The price of fuel may be relatively low at present, but one thing is for certain; it'll eventually start rising again. And even if it doesn't, there is no excuse for wasting the earth's valuable resources.
Fuel forms the biggest cost of running a van after its initial purchase price so it's well worthwhile spending a bit of time and effort setting up a fuel-saving strategy for your fleet.
Here we present 10 top tips that are guaranteed to set your fuel bills plummeting:
1 Buy the right vans It may seem obvious but experts reckon that around 30 per cent of van buyers choose the wrong vehicles for their needs. If you always buy large panel vans purely because you always have done so in the past, ask yourself if you couldn't make do with something slightly smaller.
By opting for, say, a Citroën Dispatch instead of the bigger Relay, you'll save money on the front-end cost and on fuel too as the smaller van uses less.
2 Fit a speed limiter Once your staff are out of the yard, they are free to put their right feet on the metal and play it loud, wasting fuel in the meantime and adding to the wear and tear of your vehicles. Fitting a speed limiter cuts out these shenanigans at a stroke.
Did you know, for example, that a van travelling at 80mph uses 20 per cent more than one travelling at 70mph? That's the level of savings you could achieve.
Drivers will moan like hell at first and you may well find wax effigies of yourself in the office covered in pins, but in our experience drivers soon get used to speed limiters. If you have set the limiters at 70mph and drivers complain, they have automatically labelled themselves as law-breakers and should be admonished accordingly (or sacked!).
3 Use a fuel card If you still get your drivers to pay for fuel and then reclaim the money, you leave yourself at risk that packets of fags, sweets and other little items may be added on to the bill at your expense. We've even heard of cases where the driver's partner queues up behind the van and fills up at the company's expense too; nice little wheeze, eh?
Fuel cards cut any kind of skullduggery at a stroke and many fuel card providers nowadays offer all sorts of extras too, such as reports on how many miles per gallon are being achieved by each driver. Info such as this at your fingertips immediately shows up any cases of wasteful driving, which can then be dealt with appropriate training.
4 Install a telematics system Modern telematics systems do just about everything but make the tea! They allow you to keep total control of your vehicles, where they are and how well (or badly) they are being driven. The old moan that they are a spy in the cab has largely been eradicated as drivers see they have positive benefits too.
Whether drivers like it or not, the fact of the matter is that as the owner of the company, you are entitled to keep tabs on your valuable assets. A telematics system will pay for itself in about three months and will cut out any little private side trips a driver might be thinking of making, as well as allowing you to route your vehicles in a more cost-effective way.
5 Maintenance A badly maintained vehicle will use more fuel and will break down more often, costing your company valuable time and money. But it’s amazing how many vans aren't kept up to scratch; hence 50 per cent of them fail their first MoT, a disgraceful revelation recently from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.
At the very least, each driver should undertake a walk-round visual check each morning, oil levels should be measured once a week and tyre pressures should be checked too. It is reckoned that if tyres are under-inflated by 2 – 3psi, fuel usage will be 2 – 3 per cent higher.
6 Cut the crap Most vans we see are loaded down with all kinds of detritus they don't need, such as un-used roof racks, junk in the back, sandwich boxes and old copies of The Sun. This all adds up to extra weight that the van is lugging around, thus wasting fuel. Efforts should be made to keep vehicles free of any extraneous items, especially ones on the outside as they can add anything up to 10 per cent on fuel usage.
7 Alternative fuels The subject of alternative fuels will form a future Top 10 Tips article on its own, but in a nutshell it's well worth looking at what's on offer. Electric vehicles are very much on the agenda at present, although only for fleets which cover short distances on set duty cycles, while liquid petroleum gas (LPG) — although rather out of fashion at present — also represents a possible method of cutting costs.
For large fleets, compressed natural gas vehicles are available from both Mercedes-Benz and Iveco, but this does mean a tank will have to be installed in your yard as CNG isn't currently available at forecourts.
8 Driver training Most van drivers baulk at the idea of training as they feel they drive well enough already. Here at VansA2Z, however, we've all undertaken training courses and jolly useful they have proved too, teaching us all how to drive more cost-effectively.
9 Set up a driver competition Here's a surefire way of cutting fuel. Using information from either your telematics system or fuel card, set up a league table of fuel efficiency among your drivers, displayed in the canteen or a workroom. Offer the winner each month a decent prize such as a weekend break away or theatre tickets and watch them all scrambling to win. Sure you have to lash the cash a bit, but you'll be quids in with lower fuel bills
10 Choose the right staff Perhaps the most important way of saving fuel is to employ the right staff in the first place. When recruiting new drivers, take some time and effort to look into their backgrounds and assess how willing they are to toe the line, keep within the law and help your firm save cash.
Don't forget that once you have taken a driver on, it may not be easy to get rid of him or her, so it's much easier to weed out the duffers at this stage.