Fuel efficient driving

How can efficient driving reduce fuel costs?

Fuel efficient driving is all about taking or omitting actions in order to optimise your vehicle’s fuel usage and keep expenditures down.

With fuel prices fluctuating massively over the last few years, optimising fuel usage is becoming an increasingly important consideration that fleet managers must make in order to remain competitive. That’s why we’ve pulled together some key tips and tricks to help facilitate this.

Implementing the majority of the techniques we’ll discuss in this article falls upon the driver, however fleet managers have a responsibility to support drivers in implementing these tactics, and also to ensure that drivers are equipped with the latest knowledge on how to be fuel efficient.

Which driving techniques can help you save fuel?

There are a number of tricks that can be used to maximise fuel efficiency and cut back on fuel costs for your fleet.

1. Focus on vehicle maintenance

Proper vehicle maintenance is the first step that should be taken to ensure efficient fuel consumption and should always be a priority. By ensuring the vehicles in a fleet are well-looked after, and properly and regularly checked, vehicles will run better and consume less fuel.

Things to keep a regular eye on:

  • Tyres – pressure, damage, valve caps.
  • Fuel tank – fuel leaks from/around the tank, cap security.
  • Bodywork – any loose, torn, or protruding panels or bodywork.
  • Start-up – any unusual mechanical noises, or smoke.
  • Moving off – steering pulling, dragging breaks, tracking issues.

Regularly checking these factors and keeping an eye out for changes in functionality will keep vehicles running smoothly and allow for issues to be rectified swiftly. Ultimately, well maintained vehicles will drive more efficiently while also proving less likely to result in expensive repair bills that can emerge from a long-term lack of attention.

2. Keep tyres properly inflated

Having tyres inflated to the appropriate pressure will have a positive impact on fuel consumption. Underinflated tyres, for instance, can cause your car to drag and waste fuel. In fact, for every 1% decreases in tyre pressure, fuel economy decreases by 0.3%.

3. Only carry necessary weight

It’s no secret that the heavier a vehicle is, the slower it will accelerate – and the harder it will have to work to maintain speed. For this reason, keeping vehicle weight to the necessary minimum will help fleet vehicles get from A to B with the most efficient use of fuel.

4. Avoid harsh breaking

Harsh breaking makes for inefficient fuel usage for a number of reasons. Braking hard brings you down to speeds that require the lower gear much faster, and these are more taxing on your fuel tank. Post braking, accelerating is much more efficient if you haven’t reached very low speeds or had to stop altogether.

In terms of how drivers can put this into practice, take for example when a driver is approaching a red light. Braking late and decreasing speed sharply could result in the driver having to drop into the lowest gear or come to a complete standstill at the lights.

Conversely, starting the braking process earlier and decreasing speed very gently could result in never having to come to a stop at all- meaning you could get back up to speed without wasting fuel. What’s more, this method is likely to cause less wear-and-tear for your brake pads.

5. Keep to the highest appropriate gear

Keeping to the highest gear suitable for the speed you are travelling helps to make you fuel consumption as efficient as possible. When driving at 30mph, for instance, some vehicles will comfortably sit in 4th gear. This will keep revs down and fuel consumption down too.

6. Use cruise control, where available

Cruise control, when used correctly, can save as much as 14% on fuel. Travelling at a continuous speed is one of the most efficient ways to travel, so having cruise control on when on motorways and A roads can help you keep your speed consistent.

7. Plan your journey

Where you drive has as much effect on fuel efficiency as how you drive. Route planning is therefore a fantastic step to take when looking to ensure that fuel usage is made efficient through optimising your journeys. Look at the roads you intend to travel and consider that a shorter journey isn’t always the most efficient.

Opting to travel on larger, straighter roads can maximise fuel efficiency and combining trips rather than doing many shorter ones are ways that you can better plan journeys. Traffic is also a key component of route planning, and understanding whether a route is likely to be busy or not can help reduce your fuel bill over time by ensuring your drivers don’t have to sit in traffic with their engines ticking over.

Telematics services like Tele-Gence can help you plan journeys and keep costs down. Tele-Gence is fully customisable so you can tailor it to your fleet requirements and save money and improve safety.

8. Turn your engine off

A vehicle that’s off is a vehicle that’s saving fuel. If your vehicle is stationary for longer than a couple of minutes, turn the engine off. The fuel you’ll save when at a stop will quickly add up.

