While smart budgeting is a great way to stay ahead of fleet fuel costs and their impact on your bottom line, there will be times where fuel usage can fly under the radar and cause fuel budget overages. What should you do when that happens?
Fleet fuel costs make up one of the biggest categories of spending for most companies. But because fuel costs can be such an unpredictable variable, keeping expenditures in line with budgeting expectations can be a frustrating task.
If you’ve experienced a fuel overage, despite your best efforts, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your budget is now a lost cause. There are a few things you can do to better anticipate fuel overages, compensate for the extra money spent, and use that fuel data to better inform your fuel purchasing in the future.
How to calculate fuel usage
The simplest way to calculate fuel usage is to take the mileage each asset has traveled and divide it by the amount of fuel it takes to refill the tank, and then multiply that by the cost of the fuel itself.
Fuel cost = (Distance / Consumption) × Cost per gallon
While you can certainly calculate that yourself, there are also plenty of tools you can use to keep track of fuel expenses and your assets’ usage, from fuel log spreadsheets to automated tracking in a fuel management software.
What causes fuel overages?
- High Prices. It can be hard to keep a rein on your fuel expenditures when you can’t predict how gas prices will respond to global trends. High gas prices have been a significant problem in the wake of the pandemic and the energy crisis resulting from the conflict in Ukraine, so some fleets have struggled to keep up with consistently higher fuel costs.
- Local Availability. A lot of fuel pricing is incredibly dependent on what’s available in your area. If your fleet is based in a more rural area, you might not have the same access that other companies have to competitive pricing across different providers.
- Driving Patterns. Driver behavior can have a significant impact on fuel economy. Small things like idling and lack of route optimization can add up over time to big losses in your fuel usage.
- Maintenance Issues. If your vehicles aren’t in prime condition, they could be costing you fuel due to mechanical issues. Whether from age or just general disrepair, an asset that’s not totally up to snuff under the hood can turn into a gas guzzler.
- Fuel Theft. It’s entirely possible that bad fuel card practices are running up your fuel bill each quarter. If you’re not tracking your fuel purchases closely, you could end up inadvertently footing the bill for fuel that’s not being used for your fleet operations.
What should you do when you have a fuel overage?
The simplest way to compensate for a fuel overage is to find ways to cut costs that don’t compromise your operations. Here are some of the best ways to reduce fuel costs without sacrificing efficiency:
Ways to reduce fuel costs
Find ways to make fuel purchasing more predictable. For some fleets, buying fuel in bulk can be a great way to create some level of standardization in their fuel purchasing. When you work with a third party supplier, you’ll have your fuel delivered to you on a recurring basis at a set price, which means you don’t have to deal with any variability at the pump.
If bulk purchasing isn’t in the cards for you, you can at least standardize where you purchase your fuel from. Consider the stations in your area and on your fleet’s routes and assess which ones tend to consistently have the best prices. You might even be able to capitalize on loyalty programs with certain providers.
Invest in a fuel card. Fleet fuel cards can give you a lot of visibility into fuel purchasing that receipts alone won’t give you. You’ll be able to see exactly how much is being spent at the pump, when it’s being spent, which makes it a lot easier to track down any potential fuel theft or just bad fueling practices. Many fuel cards can even be synced with other fleet management software, so not only can you track the dollars you’re spending on fuel, you can also see how it relates to your total cost of ownership and utilization data.
Analyze driver behavior with telematics. Making sure that your drivers are working in a way that maximizes fuel efficiency instead of harming it is vital to ensuring you stay within your fuel budget. Telematics devices are synonymous with fleet management these days, and you can use the data you get from those devices to track routes, idling, downtime from stops, and other data points that can show you if drivers are making decisions that could impact fuel usage.
Stay on top of inspections and preventive maintenance. The best way to guarantee fuel efficiency is to make sure that your assets are running properly, and the best way to achieve that is with daily vehicle inspections and regular preventive maintenance. Inspections allow you to get ahead of potential issues as they’re noticed by drivers, and having a solid preventive maintenance schedule will keep vehicles within manufacturer guidelines for maximizing fuel efficiency.