• Now that you're replacing your fleet, the decision needs to be made on whether to settle on a gasoline or diesel powered fleet. Rather than just jumping in and saying that one or the other is the superior choice, it's important to know the differences between the two engines aside from what goes into the tank.

    Difference between Diesel and Gasoline

    Right from the start of the refinement process, distinctions emerge that set both combustion systems far apart in the eyes of a consumer.  At the turn of the century, diesel engines were noisy, aggressively vibrational and released a cloud of noxious exhaust. However, many of these drawbacks have been reduced since, while still being able to retain the advantages that originally piqued consumer interest.

    The primary distinctions that most consumers focus on in regards to these two options is price at the pump and fuel efficiency. Understandably so because these are two of the most prevalent topics in today's petroleum driven economy.  In terms of diesel, consumers are seeing a higher price at the pump than "regular unleaded" and in many areas higher than "premium unleaded" as well.  While this can be a breaking point for a fleet manager who is purchasing 1000 gallons a month, the 11% increase in energy output that diesel provides generally offsets this price difference due to the distance allowed between fill-ups. 

    This price dichotomy is additionally negated by the method of fuel-injection that is utilized in diesel engines; diesel is injected directly into the cylinders rather than being mixed with incoming air within the intake manifold.  Direct fuel-injection causes little fuel to be wasted in the down-stroke of combustion.

    Then, if hauling heavy weight is necessary, direct fuel-injection combined with lack of spark plugs create a high torque environment that often doubles the lb-ft output of gasoline. The aforementioned higher energy output is due to the higher energy density of diesel which leads to a high compression ratio (17:1 for diesel versus a 9:1 ratio for gasoline). Which means that diesel creates low-end torque, while gas creates high-end power. An example of this is clearly seen with comparing a market leader's 5.7L V8 gas engine to one of its 6.7L I6 turbo diesel blocks. The former produces 383 Hp and 400 lb-ft of Torque at 5,600 RPM while the latter puts out only 385 HP at 2,800 RPM but an astounding 850 lb-ft of Torque at 1,600 RPM.

    However, this high-compression ratio and torque output has one downside that is possibly offset by longevity. All of the pressure that is produced in a diesel system has a detrimental effect on the internal components; cylinder heads, shafts, block, pistons, and valves.  Beefing up these parts creates a significant weight and price difference from the gasoline options.  Choosing the 6.7L diesel from the above example is a $7,795 price increase for the engine alone; an additional $2,650 is needed for the transmission swap.  Yet, because the internal structure has greater support, a diesel engine can be expected to last more than 200,000 miles on the low end of the spectrum, creating more time between vehicle replacement schedules.

    As a fleet manager, deciding on which vehicles are being utilized is just as important as who is driving.

    The Better Fuel Solution?

    Does your company earn profits through quick trips around a small region without hauling much of a payload, and need to keep fuel costs at a minimum? Choosing a gas fleet should be strongly considered, because of the easily accessible, cheaper and cleaner fuel and smooth acceleration. However, if fuel economy is important even if it means spending a bit more in the short term and long distances are travelled towing heavy loads on a regular basis then it is recommended that a diesel fleet be your next selection. This is because of a diesel engine's greater fuel-efficiency, high torque and extended life span. Remember, saving a few bucks in the beginning might end up costing your company a fortune through the life of a fleet.

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  • Acquiring new units to upgrade your fleet is a convoluted process that often leaves many scratching their heads and settling for the first available opportunity that seems like a good deal. While settling shows a lapse in judgment, avoiding the decision altogether is a tremendous mistake for fleet managers. Before getting into the details about when to upgrade, it is important to know what the associated costs are that come with maintaining a profitable fleet.

    Fleet Costs

    Maintaining a fleet to be utilized for a business' primary source of revenue has quite a few areas that detract from the bottom line. These expenses range from "hard" costs that are clearly visible in the books to "soft" costs: those which have an indirect impact on profit.
    "Hard" costs are accounted for in the budget and predictably vary based on number of orders and foreseen expenses. In regards to fleet management, these costs include but are not limited to fuel, insurance, scheduled repairs, and depreciation of the value of fleet vehicles.