How can missing out some gear changes save fuel?

An often-overlooked tactic for efficient driving is eliminating unnecessary gear changes when accelerating. Missing out gear changes can help to save fuel by reducing the overall time spent accelerating, but must be done with care.

Does coasting save fuel?

Coasting (depressing the clutch and using momentum rather than the engine to carry the vehicle) is not only a bad tactic for fuel conservation, but it also a risky driving technique.

In most modern vehicles, coasting won’t save much fuel and will leave you with significantly less control over your vehicle. Having the engine engaged will help you if you need to break or accelerate in response to external factors.

Does stop-start save fuel?

Stop-start technology aims to save fuel by turning your engine off when stationary. Whilst this won’t save you tonnes of fuel in the short-term, stop-start will help with fuel consumption over time, particularly on journeys that might feature lots of traffic lights or junctions.

Managing your fuel with Fuel Card Services

Fuel Card Services can provide a range of services designed to help fleet managers stay in control of fuel consumption and spending. With fuel costs increasing, now is the best time to get in touch with our experts and find out what fuel cards and services could help you streamline your fleet operations.

Why monitoring fleet data is essential to managing costs

Why monitoring fleet data is essential to managing costs

This is the sixth in a series of articles written with our partners at FleetCheck to help business owners and managers understand their legal requirements around managing staff that drive for work.

If your business activities require the use of vehicles, the cost of running those vans, lorries or cars is significant and probably second only to payroll. For any business looking to control operational costs, fleet is one area where it’s possible to make big improvements in cost efficiencies.

Identifying and controlling costs that are unnecessarily high means you need good data. It can be tempting to gather and act on as much data as possible, but this is really a case of quality over quantity, otherwise you can end up with a confusing picture and no clear priorities. It is often better to focus on a smaller number of important fleet metrics which are likely to achieve the greatest savings.

The four primary metrics you should be looking at are:

■ Fuel

■ Service Maintenance Repair (SMR)

■ Vehicles

■ Driver behaviour and incident record

Fuel metrics

Fuel can often represent around a third of a fleet’s operating costs and, with the recent huge rises in prices, controlling fuel spend is a priority.

The two key fuel metrics to track are fuel consumption and cost per mile for both individual vehicles and individual drivers.

Although it is possible to calculate these figures manually based on fuel receipts and odometer readings, integrated fleet management software will automatically do these calculations using data from fuel card purchases and onboard telematics data.

Armed with this data, it is possible to identify which vehicles and drivers are returning the best and worst economy and explore the reasons. Is there a fault or maintenance issue with a vehicle that is affecting its fuel usage? Are there any anomalies between fuel card spend and business miles driven that might indicate fuel theft?

SMR metrics

SMR is another very significant fleet cost. These key metrics will allow you to ensure your SMR operation is running as efficiently as possible.

Preventive Maintenance

Routine preventative maintenance helps keep your vehicles on the road and maximises their lifespan. You need to know if any vehicles are overdue for their regular service or have uncompleted maintenance tasks as these can contribute to unreliability and additional costs.

Vehicle downtime

Monitor how quickly vehicles are in and out of the workshop is important. Hold-ups due to part availability, technicians not working as efficiently as you would expect, and unaccounted-for hours on the bill can all mount up.

Common faults

Identify what the most common faults and inspection failures are across your fleet. Similar problems across many vehicles might mean adjusting your maintenance strategies or investigating further with a manufacturer or supplier.

Tyre life

Tyre prices are escalating and likely to account for nearly half of SMR costs in the near future so tyre wear needs to be monitored and could be linked to individual driving style.

Analysing fleet data

Vehicle metrics

Each vehicle in your fleet represents a large investment so it’s important to have a clear idea of the return each vehicle is making on that investment.

Total cost of ownership (TCO)

TCO gives you the true cost of each vehicle and is probably the most important metric. It takes into account the cost of buying or leasing, maintenance, depreciation, fuel and administrative costs such as insurance. TCO should help you determine optimal replacement times and whether your current purchase or leasing options need reviewing.

Vehicle utilisation

Target utilisation rates will vary according to the demands of the business but tracking average hours and/or miles per day for a vehicle will give you a good indication of whether your fleet is earning its keep.

Driver metrics

The behaviour of your drivers plays a key part in the overall performance of your fleet, helping determine not just fuel economy but also maintenance costs and vehicle downtime.

