to the technology, consistent with the equipment, maximizing fuel economy and equipment life. Compliment effort, reward good performance.
- Be aware that ECM data can be in error up to 12%.
|1. Speed||9. Tire Pressure|
|2. Idling||10. Progressive Shifting|
|3. Cruise Control||11. 5th. Wheel Position|
|4. Engine Brake||12. Alignment (Tractor & Trailer)|
|5. Driver Skill||13. Skip Shifting|
|6. Top Govern Speed||14. Air Leaks|
|7. Dropping Gears||15. Bug Deflectors|
|8. Driving when upset/uncomfortable||16. Brake Adjustments|
The economy is on the rise and along with it, an increase in demand for fuel and the accompanying increase in price. How will you handle this variable cost increase? Are you going to pass the fuel surcharge on to your customers, or are you going to attempt to retain a portion that will positively impact your profit-margin?
When it comes to a carrier's fuel spend, there are no silver bullets. That being said, recently there have been many new technologies come to market that can, in fact, increase fuel economy, including a few oil and fuel additives. However, in order to maximize your return on investment, it is imperative to build the proper cultural foundation prior to procuring any of these items. Were you ever successful in getting your child to eat their vegetables after they've had the ice cream cone? Again, "Smartway" is a good program, but without putting in place the proper corresponding processes, it's an exercise in futility.
Don't shoot the messenger, but high fuel prices are on their way back.