Ten Ways to Cut Summer Fuel Costs

It's summer and as predictable as barbeques and family vacations gas prices are creeping up.

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By Jack Lee

It's summer and as predictable as barbeques and family vacations gas prices are creeping up. It seems the price at the pump increases with demand, and for gas-reliant companies this can be as painful as a sunburn. The resident "gas guy," Bob Van Der Valk, was asked about summer gas prices, and he gave some insight.

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"In the short term prices will continue to go up another 25 cents per gallon between now and middle of August. After Labor Day prices will ebb down slowly and by Thanksgiving go back down to about where they were last year at the same time. This past spring brought forth a renewal for oil refinery profits. This was in the form of increased demand for gasoline after dismal first quarter results in 2009. And now the oil companies are looking forward to those summer breezes peeking just around the corner. Prices have fluctuated, but expect them to be on the rise, even though the price of crude has dropped. The reason is blowing in the wind... in this case the oil companies are stocking up in case those summer breezes change into hurricanes," Van Der Valk said.

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So be prepared. And to help, here are 10 ways to help cut those high summer fuel costs for utility companies:

  1. Train and educate utility drivers: It starts with the people who have their foot on the gas pedal. Drivers can control fuel consumption each time they fire up their engines, and proper training can improve fuel efficiency, economy and emissions. Hard acceleration, speeding and idling are the biggest causes of fuel waste. Initiate a training course for drivers and reward participation.
  2. Decrease idling: Be aware of the time engines idle. Machinery and equipment can't be left running all day long. Stop the engines! Excessive idling adds to fuel costs by as much as 50 percent and can shorten the life of engine oil by 75 percent, adding more costs. Initiate a campaign to reduce idling time and reward participants. Allowing an engine to idle more than 3 minutes causes expensive damage, which harms efficiency, shortens engine life and increases maintenance costs. It all adds up.
  3. Start off slower: This is another lesson drivers must be taught. Jackrabbit starts waste fuel and save less than 3 minutes per hour driving, but can result in using 40 percent more fuel and increase toxic emissions by 400 percent! What's the rush? Ease up on the gas pedal and efficiencies will improve.
  4. Slow down: Speeding is dangerous—it wastes fuel and creates higher levels of toxic emissions. Speeds over 100 km/hour drastically impact fuel efficiencies—cars travelling at 120 km/hour use 20 percent more fuel. Trucks travelling at 120 km/hour use 50 percent more fuel and they also emit 100 percent more carbon monoxide, 50 percent more hydrocarbons and 31 percent more nitrogen oxides.
  5. Lose weight: Excess weight places unnecessary strain on the vehicle's engine and greatly affects its fuel efficiency. By removing as little as 100 pounds the gas mileage can be significantly improved. Check each vehicle and pitch out that unnecessary weight!
  6. Use a fuel management system: This is the most powerful way to lower fuel costs and increase productivity. Available systems range from basic onsite refueling (which saves up to 20 minutes in wasted time and fuel each fill, per vehicle) to automated fuel tracking (which details every liter pumped into every vehicle by date, time, quantity and fuel type) to telematics (which measures overall fuel efficiency and vehicle performance, and tracks fuel waste due to idling, speeding, etc. and identifies critical areas to improve efficiency and reduce fuel costs and emissions.) The technology exists so utility drivers can become fuel managers and stay on top of their fuel consumption, one vehicle at a time.
  7. Upgrade the fleet: Whenever possible, invest in modern, fuel-efficient vehicles. Modern diesel engines are far more fuel-efficient and perform better with modern diesel fuels such as ultra-low sulphur diesel and biodiesel. Though it may seem expensive, new diesel vehicles can save thousands of dollars in maintenance, fuel and productivity per vehicle. Measure each piece of equipment for fuel efficiency and get rid of the bad ones! Replace and upgrade equipment regularly. It may hurt now but it will pay back.
  8. Tune-up vehicles regularly: Does the utility company have a stringent, well-managed maintenance policy? Many companies "fix it when it breaks." This attitude costs too much in wasted fuel. A well maintained vehicle performs better, improves fuel efficiency, reduces toxic emissions and, in the long run, will cost less to maintain.
  9. Pump it up: Proper tire inflation improves gas mileage. At 4Refuel the statistics show improperly inflated tires can cost up to 2 weeks worth of fuel per year! How big is the utility's fleet? Two weeks per year per vehicle adds up to thousands of dollars in lost profits! In addition, proper inflation results in improved vehicle and braking performance, and increases tire life.
  10. Implement total fuel management technology: Wow, that's a mouth full! Utility drivers can measure and manage their fleet better when they have the right information. Tracking miles traveled, average speed and engine efficiency is critical to cutting fuel costs. This information will help drivers and managers optimize routes with better planning. Mapping software and GPS will eliminate thousands of unnecessary miles per week. Less time on the road means less fuel consumed, less wear on vehicles, decreased expenditures and overall increased productivity, plus lower toxic emissions!

If Van Der Valk's predictions come true this summer, these tips will help utility companies cut fuel costs and save money. And if not, utility companies will save even more!


About the Author:
Jack Lee is CEO of 4Refuel, the largest onsite fuel management company in Canada and a global leader in technology designed to help businesses reduce their fuel expenses. Have a question about fuel? Ask the fuel expert by e-mailing Jack Lee at askthefuelexpert@4refuel.com.

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