While electricity is clearly the future for business fleets, more can be done to manage fuel use now
Fuel accounts for up to 35pc of costs for organisations with large fleets of vehicles, representing a big cost to the bottom line and the environment.*
However, with effective management 10pc savings are there for the taking, according to logistics consultants Davies & Robson.
Now more than ever, fuel efficiency is essential and a key driver for transport operators of big fleets. The most successful fleet managers will ensure every last drop is optimised.
“Fuel accounts for up to 35pc of costs for organisations with large fleets of vehicles”
Technological advances in hardware and software are one way to improve efficiency. Now, thanks to data from fuel card expenses and telematics that can show where and how a vehicle has been driven, alongside data which includes what it was hauling, fleets can be better monitored and their wasted mileage reduced.
“This tech can help to identify any drivers that need extra training in how to be fuel-efficient,” says Matthew Walters, head of consultancy and data services at fleet supplier LeasePlan UK, such as those who routinely carry unnecessary heavy equipment or leave engines running while static, “as well as any vehicles that should be replaced”.
It is not simply the size of fuel costs that concerns fleet managers though, it’s their unpredictability too. “Our research shows that fuel-price volatility is the No 1 challenge facing small-to-medium-sized fleets,” says Mr Walters.
Cost-effective: more and more fleet managers are investing in electric vehicles
“The second half of 2014 saw the price of a barrel of oil plummet from $110 to $50, but fuel costs rose again in 2016 when the pound depreciated against the dollar. The past 12 months have seen oil prices recover from $50 a barrel to $80, pushing up pump prices by 9p a litre for petrol and 11p a litre for diesel.”
Little wonder more fleet managers are investing in electric vehicles. Indeed, if all of the UK’s vans and heavy-goods vehicles switched to electric, organisations could save £13.7bn a year, according to Hitachi Capital UK’s Future of Fuel report, published in December**. Further, it estimates that electricity would be around 15p per mile (ppm) cheaper than petrol or diesel for vans. Given that the combined annual mileage of commercial vehicles in the UK is 65.7bn, the savings soon add up.
“Electric vehicles (EVs) are a great way for companies to reduce their costs,” says Ben Fletcher, electric vehicle range manager at Renault UK. The French manufacturer, whose headquarters is in Boulogne-Billancourt in France, has the Twizy Cargo and Kangoo Z.E. 33 – plus soon the Master Z.E. – in its EV commercial vehicle line-up. “Electricity can cost as low as 2p per mile, and maintenance is also about 25pc less than a traditionally fuelled vehicle. Additionally, the usage benefits in some areas – for example zero congestion charge in London – mean the savings can be absolutely huge.”
“A modern EV can be very easily integrated into many fleet duty cycles with minimal fuss”
Pimlico Plumbers has nearly 250 vans on the road, and while fleet manager Terry Suarez admits his organisation “definitely has plans to move to a greener fleet, and electricity would seem to be the most effective alternative to fossil fuel-burning engines” he worries about the current range of the early generations of electric vehicles, typically 100 miles, which can be less than “a day’s jobbing”.
But Mr Fletcher says a modern EV can be very easily integrated into many fleet duty cycles with minimal fuss, whether for vehicles with a reasonably predictable daily route of up to 100 miles or in and out of sites where the increasingly common sight of an EV charging terminal is available.
For long-distance or very heavy payloads, automakers such as Renault continue to increase efficiencies in their diesel vans. “We want to offer the most efficient solution possible whatever the customer’s requirements,” says Mr Fletcher. “While EVs are not ready to take over just yet, they will.”
* Davies and Robson’s Fuel Management Checklist for Transport Managers: daviesrobson.co.uk
** Hitachi Capital UK’s Future of Fuel report: hitachicapitalvehiclesolutions.co.uk
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