Driving style

Proactively monitoring driver behaviour allows you to identify driving styles that could be detrimental to fuel economy and the optimal operation of the vehicle. Speeding, harsh braking and acceleration or excessive idling can be identified and addressed to improve safety and reduce maintenance and fuel costs.

Driver penalties

Fines for speeding, parking or other infringements come directly to the vehicle owner. It’s important to track which drivers are responsible for these penalties. Driver education and even disciplinary action are needed to reduce the costs associated with penalties.

Incidents

Safety is critical to any fleet operation but the related costs of vehicle downtime for repairs can be very high and highly disruptive to the business.

Leveraging the data

To control costs effectively, the accuracy of your data is hugely important. Spreadsheets and paper systems are time-consuming and prone to error. Using fleet management software that automatically tracks these key metrics for you and can also integrate data from third-party systems such as telematics and fuel cards.

With the advanced reporting options available with fleet management software, the data can be broken down and analysed to give a real-time overview of fleet costs, and greater insight into the possibilities for controlling them.

Driving for work policy

Do your company drivers understand your driving for work policy?

This is the fifth in a series of articles written with our partners at FleetCheck to help business owners and managers understand their legal requirements around managing staff that drive for work.

Health and Safety at Work legislation requires any organisation with 5 or more employees to conduct a written risk assessment of all their business activities – and this includes driving for work.

Procedures then need to be put in place to minimise those risks, and that’s normally done through a Driving for Work policy.

Your driving for work policy sets out the standards of behaviour expected of your drivers, and it provides the framework for managing how well these standards are followed.

What should a driving for work policy include?

A good policy will include:

  • A policy statement that explains to drivers why the policy exists and why it’s important they follow it.
  • Details of any driver checks to be carried out such as driving licences and medical checks.
  • Guidance on vehicle management and maintenance to ensure the vehicles are roadworthy at all times, and faults are fixed quickly.
  • Drivers’ hours and fatigue management to ensure excessive work patterns don’t create additional risks.
  • Driver distraction including the use of mobile phones while driving.
  • Drug and alcohol impairment.
  • What to do following an accident or breakdown to minimise anxiety and panic to ensure the correct procedures are followed.

It will also set out any training requirements and show how the organisation will deal with those who don’t follow the rules.

It is a requirement that a named Director has personal responsibility for the policy. This responsibility includes ensuring that it’s comprehensive and up to date, that it’s communicated appropriately to all staff, and that procedures are in place to monitor compliance.

Your driving for work policy needs to be reviewed and amended periodically. From time to time, new legislation may be introduced, or existing legislation updated, plus the business may grow or diversify into new areas with new or different risks. Ideally the policy would be reviewed annually.

The latest version then needs to be signed and dated by the director responsible and communicated effectively to all relevant employees.

Communicating policy

Having gone to the trouble of creating your policy, it’s obvious that if the policy is not communicated effectively to all staff then they’ll not be in a position to follow its guidance.

Simply having a copy on a shelf in the office, or buried within the company intranet, is not sufficient. It must be communicated to all drivers – and that includes those who may use their own car for work journeys – they are still driving on behalf of the business and the rules apply to them too.

In the case of other policies, such as mobile phone use, the rules may need to be explained to other relevant staff who may have cause to phone a colleague whilst driving.

In a recent survey carried out on behalf of the National Highways Driving for Better Business programme, it was found that 1 in every 6 employees who drive for work said they’d been involved in an incident due to a phone call from a colleague.

You will also need to ensure that the policy is built into your staff induction or onboarding process. New staff will copy the behaviour of more experienced employees so, when new team members join, go through the policy with them and explain the importance of safe driving.

If the policy is working, they’ll see other staff putting it into practice.

One of the most effective ways of communicating policy is through a driver handbook. Your handbook might include your whole policy or instead focus on some key elements with additional safety advice and guidance as a way of supporting and reinforcing the policy.

FleetCheck

Have your drivers agreed to the rules?

You will also need to keep records to show that this has been done. You should be able to show that all your drivers have

  • Received the policy
  • Read the policy
  • Understood the policy
  • Agree to abide by the policy

You may have given your employee a copy of the policy when they joined, and provided them with a driver handbook, but it is good practice to remind them of its contents from time to time.

It is increasingly common that line managers are required to discuss Driving for Work issues with drivers at their annual appraisals. This might involve discussing any collisions, failure to carry out vehicle checks or reports of poor driving, but is also an opportunity to refresh their memory on company policy.

