How to make your van more efficient and fight back against rising fuel costs

After the drop in fuel prices experienced at the end of 2015 costs have continued to steadily rise throughout 2016, with the average cost of petrol increasing by approximately 12p. This rise in fuel prices is once again starting to have an impact on businesses and the time has come for company owners to look at ways they can introduce further efficiencies into their business operations to help save on these costs. 
Managing Director of supermarket fuel card provider fuelGenie, Robert Pieczka, explains what measures business owners should be taking in order to help combat the issue of rising fuel costs.
While fuel duty has remained frozen, pump prices have still continued to rise throughout 2016, with further rises set for 2017. Unfortunately very few organisations are immune from the negative impact of rising fuel costs. As a result, business owners have once again begun to feel the pinch of these increases and the time has come to look at implementing a number of changes within their business to counter these costs.
Some businesses may decide to make the tough decisions of increasing their costs or reducing the services they offer to cover these increases, but there are other ways to reduce vehicle running costs.
The first place for businesses to start is to consider if they are using the right vehicle for the task it performs. Thinking about the exact role a vehicle will perform before making a purchase could help a company save money in the long run. Normally business owners will purchase a vehicle based on price or previous experience of owning a similar model, but a simple change in buying habit could help save money in the long run.
Indeed, advances in vehicle technology now mean that a smaller more efficient vehicle can perform many of the same tasks as a larger one. Business owners should compare all available vehicles across the range to see which best suits their needs. A smaller vehicle will not only be more efficient to run in terms of fuel consumption, but also should be cheaper to purchase in the first instance, as well as own in the long run.
Often the whole life cost of a vehicle is overlooked by business owners when purchases are made. While a vehicle may look cheap on the retailers’ forecourt it may not be the most cost effective option in the long run. However, a bit of research prior to buying a vehicle could help reduce a business’ fleet spend considerably over time.
Another key method of reducing vehicle running costs is to analyse how vehicles are used day-to-day as well as monitoring the level of upkeep.
Poorly maintained vehicles will consume more fuel, so regular servicing ensures vehicles can perform more efficiently. Clogged filters, old oil, excessive wear to components and poorly adjusted brakes all contribute to reducing fuel economy. Regular servicing will help to reduce longer term fuel costs and ensure vehicles are easier to remarket. In addition, frequent checks of tyre pressure can also have a huge impact on a vehicle’s running costs.
Vehicle weight awareness is also essential as the main role of a commercial vehicle is normally based upon load carrying therefore excess weight has a dramatic impact on fuel consumption. The Department of Transport (DFT) states that on average every 50kg carried will increase fuel consumption by 2%. This is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight, so the impact is greater on smaller vehicles. By only carrying what is required each day a business can save a great deal.
Aerodynamics should also be a consideration as drag is an issue facing many businesses. Those companies that have to carry additional equipment on a roof rack risk higher fuel costs if they are not careful with how they carry the additional loads. DFT figures show an empty roof rack can affect fuel consumption by about up to 10%. When not in use it is a good idea to remove excess racks and when in use great thought needs to be taken on how they are packed.
However, despite the above, driver behaviour is in fact the cheapest and most effective way to decrease fuel bills. Simply asking drivers to drive slightly slower can have a major impact on fuel consumption. DFT figures state you will use up to 9 per cent more fuel driving at 70mph than you would at 60mph, and up to 15 per cent more fuel than driving at 50mph. Travelling at 80mph can use up to 25 per cent more fuel than at 70mph.
Behaviour changes also help, for example adapting driving style to be gentler with the accelerator, softer when braking and keeping the car moving, are all key to better fuel economy. Obviously this is dependent on traffic conditions, but slowing down and having to accelerate again naturally uses more fuel. The introduction of technology such as telematics can help to monitor driver behaviour, capture mileage and fuel consumption allowing businesses to undertake more accurate tracking and in turn achieve greater savings.
A change in fuel buying habits is another handy tip. Businesses could be saving on average 3p* per litre at the pumps by shopping around for fuel. Most drivers tend to purchase fuel from the same fuel station out of habit or ease. However, by planning ahead and simply switching to supermarket fuel providers businesses could be making a significant saving on their monthly fuel costs.
On average supermarket fuel prices are approximately 3p* per litre cheaper than the typical national forecourt and considerably less than motorway fuel station.
The final element to consider is route planning. By making one round trip rather than several short trips you will reduce fuel usage. Once the engine is warm it will operate at its most efficient whereas several cold starts will increase fuel consumption. Analysing the route can also help to reduce fuel and there are route optimising tools available on the market that can also improve efficiency and in-turn fuel consumption.
So with the prospect of further rises this year there are a number of steps businesses can take to reduce the impact on their business without radically altering the cost of products or services. Indeed, the simplest changes will have a positive impact on reducing monthly fuel bills.
The key thing for businesses to consider moving forward is to plan ahead. By setting aside a little time each day to either remove excess tools or equipment, travel to a cheaper fuel station or check a vehicle’s tyre pressures etc, can help save your business money in the long run.

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