    When developing a business model that involves fleet based logistics or other vehicle intensive services, many plans tend to omit the other side of Fleet expenses; the "soft" costs that cannot be accounted for in a budget but can end up breaking a company if stacked up at an inopportune moment. These "soft" costs, which fall under Murphy's Law, include but not limited to lost business, lost sales, corporate image, diminished productivity, and employee retention.

    Each of these cost groupings need to be taken into consideration when trying to establish the appropriate time to upgrade your fleet.

    When to upgrade the Fleet

    Like all business decisions, upgrading your fleet needs to begin on a cost-analysis basis. At the most simple level there is one, two-part question that needs to be answered: "How much is being spent to maintain this fleet in its current state, and how much will it cost to replace these vehicles?" By approaching this with the aforementioned cost groupings in mind, this becomes much easier to deduce.

    The overall "hard" costs of a fleet include the previous list in addition to resale value of the vehicles, title & license fees, acquisition price, and sales fees. With a sizable fleet this number can escalate at an alarming rate, making replacement seem like a daunting task. However, you need to keep in mind that "soft" costs can either offset these expenses or greatly increase them.

    Due to the inevitability of labor intensive repairs that come with aging vehicles, "soft" costs become exceedingly important to acknowledge as vehicles approach the 100K mark. The questions that need to be asked during this risky period of a fleet's lifecycle are:

    1.  What are the incurred rental expenses when a vehicle is inoperable?

    2.  What are the repair costs?

    3.  Will clients leave because of delays?

    4.  Will employees leave because of undesirability of working with an aging, finicky fleet?

    5.  Will potential new business be lost due to the corporate image that is presented by a run-down fleet?

    Then, most importantly, will fleet replacement remove these potential lofty expenses?  If the answer to these last four questions is "yes," then without a doubt fleet replacement needs to occur during the ideal new-model year or mid-model year selling periods.

    Additional deciding factors that provide definitive affirmative responses when considering a fleet upgrade:

    1.  Repair costs exceed value of vehicle

    2.  Fuel efficiency of new vehicles greatly reduces fuel costs [AB1] currently incurred

    3.  Employees are frustrated with state of current vehicles

    4.  Potential employees are put-off by the state of current vehicles

    5.  Every vehicle is over the 100K mile mark

    This latter issue can present the biggest problems because if all fleet vehicles are in a dilapidated state then it can mean that all vehicles will have to be replaced in one fell swoop; a tough proposition to present to accountants. Spacing apart big purchases diminishes the pecuniary impact and also provides the opportunity to build a profitable relationship with a dealer.

    As a vehicle advances in mileage, depreciation presents a compounding decrease in resale value while the average maintenance cost per mile steadily increases. Take care of the bottom line by replacing fleet vehicles before preventative maintenance and repairs become unjustified expenses.

    Overall, things to keep in mind during the replacement process:

    1.  Replace a vehicle before it is absolutely necessary to do so

    2.  Leasing is financially more responsible than purchasing

    3.  Having newer business tools is appealing to both employees and potential clients

    4.  Be sure to get the best fleet vehicle insurance coverage

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  • Fleet managers of businesses large and small need to be prepared for unforeseen natural disasters.  This is not only important for the safety of their drivers and the protection of their fleets, but for the greater community as well in regards to boosting relief efforts through their available resources.

    Protecting Fleets During Natural Disasters

    With the ever strengthening power of natural disasters in recent years, it is important that fleet managers and operators understand how to approach the inevitable effects of Mother Nature on both small and large supply chain businesses.

    For the most part, even though the value of lost physical assets is greater with a larger business, they can more easily recover lost revenue due to available capital and number of personnel.  With small businesses, this tends to be the most prevalent struggling point; loss of high value assets without enough free capital or available personnel to properly insure or replace them. Unfortunately, for a small business fleet manager, this can mean bankruptcy or liquidation.

