Environment: Fuel cards and technology will deliver diesel savings

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A recent survey into the home delivery market by Heriot-Watt University for environmental group Green Logistics revealed a staggering fact – up to 60% of van deliveries fail to reach their destination at the first attempt.

This high failure rate is mainly due to the recipient not being at home and no neighbours around to leave a parcel with.

But other factors such as wrong labelling and driver mistakes also come into play.

Whatever the reason, it is obvious that a lot of fuel and working hours are being wasted at a time when money has never been tighter.

Fuel is the second highest fleet cost of a vehicle after its initial purchase price, but many van fleet operators do very little to either rein in their fuel bills or attempt to optimise the routes their vehicles take.

Van operators have access to a range of services and equipment which can help monitor and manage fuel use.

As with any change in management style, when setting out on a new fuel management and route optimisation strategy, the first step must be to look at what you are doing at present and where you are going wrong.

The easiest way to measure (and reduce) fuel usage is by using fuelcards to buy diesel.

That way monthly reports, which come free, show who is using the most fuel. If driver A gets 35mpg from his van and driver B gets 30mpg in a similar vehicle and travelling on similar roads, clearly action needs to be taken.

Fuelcards also save money at the pumps – up to 10p per litre at motorway prices, according to Steve Clarke, general manager at the Fuelcard People.

And he says with fill-now-pay-later initiatives offered by fuelcards, a firm’s cashflow problems will be eased.

Clarke said: “Buying fuel at below pump prices, without the traditional refuelling paperwork, is really helpful, but the biggest benefit is felt in cashflow.

“You buy cheaply, pay later, are not charged for credit and always know exactly where you stand.”

Another method of optimising fuel usage – and one which is becoming more popular with UK van fleet operators – is the fitment of speed limiters.

Fleet Van recently ran a test with a Volkswagen Transporter fitted with a Cobra speed limiter at 56mph. We undertook a 260-mile test route and then had the limiter removed and did the same route again.

The result was that we used a staggering 37% more fuel second time round.

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