A recent survey conducted by Automotive Fleet magazine found that 99 percent of respondents are concerned with fuel prices this year. The survey also revealed that only 16 percent could pass those cost increases on to their customers.
Fuel efficiency and the inability to control the price of fuel were the top two concerns of the respondents – consisting of managers to executives of small, medium, and large companies.
So what can you do?
Review the age and mix of your current vehicle fleet. Automobile manufacturers are responding to increased consumer demand as well as new federal standards regarding fuel economy. New technology four-cylinder engines are performing like six-cylinder engines, but with much better fuel economy. If you have been specifying 6 cylinder engines in the past, it’s time to consider a change. With gasoline at around $4.00 a gallon, you may be able to replace older vehicles with new fuel efficient vehicles and reduce your monthly operating costs. Values of used vehicles are at all time highs and interest rates continue to be low, which leverages your ability to upgrade vehicles sooner than you may think.
Explore out-of-the-box solutions. Trucks should be re-evaluated as well. Automobile manufacturers are moving to offer new down-sized models for a reason. They are responding to demand for improved fuel efficiency. Savvy businesses are reviewing old practices and thinking outside of the box. Reducing weight by eliminating unnecessary cargo improves fuel economy and may allow for the use of smaller trucks. Converting even part of the truck fleet to smaller more fuel efficient trucks can have a significant impact.
Challenge drivers to engage in more fuel efficient behavior. Reducing idling time, monitoring tire pressure and eliminating unnecessary cargo, all contribute to better fuel economy. This may require a contest or some other incentive, but the benefit will far outweigh the cost.
Look at other areas to reduce operating costs in order to offset rising fuel costs. Centralize and monitor your maintenance and fuel by implementing a comprehensive maintenance management program such as Network. Properly maintained vehicles get better fuel mileage, and closely monitoring fuel purchases generally results in a 10- to 15-percent savings.
Evaluate fleet utilization and right-sizing. Underutilized vehicles can be turned into cash and with both demand and prices of used vehicles at an all-time high, no time is better than the present to remarket underutilized vehicles.
The earlier you act to implement these recommendations, the better prepared you will be to weather rising fuel prices. Evaluate your vehicle fleet, think outside the box, engage your drivers, and evaluate a maintenance and fuel program that allows you to manage costs.
Bob Rothe is vice president of sales and marketing at Mayfair Leasing, which is part of the Ewald Automotive Group.