    However, making sure that this doesn't happen to your business, no matter the size, involves only a few preventative measures:

    ~  Full coverage insurance on all vehicles in fleet

    ~  Drivers have the proper resources to get out of trouble and sustain for a few days

    ~  Plan for communication and safety in the event of a disaster

    ~  Rolling backups for important data held at headquarters/ dispatch

    ~  Set aside a % of revenue to be used as a natural disaster fund:

         1.  Required expenses that will have to continue to be paid

         2.  Repairs that are necessary due to disaster damage

         3.  Register with the Small Business Administration for supplemental aid that FEMA or   insurance will not be able to cover

         4.  Disaster kits containing nonperishable food, water, batteries, and a first aid kit at the minimum should be in each fleet vehicle

    Executing these necessary steps can mean the difference between continuing business after the storm clears and leaving the doors shut for good.

    Trucking Fleets Provide Relief Efforts

    Trucking fleets can be an incredibly helpful resource after a catastrophic storm or earthquake. The recent tornadoes that struck through the Midwest leveled whole towns and left thousands in need. Transport Topics reported that Dart Transit Co. partnered with it’s shipping customers to help aid Moore, OK by hauling loads of bottled water donated by Target Corp. 

    Generally being in a more secure location than the drivers, fleet managers need to be in constant communication with their team to provide direction on where assistance is most needed. Fleets that can provide refrigerated trucks are even more helpful in providing relief as they can deliver fresh foods and vegetables, and temperature sensitive medicines. However, this should not negate the relief through shelter and delivery of emergency supplies that unrefrigerated trailers can provide.

    Keeping your fleet drivers and vehicles safe is important and offering relief aid to those in need is priceless.  Take care of your fleet, repair the community.

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  • It doesn't seem that long ago when fleet managers were emphasizing the importance of preventing gelled fuel during the winter months. But summer is already on its way and fleets will soon switch their focus to preventing the season's biggest threat to their operation: overheated engines. Fortunately, as long as fleet managers and drivers closely obey a predetermined maintenance schedule, truck engines can survive the summer heat just fine. Below are three essential maintenance focus points fleets cannot afford to neglect this summer.

    The first step to preventing breakdowns induced by overheating is through routine maintenance of the fleet. The regrowth of life in spring and the dry months of summer generally lead to an exorbitant level of particulates in the air that can cause engine lubricants to become a sludgy abrasive. As small particles get through the oil and fuel filters, the oil itself begins to take on a stickier, thicker consistency that negates the primary reason for utilizing petroleum based oil as an engine lubricant. This dirty oil progressively wears down piston heads and all other enclosed, moving parts of an engine. Regular oil changes throughout a summer will reduce extraneous heat from building in the engine block caused by tainted oil.

    With oil changes occurring on a regular schedule, the next step to assuring a fleet is summer fit is through filter changes. There are three filters that are crucial to a strong diesel engine: Air Filter, Oil Filter, and Fuel Filter. It is generally accepted practice to change the air filter every other oil change. However, depending on air quality of fleet location this interval should be increased or decreased. The oil filter prevents many of the larger airborne particles from entering the enclosed engine environment so that the lubricant has a longer lifespan; these should be changed at every oil change, a more frequent changing of these will extend the necessary time between summer oil changes. The fuel filter for diesel engines is often overlooked, but with some of the low quality diesels that are being refined at higher temperatures, the filters are getting blocked at a much faster rate than in decades past. This is an issue because it limits the flow of fuel to the injectors which will push air into the fuel system; one of the most damaging things that can occur to a diesel fleet.

    The final step that is absolutely the most important for summer fleet care is making sure the cooling system is in ideal working order. With a reliance on high temperature combustion provided by extreme air compression, a diesel engine operates at a higher temperature than its internal combustion counterpart. Due to this characteristic in conjunction with the warmer ambient air temperature, the cooling system of a diesel motor is pertinent to prevent a breakdown during the busiest season for a fleet manager. Don’t make this fleet manager mistake and overlook cooling system maintenance.

