How Global Positioning System Fleet Software can Help Combat Winter Fuel Costs

As utility businesses look for ways to better manage their fleets and associated expenses-including fuel costs-many are turning to global positioning system (GPS) fleet management solutions.

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By Bruno Delvecchio

For fleet-based businesses, the onset of cold winter weather increases fuel costs and puts added strain on fleet vehicles. Vehicles get poorer gas mileage during cold weather, and low temperatures can instigate irresponsible and sometimes harmful behaviors in fleet drivers-such as unnecessary idling or using company owned vehicles for personal reasons.

As utility businesses look for ways to better manage their fleets and associated expenses-including fuel costs-many are turning to global positioning system (GPS) fleet management solutions.

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GPS vehicle tracking uses a space-based global navigation satellite system to track time and location information of fleet vehicles. This information is then transmitted to a remote user-generally through Web-based software-who can monitor vehicle location, speed, routing, idle time, engine start up and shut down, and much more. This data provides businesses with actionable intelligence to help them identify opportunities to improve operational efficiencies and cost savings.

Following are six proven ways fleet operators can use GPS fleet management to help reduce fuel costs this winter.

1. Reduce Vehicle Speed: Abiding by posted speed limits is not only safer, it also helps maintain even fuel consumption. Every 5 miles per hour (mph) driven above the posted speed limit has a net cost of some 20 cents more per gallon. Multiply this by five, 10 or more vehicles and speeding becomes a costly habit.

GPS fleet management solutions track the speed for each vehicle, and the best solutions also send an alert when a vehicle exceeds a specific speed threshold. This information allows fleet owners to take immediate action to stop this gas-guzzling activity.

Recognizing that drivers may increase their driving speed to meet a job-related deadline, some fleet managers might overlook this behavior. In fact, abusive driving leads to the second tip.

Fleet Fuel Price Pressure

2. Curb Abusive Driving Behavior: Abusive driving can range from speeding to tailgating to hard braking. In addition to increased fuel consumption related to "punching the gas," fleet managers should also consider the added wear and tear on their vehicles-not to mention the increased risk of accidents this behavior can cause.

GPS tracking technology can provide detailed reports that show improper driving activities for a specific vehicle, including instances of over-limit speed and abrupt braking. This data helps fleet managers identify and address abusive driving behavior before it results in damage for the vehicle, driver or the business.

A side benefit of GPS tracking is that the data can be used to authenticate complaints against drivers. There have been instances when GPS data collected by a fleet management system was used to disprove unfounded or false accident claims, saving those companies' unwarranted expenses and legal fees.

3. Improve Routing and Dispatching: For many utility businesses, customer satisfaction often relies on how quickly and effectively they address a service or installation request. Dispatchers are tasked with identifying the technician and route that will result in the most efficient response for each service call.

When a customer request comes in, a dispatcher can immediately see the precise location of every vehicle at that moment and assign the closest available technician and identify the most efficient route based on location, traffic reports, time of day, etc.

Dispatchers can use GPS tracking to help lost drivers get back on route, and they can use the data to learn whether any drivers are using company vehicles for unauthorized trips or taking extended routes to jobs.

With proper routing management and effective dispatching, vehicles do not spend as much time travelling between jobs. Shorter travel times mean less fuel used.

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4. Decrease Idle Times: Contrary to popular belief, restarting an engine uses no more fuel than 30 seconds of idling and has little harmful impact on the engine. According to Ford Motor Co., however, every hour of idle time equals some 25 miles of driving.

What does this mean for fleet businesses? As temperatures drop, idle times increase as drivers use their vehicles to warm up. As a result, fleet vehicles consume unnecessary fuel and cost businesses more money.

Quality GPS tracking systems can notify fleet managers when a vehicle idles for excessive periods of time, wasting fuel and being nonproductive.

5. Maintain Proper Vehicle Maintenance: It's a fact that properly maintained vehicles run more efficiently than neglected vehicles. A quality GPS fleet tracking system can help ensure vehicles receive proper maintenance. Depending on the type of service needed, alerts can be set for each vehicle based on calendar time, engine running time or mileage.

A proactive vehicle maintenance program can also reduce the chance of vehicles malfunctioning on the road. In addition, properly maintained vehicles return more value to your business by keeping vehicles on the road to conduct business activities and reducing the cost of repairs over time.

Fleet Mobile Control

6. Integrate Cost Effective Fuel Card: Many fleet-based businesses use a fuel card to manage fuel purchases, but, by integrating the fuel card with a GPS fleet management system, businesses can reap large savings.

This integration will provide complete visibility of fuel spending for the overall fleet as well as individual fuel usage for a specific vehicle. This allows business owners to pinpoint fuel wasting practices or even fuel theft.

Reliable card transaction information allows fleet managers to track accurate mpg, pinpoint the direct cause of high fuel consumption, eliminate fuel slippage, enforce fuel-saving driving habits, ensure vehicles run efficiently and ultimately reduce overall fuel costs.

Winter is long and comes with many challenges-including higher fuel usage and costs. With gas prices in a seemingly endless upward climb, the last thing utility fleet managers want to do is waste fuel. But that's what they are doing every time their drivers take inefficient routes, drive aggressively, idle unnecessarily, and drive company-owned vehicles for their private use. Quality GPS tracking systems empower fleet managers with the intelligence they need to immediately put an end to fuel-wasting activities this winter and all year.

About the author: Bruno Delvecchio is vice-president at SageQuest, a GPS-tracking and business solutions company. Delvecchio can be contacted at 440-528-0708,

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