An overabundance of data can be just as useless as too little data if you’re unsure how it’s used in the scope of your fleet. Understanding how to collect fuel data and from where, as well as its role in fleet reporting, can give you better control over fleet-wide fuel spending while providing insights into potential problem areas.
Breaking Down Data
While fleet management software (FMS) and other fleet solutions work in conjunction to give users powerful insights into the health and operation of their fleet, the sheer magnitude of all that data can be a bit overwhelming.
As more software integrations become available — including finance, human resources and other organization-wide integrations — so does the potential to get bogged down in data. Without really understanding the interplay between collected data, these solutions can feel more burdensome than helpful.
Understanding Fleet Data is a new series where we break down the different types of fleet data you can glean from FMS and other solutions to give fleet managers a better understanding of:
- What data is collected from what source
- How collected data interacts to provide in-depth insights for proactive actions
- How to apply insights practically to improve fleet operations
There are several ways you can collect fuel data, and some options may be more appealing than others. Your options depend largely on what fleet solutions you’re using and how they interact.
Leveraging Spreadsheet Data
Manual fuel tracking is one of the cheapest methods of managing fuel. You can build your own spreadsheet or customize a free template to capture such data as vehicle and driver ID, odometer reading, date and time of purchase, cost per unit and the number of units purchased, location and vendor. The downside to manual tracking is that the potential for human error is greater when keying in crucial information, leading to incomplete or inaccurate data. Additionally, you have to rely on all your drivers to bring you their fuel receipts at the end of the day, and some receipts may get lost in the shuffle.
Let’s take a look at a few automated methods for fuel tracking, as well as how they allow you to use your data more efficiently than if you were to manually collect it.
Leveraging Fuel Card Data
Fuel cards offer many benefits for fleets, and a big one is the amount of data they collect automatically. When your drivers visit the pump, they’re typically prompted to key in their driver ID and the vehicle’s odometer reading, while the transaction itself captures the number of gallons or liters pumped and cost per unit, fuel grade, location and time of fueling. You can use these data points to monitor:
- Fuel economy: You can use odometer readings and the number of gallons or liters purchased to track a vehicle’s fuel consumption over time. When tracking fuel consumption, it’s good practice to establish the vehicle’s baseline fuel economy for comparison. By comparing a vehicle’s baseline fuel economy against its consumption, you can determine how closely it’s performing to expectations. If the vehicle’s fuel economy drops below baseline, you may have an issue that needs addressing.
- Fuel card misuse: Fueling location and time of fueling data keeps you apprised of where and when your drivers are filling up, allowing you to see if any drivers are using their fuel card at inappropriate times or locations. Number of gallons or liters purchased additionally helps reduce potential theft. If anyone is using the card to purchase larger quantities of fuel than their assigned vehicle can hold, that’s a red flag.
While fuel cards alone provide a good amount of data, integrating your fuel card into your telematics or FMS allows for automated data collection and consolidates that data with other information you may be tracking to provide a more complete picture of your fleet’s fuel use.
When integrated with FMS, odometer readings from fuel card transactions automatically populate and the software will flag incorrect odometer inputs so you can quickly address issues and catch mistakes before they ruin your data. This also helps keep your fleet in line with preventative maintenance (PM) schedules. Another integration feature is automated notifications, such as fuel capacity and missing GPS location alerts.
Leveraging Telematics Fuel Data
Telematics services provide fuel-related data in real time through GPS tracking and on-board diagnostics. When using telematics solutions, you can manage fuel with the help of such data points as:
- Route tracking: Knowing the best routes for your drivers plays a key role in reducing fuel use. Some telematics solutions offer route optimization suggestions to help you keep unnecessary fuel spend low. You can also compare fuel spend per route to determine which routes are costliest and whether action needs to be taken.
- True vs. operational idle time: Tracking true idle time can not only help you decrease it, thus decreasing unnecessary fuel use, but it can also tell you when and where drivers are spending the most time along their routes, allowing you to catch potential issues. Tracking operational idle time can give you a better understanding of active time at jobsites, as well as fuel expense for job types, helping with both scheduling and billing.
- Diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs): Whether it’s a faulty O2 sensor, worn timing components or just a loose fuel cap, monitoring DTCs related to fuel economy can help you determine and correct asset issues early to keep your fleet operating efficiently (and keep fuel costs low).
- Fuel economy and consumption: Tracking fuel economy over the life of a fleet asset gives you better insight to calculate its optimal replacement window. As mentioned above, comparing a vehicle’s fuel consumption to its baseline fuel economy can help you determine if there is an issue in need of correction.
- Fueling location: You can use fueling location data to determine if drivers are fueling up outside their routes. There may be cases when a driver goes an extra mile or two for cheaper fuel, in which case you can pull in route data to see if the extra distance is worth the savings at the pump.
Integrating telematics with FMS provides data consolidation for improved insights, while offering the added benefits of automating easy to read reports and providing a customizable dashboard so you can ensure all the information you need is right at your fingertips.
Leveraging Fuel Integration Data in FMS
FMS is another great fuel tracking tool. You can import historic fuel data from spreadsheets or legacy software and easily track fuel economy in addition to keying in fuel stop information using a mobile app. This data sheds light on per-mile operating cost of any fleet asset.
As previously mentioned, integrating other fuel tracking methods into FMS provides more accurate, timely data accumulation and allows you to see into your fleet’s fuel usage more thoroughly. Additionally, you can pull reports to better analyze:
- Fuel spend as it relates to daily operations, including fuel used while on jobsites to determine true cost of projects
- Fuel spend by operator to determine asset or fuel card misuse
- Fuel spend by asset to determine potential mechanical issues and replacement cycles
While there are different ways to accumulate fuel data for your fleet, the method you choose will help determine the amount of data you can collect, how it’s collected and how it interplays with the rest of your fleet data to improve your overall operations.
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