    Overall Summer Fleet Care Focus Points:


    ~  Oil Changes

    ~  Filter Replacement

    ~  Cooling system maintenance

    As the thermometer rises, Fleet managers need to be aware of the inherent risks that this new season presents to their vehicles. Managers need to be in constant contact with the Fleet drivers in regards to necessary on-road vehicle maintenance. A good fleet management service can help with this coordination. With the proper care, fleets will be cruising around the country this summer in top-notch condition.

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  • Scores of travelers depend on their vehicles to reach their summertime destinations, and many drivers have had to accept annual jumps in gas prices when budgeting for road trips. While paying more money at the pump may not be avoidable, we can better understand WHY we’re paying more during the summer season.

    One established factor in the summer season is the economic concept of supply and demand. As more people fill cars, boats, motorcycles, and jet skis with gasoline, the demand for fuel increases. This places a higher premium on shrinking supplies, thus raising gas prices.

    But there are other less-apparent factors that influence annual price bumps. Among those include:

    ~  Refineries shutting down during spring months for maintenance

    ~  Natural disruptions, such as hurricanes, impacting transport and damage refineries

    ~  Fuel grades purchased in summer months are different from grades purchased during the rest of the year

    Perhaps the greatest factor that influences rising gas prices in the summer months involves a change in fuel supply, known as the seasonal gasoline transition, which occurs twice every year in the U.S. This seasonal switch is part of the Reformulated Gasoline Program (RFG), which was established from the Clean Air Act Amendments, aimed at reducing pollution and smog during the summer season.

    Most consumers don’t notice a difference, outside of higher fuel costs, but the summer-grade fuel they purchase actually has altered ingredients. This fuel contains different oxygenates (fuel additives) to give it a higher Reid Vapor Pressure, which allows evaporation to occur more easily than with winter-grade fuel. The result is a fuel that burns cleanlier, thus compensating for a limited oil supply, and emits fewer pollutants. This is an important consideration at a time of year when increased temperatures boost the formation of the ozone layer, and pollution becomes a greater focus of concern. Winter-grade fuel uses more butane, which is inexpensive and plentiful, and brings fuel prices back down during the rest of the year.

    Paying a premium at the pump has become a summertime tradition, much like barbequing or going to the beach, but no matter the fuel management strategy, consumers can appreciate knowing the fuel they purchase is better for the environment. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that, "roughly 75 million Americans breath cleaner air today due to [the seasonal fuel] program.”

  • driver-safety-statistics-infographic
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  • Did you know that the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S. is from vehicular accidents? In 2010, 22 percent of fatal work-related incidents occurred on highways. Furthermore, employers pay $60 billion each year for motor vehicle accidents—a non-fatal injury costs an employer an average of $74,000 and a fatal injury costs an employer upward of $500,000. And it goes without saying that vehicular accidents cause workers and their family great pain and anguish. Considering the fact that fleet drivers average twice as many miles on the road as other drivers, fleet management teams have a strong case for implementing a strict motor vehicle safety program.

    According to government statistics, most vehicle accidents are attributed to exceeding the speed limit, driver fatigue, distracted driving, backing up unsafely or driving a poorly maintained vehicle. The good news is that fleet managers can control most of these risk factors and, while they can’t always prevent accidents from occurring, they can use the tips below to minimize the risks and help ensure driver safety.

    Enforce written policy and procedures

    As an obvious accident prevention starter, develop and distribute written safety policies for all fleet employees. For example, enforce a cell phone policy to help discourage distractive driving, either by banning use while driving or restricting use to hands-free devices only. Or consider a policy that requires drivers to rest when they feel fatigued, and help drivers identify some of the warning signs of fatigue, which include:

    ~  Continual yawning
    ~  Feeling cramped and stiff
    ~  Slower reaction times
    ~  Eyes that feel heavy
    ~  Varying speed for no reason

    Install in-vehicle recording systems

    In-vehicle recording systems help identify problem behaviors, such as seat belt non-compliance or cell phone use. With a fleet tracking system in place, fleet managers can reprimand problem drivers who continually fail to comply with safety policies. Additionally, in-vehicle recording devices can capture evidence that may limit company liability when an accident occurs.

