Offset possible fuel hikes by managing fuel consumption now

By Joseph Evangelist

Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange

There has been some talk in the news lately about a possible increase in the cost of diesel fuel. Some of the concern stems from IMO 2020, which toughen rules on sulfur emissions from ships.

Beginning in January, the International Maritime Organization’s new rules will ban ships from using fuels with a sulfur content above 0.5%. Today typical fuel used by ships has a sulfur content of 3.5%.

You may be wondering why trucking should be concerned about this development in the shipping industry. Fuel with this low sulfur content is better known to us as ultra-low sulfur diesel — the very fuel being used by diesel-powered trucks.

The marine sector uses 3.8 million barrels of fuel per day and the fact that the new regulation calls for a switch to fuel with a lower sulfur content will increase demand which could result in price increases for the rest of the transportation sector.

And while there isn’t much we can do to stop fuel prices from rising, we can take steps to mitigate the impact of any price increase.

The first step is to look at your vehicle specs. Are you spec’ing trucks for fuel economy? As much as 50% of a truck’s fuel goes toward reducing aerodynamic drag. Depending on the aerodynamic devices you spec, you can see a 1% to 10% reduction in fuel consumption, according to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. It is well known that a tire underinflated by 10% can increase rolling resistance by as much as 20%. Spec’ing aerodynamic devices and tire pressure monitoring/inflation systems are two good ways to save fuel.

The next step is to take a close look at your routing. Are you optimizing routes to make them as efficient as possible? Talk to your customers about the possibility of moving delivery times. While that might not always be possible, it is certainly worth investigating, especially if you have not reviewed routing in several years. Customers’ needs may have changed, you may have added or deleted certain customers from certain routes, and you may be surprised to find that some customers can adjust their delivery windows.

We’ve all heard that old cliché, “Nothing is more expensive than hauling air.”  Eliminating empty backhauls when possible will result in better overhaul freight efficiency.

Your drivers also have a big impact on fuel efficiency. Industry sources say drivers’ impact on fuel economy is between 20% and 30%. We are fortunate today to have an array of data about driver behavior that can be used to coach drivers into driving with fuel efficiency in mind. Look at things like speeding, percent of time in idle, hard braking, time in cruise, etc. Depending on what you find, you can tailor training to focus on areas that need improvement. Also, consider offering incentives to drivers who achieve the fuel economy goals you have set.

While fleets may not be able to do much to reduce the cost of fuel, they can take steps to ensure they are getting the most out of a gallon of diesel, no matter what it costs.


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