You could also look to issue timely reminders on safe driving guidance such as winter driving advice, vehicle checks, and the use of mobile phones whilst driving.

The key benefits of creating and communicating a comprehensive driving for work policy in place include:

  • Clearly defined rules that reduce the level of driver risk.
  • Drivers knowing what’s expected of them and understand why the rules are in place.
  • Drivers that are more likely to behave as you’d want them to.
  • A clear framework for disciplining drivers that don’t follow the rules.

If you would like more information on how to manage a safe and compliant fleet, including writing and communicating a driving for work policy, check out our FleetCheck service here.

Fleet of construction vehicles

The foundations of construction fleet management

From operating trucks and excavators to transporting materials between sites, there can be no understating how integral fuel is to the success of the construction industry. And for millions of SMEs in the UK, fuel is one of the most significant operating costs to contend with.

Fortunately, there’s also no shortage of ways in which fleets can cut back on some of these costs without scaling back on projects and investments. That’s exactly what we’re going to dive into in this article, in which we’ll be analysing how fleet managers within construction can improve their operations across the board.

Construction costs: what are the heavy hitters?

It’s no secret that diesel is the lifeblood of the UK’s construction industry. It fuels virtually all heavy-duty vehicles and is estimated to account for over 90% of fuel usage. Amongst the biggest fuel guzzlers are:

  • Diggers
  • Excavators
  • Bulldozers
  • Trucks
  • Front loaders

A typical excavator will use between two to five gallons of fuel per hour, and at just over £5 per gallon of diesel – that could mean paying out £270 to run your excavator over a 10 hour work period.

Of course, the exact cost will vary depending on machinery, fuel efficiency, and how vehicles are used – but there’s clearly a sizeable bill attached to every construction job. What solutions are there, then, to reduce bills?

Construction fleets

Shouldn’t construction businesses just go electric?

There isn’t a construction business in the UK that isn’t aware of the country’s drive toward Net Zero. It seems entirely possible that the construction landscape will look fully electric in 50 years’ time – and going electric now could be an effective way of slashing fuel bills.

The government’s advisory fuel rates (as of July 2023) suggest that Diesel costs around 18 pence per mile, whereas the electric rate sits at 9 pence per mile for fully electric vehicles.

Slashing your fuel bill in half by going electric could be a smart move- but it may only be desirable for construction businesses with the capital available to comfortably manage vehicle acquisition costs. The Road to Zero strategy actually provides some exemptions for non-electric HGV sales that allow a little more leniency for construction businesses than domestic road users.

So, if the shift toward electric vehicles does end up being a little slower for construction businesses, what realistic steps can be taken in the meantime to cut costs?

Reduce the cost of fuel per mile

The business model behind fuel cards is extremely simple. Fuel card providers such as Fuel Card Services have pre-negotiated deals with fuel giants such as Shell and Esso that enable savings to be made at a huge scale, covering the entire country.

A construction business could purchase a fuel card, pay for all fuel at the pump using that card, and receive a discount on every mile. It’s a sure-fire way to reduce costs quickly and it could really help to bring down that diesel bill.

You can also track all of your fuel expenditure via one account. This empowers fleet managers with smart insights that can inform decision making.

Cutting costs is essential for many businesses in the current climate, and one other good option is making efficiencies.

What role could new technology play?

Upgrading your fleet’s technology stack could be a clever way of boosting the efficiency of your fleet in the short to medium-term. Deploying a suite of fleet management tools can equip you with new data sets that enable you to analyse your operations rationally.

For example, utilising a telematics system could enable you to track your vehicles, optimise routes, and give more realistic deadlines on projects by knowing exactly where your team is. Our fully bespoke systems are supported by a UK team – and can be fully customised to your operations.

If you would like to learn more about the services we have on offer, or are unsure what you could benefit from then get in touch via our quick enquiry form today.

Van-tastic insights: tax, insurance & more

Everything you need to know about company van tax, insurance, and more…

If you are thinking of buying or leasing a company van or are looking to expand your fleet of vans, now is a great time to get to grips with or brush up on your understanding of company van ‘mechanics’. From taxing your vans and insuring them to ensuring you pick the right van for your requirements, there are lots of moving parts to consider.