    Mandate driver-training programs and continued education coursework

    Orienting new hires to driver safety policies and requiring continuous safety training for employees on a regular basis can help minimize company and driver risk. Provide drivers with strategies to prevent accidents and minimize injury if an accident occurs, such as wearing seatbelts and properly securing cargo.

    Require routine vehicle maintenance

    Practicing proper fleet vehicle maintenance is a highly effective way to prevent accidents from occurring. A recent study out of the UK found that car maintenance was not a priority for many fleet drivers—about 11 percent of van drivers failed to identify the minimum tire tread limit and 15 percent of drivers reported they never check the oil in their vehicles. A company policy that clearly outlines required vehicle maintenance practices would help hold drivers accountable, including:

    ~  Schedule vehicle inspections on a regular basis
    ~  Report mechanical issues as soon as possible
    ~  Review important vehicle maintenance issues
    ~  Ensure vehicles are properly equipped with working seat belts, adequate fleet tire treads, rollover protection, etc.

    Monitor driver motor vehicle records

    Avoid hiring poor drivers or identify problem drivers by conducting motor vehicle and criminal background checks. Routinely review every driver’s motor vehicle record and respond promptly to evidence of reckless driving behavior by:

    ~  Requiring additional safety training and lessons
    ~  Restricting driving privileges
    ~  Suspending or terminating the driver

    To avoid significant financial and emotional loss due to vehicular accidents, fleet managers can help promote safe driving through the development of safety policies, proper vehicle maintenance and accident prevention training for drivers. By ensuring all the appropriate steps are taken to train and protect the fleet, work-related accidents and their associated costs could be greatly reduced.

  • Consider how often fleet drivers switch back and forth between driving fleet vehicles and passenger vehicles. Because of the frequency of their refueling, they run a higher-than-average risk of accidentally filling a fuel tank with the wrong type of fuel—a costly mistake that can seriously harm a fleet company’s vehicles and its bottom line.

    Fleet managers who teach and enforce proper fueling practices with drivers ultimately save their company time, money and heartache. Below are some facts and tips fleet managers can share with drivers to help improve fuel economy and avoid unnecessary fleet maintenance expenses.

    Did you know?

    ~  In case any fleet managers question the importance of reminding drivers to use the correct type of fuel, they ought to read  this About.com article that describes the damaging effects of filling up with the wrong fuel. Each year 300,000 vehicles require maintenance because of this error and these expenses add up to at least nearly $250 million dollars. Ouch!

    ~  Vehicle fueling requirements vary, as do octane ratings (which measure the burn time of fuel in a vehicle’s cylinder). A vehicle that receives lower than its required octane level loses fuel efficiency and risks engine breakdown; higher than required levels may either improve fuel efficiency (a potentially worthy investment) or have zero impact on the vehicle’s performance (a waste of money). Fleet managers need to make that determination based on what their fleet vehicles are used for and how often they’re used, as well as the fueling requirements stated in the vehicle’s manual.

        Try this…

        ~  Fleet managers can greatly reduce the odds of drivers filling tanks with the wrong fuel by creating visual reminders in prominent locations—and they can never display too many. Effective locations for bold-color notes include on the dashboard, on the fuel tank door, on the interior of the driver’s-side door, and wherever fleet fuel cards are stored. Fleet managers can also provide verbal reminders and create a system that requires drivers to verify the type of fuel they’ll use before leaving fleet headquarters.

        ~  Some fuel management programs feature a powerful safety tool that provides control remotely for fleet managers. After a driver or fuel attendant swipes a fleet card the system detects pre-programmed data about the driver and the vehicle and determines if the driver selected the correct type of fuel. If not, the pump is immediately deactivated and the fleet manager is alerted to the error.

            Companies that operate with transportation already pay plenty toward fuel expenses, and a poor fueling decision at the pump can potentially prove catastrophic for business. Informed fleet managers who implement effective fueling policies and educate employees about proper fueling practices for specific vehicles can ensure fleets remain on the road and out of the shop, which keeps customers happy and business thriving.

