In addition to driver management, vehicle maintenance and record keeping, fleet managers are also responsible for keeping costs down and maximising profits. However, achieving these objectives without compromising on quality of service or driver safety – particularly in an industry where profit margins are notoriously tight – is far easier said than done.

According to the BBC, the average price of fuel in the UK is around £1.27 per litre for petrol and £1.32 for diesel. Most professional drivers will–unknowingly or otherwise–waste fuel. From harsh acceleration and speeding to prolonged idling, people either don’t know or don’t care about the impact of their actions on fuel consumption. The additional costs as a result of poor driving habits might seem trivial in isolation, but quickly start to skyrocket when multiplied by the number of vehicles in a commercial fleet. Identifying technologies and systems that can monitor fuel use, waste and expenses should, therefore, be an essential part of every fleet professional’s armoury.

Common factors such as location, tyre pressure and engine size are all known to impact the cost of fuel; and telematics is a proven tool to help fleet managers monitor one of the largest unseen expenses: driver behaviour. Telematics also helps to improve safety, customer service, and CO2 emissions, making it the one technology that no fleet professional can afford to ignore.

Why is fuel management important?

In 2016, Masternaut conducted a study into the impact of in-cab feedback on driving behaviour, assessing 3-months of telematics data from 9,144 UK light commercial vehicles from 446 companies. 3,053 of these vehicles were installed with a dash-mounted device that provided instant feedback about driving performance. The results of this study demonstrated that drivers spend significantly less time with their vehicle idling when using instant feedback. In fact, the vehicles without feedback idled an average of 1.5% more than those with in-cab feedback activated.

Idling wasn’t the only reduction. Harsh driving behaviour and speeding events also reduced significantly. These factors combined will lower the volume of fuel consumed and the amount of CO2 emissions generated. The report concluded that businesses can create fuel savings of up to 5% in large vans, and 6% in smaller vans, with an accurate fuel management solution in place.

How has telematics changed fuel management in the last decade?

Telematics has had a massive impact on fuel management over the last ten years. In the past, fleet operators used telematics to improve remote visibility, however, advancements in mobile technologies and big data are now enabling businesses to gather and process more information faster and with greater accuracy than ever before. Fuel consumption can now be calculated automatically, in real time.

This data is helping fleets embrace ‘green’ practices and demonstrate reductions in CO2 emissions. The ability to monitor fuel usage accurately as well as driving behaviour, has enabled companies to make informed decisions that will add more value to the business in the long run.

What does the future of fuel management look like?

Whilst nobody can say for sure what new developments are just over the horizon, the development of alternative fuel sources and electric vehicles are both expected to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, particularly when paired with new “connected vehicle” technologies, such as platooning. This is where two or more vehicles communicate with each other and react simultaneously – allowing them to brake and accelerate together when within a certain proximity. Whilst it is still at an experimental stage, platooning technology has already been proven to improve traffic flow and improve delivery efficiency.

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