In this guide, we’ll give you the low down on how company van tax and insurance works and will offer some key points to look out for that can help you to pick the right vehicles for your business and your drivers.

What counts as a company van?

Defining between a company car and a company van is vital to ensure that you are abiding by the right tax and insurance expectations. These fleet vehicles have different implications for businesses and HMRC has strict definitions of each which means mistakes can be expensive.

Three key criteria are usually required to be met for a vehicle to be considered a van:

  1. It is intended for the transportation of goods rather than people.
  2. It has a fully loaded weight of no more than 3,500kg.
  3. It has no windows in the load-bearing area of the vehicle.

There are some additional factors that might define a vehicle as a van, such as some larger taxi vehicles with certain goods loading capacities. If your fleet requires vehicles that aren’t clearly defined as vans by the first three criteria, then take care to fully clarify what type of fleet vehicle you are acquiring and what it means for tax and insurance.

Considerations and advantages of a company van for tax

Purchasing vans for company use can bring with it some significant savings. For example, you can reclaim the full amount of VAT on purchased commercial vehicles, which means a saving of 20% on vans bought for commercial use only.

However, there are some things to consider regarding the tax benefits of company vans that are important for both employer and employee to understand.

Company van Benefit in Kind

Are your drivers going to be using these company vans exclusively on the job, or will they be driving them for personal purposes? If the latter is the case, then your company vans might be subject to a BIK tax. It’s important that your employees are aware that the responsibility of BIK falls on them.

Cars and vans are both taxed as benefits in kind in this circumstance, though there are differences to how the tax is calculated. For information of BIK tax on company cars you can read our company car tax guide.

Company van BIK is a flat rate fee that currently stands at £3,960 per annum for 2023/24, and increase from £3,600 for the previous tax year. There are also additional leniencies that company van drivers can benefit from that company car drivers can’t, for example certain short personal errands are permissible without incurring this taxation.

Company van fuel benefit

In addition to company van benefit in kind, employees driving company vans might also be subject to fuel benefit. This applies when the employer covers the cost of fuel used for private use unless the vehicle is electric. This tax is set at £757 for 2023/34.

Electric company vans

Electric vans offer several tax saving opportunities that can help increase the viability of the shift from combustion engines to EVs. To begin, there is no road tax payable for fully electric vehicles, incentivising their uptake.

Additionally, as of 2021 electric vans qualify for 100% first year allowances, meaning that the full cost can be deducted from profits before tax. For 2022, that meant a saving of 19% against corporation tax.

How does company van insurance work?

Company van insurance or business van insurance will cover use of your van for work-related purposes, which can include commuting. The right company van insurance will also offer cover for the contents of your company van, which is essential for businesses that use these vehicles for the transportation of tools and equipment.

Like most vehicle insurance, company van insurance comes at three levels of coverage:

  • Third-party
  • Third-party, fire and theft
  • Fully comprehensive

In addition to these fundamental types of cover, there will be insurance suppliers that offer company van insurance built to fit the needs of certain business types. Taking the time to assess all options to ensure you are finding the right type for your niche could help you avoid missing the best insurance deals and get the best coverage for your requirements.

Telegence telematics

Other things to consider

If you haven’t already got vans in your vehicle fleet, there are some other things worth considering as you begin the process of acquisition.

How old do you have to be to drive a company van?

If your staff hold a full UK driving license and are over the age of 17 then they can drive a company van. Whilst businesses such as van rentals have stricter terms on who can drive vans, for businesses building their own fleet it is only required that drivers hold the appropriate license, which for driving vans can be held from age 17.

Do you need a particular license to drive a van?

The standard driver license or category B license is sufficient to drive a van up to 3,500kg max loaded weight. If you need to drive a vehicle with a higher maximum load, up to 7,500kg, you will need to pass the C1 driving test.

Telematics for your van fleet from Fuel Card Services

Starting or expanding your fleet is a great prospect for business scaling and can open a lot of doors. Make sure you can manage your vehicle fleet, whatever vehicles it is comprised of, with telematics that are built to fit.

Tele-Gence is a leading fleet telematics service that is fully flexible and buildable, meaning you can create a telematics service that is shaped round your business and fleet. With a range of additional tools such as dash cams that can be added to your service, you can send your fleet out and confidently track drivers, capture incidents, and manage fuel use effectively; tools that can be invaluable should you need to make a claim.

You can learn more about Tele-Gence here or enquire today and our team will be in touch to help you out.