          • Fleet operations depend on proficient guidance from fleet management as much as vehicles depend on fuel. Yet fleet managers must balance many challenging responsibilities, such as overseeing maintenance, financing and telematics details for vehicles, as well as monitoring fleet driver performance, safety conditions and fuel usage. The most successful fleet managers, therefore, are those who keep all of these tasks skillfully under their control.

            Fleet managers can employ one of the most powerful fleet service tools available for managing fuel costs and controlling budgets: the fleet fuel card.

            Fleet fuel cards are designed to give fleet managers control over spending through carefully engineered features. For example, fleet managers can restrict the types of purchases cardholders make, and regulate the day of week and time of day fleet cards can be used. They can even take control of critical situations remotely with the ability to stop the flow of fuel at the pump in real-time!

            Yes, Fuelman customers have actually stopped fuel at the pump to prevent drivers from accidentally adding unleaded gas into a diesel-powered vehicle. Fleet managers can avoid this type of simple mistake, which can cost companies thousands of dollars to fix, and ensure vehicles stay active on the road by being alerted before the mistake occurs.

            With fuel prices in constant fluctuation, fleet managers frequently feel the pinch of economic turbulence. They know how critical it is to make every dollar count. Fleet fuel cards help to budget and track every dollar spent on fleet fuel and fleet maintenance, and allow fleet managers to control and monitor spending – even in real-time.

            For more information about fleet cards and how they can help your company, check out our fleet cards FAQ page, contact our fleet fuel professionals at (800) 633-3271, or start your fleet card application today!

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          • Ask any fleet manager if he or she enjoys managing the budget for fuel costs, and you’ll likely receive a cold response. And nobody blames them for feeling stressed about that part of the job. They must consider so many ever-changing variables that affect fuel consumption – including number of trips, length of trips, size and weight of cargo, driving behaviors, fluctuating gas prices, and more. Fleet managers not only must establish a reasonable dollar allotment for fuel expenses, they must also constantly look for new ways to reduce those expenses.

            Fortunately, fleet managers can apply a few simple strategies to improve fuel efficiency, and thus save their company money. These strategies include, but are not limited to, enforcing a strict vehicle maintenance schedule and changing the fleet’s driving behaviors.

            Vehicle Maintenance

            Fleet vehicles that are properly maintained yield better gas mileage and a longer lifespan on the road – both of which saves fleets money. Here are some maintenance musts: 

            ~  During each fuel up, check the air pressure of all tires. Properly inflated tires resist roads less, which reduces the amount of gas required to power the vehicle.

            ~  Align the tires regularly to help prevent the engine from over-working and requiring more  gas.

            ~  Follow regular tune-up schedules to optimize vehicle gas mileage, including the timely replacement of air filters and the usage of the correct grade of motor oil.          

            Driving Behaviors

            Fleet drivers can consume less fuel by adopting the following simple driving habits:

            ~  Avoid braking and accelerating constantly. Keep vehicle speed at a steady pace –   cruise  control is helpful for achieving this.

            ~  Put the engine into overdrive while driving at higher speeds – it helps reduce RPMs, which reduces fuel consumption.

            ~  Reduce the weight a vehicle carries, when possible.

            ~  Turn off a vehicle if idling is expected to last for more than a minute.

            ~  Drive slower to reduce drag and fuel consumption.

            ~  Limit the use of AC – turn it off 5-10 minute before reaching the destination, and park in the shade, if possible.

            A Note on Hybrids

            Fuel-efficient vehicles, such as hybrid-electric models, are obviously engineered to consume less gas, however, not all fleet vehicles can be outfitted with hybrid technology. And in some cases, hybrid vehicles used in a fleet capacity may not prove to be as fuel-efficient as consumer-driven cars. Depending on the needs of a fleet, certain light-duty cars and trucks may offer a noticeable improvement in fuel efficiency. Otherwise, when hybrid fleet vehicles are not a viable option, fleet managers may wish to consider purchasing vehicles with manual transmissions, which are widely known for providing better gas mileage than vehicles with automatic transmissions.

            Start your fleet gas card application today to see how top fleet management services can save your business money. 

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