While costs vary, fleets spend roughly one-third of their operating expenses on fuel. And, while the remaining two-thirds of their operating costs tend to remain relatively stable over the short term, the price of fuel changes daily. Many fleet managers choose to employ fuel management systems to minimize the impact of these two factors on their fleet’s bottom line.
Fuel management applications are included in many fleet management software packages. They are often used in conjunction with route planning and optimization programs, since fuel consumption plays an important role in determining optimum routes and schedules.
Whether you manage a fleet of a thousand vehicles or just need to track fuel consumption for a small team of short-haul vehicles, fuel management software provides the tools you need.
In this Buyer’s Guide we’ll examine fuel management systems in detail and answer the following questions:
Note: The term “fuel management system” is used differently in different industries. Here, we discuss fuel management systems in the context of fleet management. This is different from, for example, the fuel management systems used by fuel distributors and resellers.
The primary function of fuel management software is to lower a company’s vehicle fueling expenditures. Of course, before any cost can be lowered, it must first be accurately calculated. Fuel management software assists with this as well. It helps companies measure and monitor their fuel costs in a variety of ways, through fuel-use analyses and dashboards that visualize fuel-use trends.
Fuel trend analysis screen in Dossier Fleet Maintenance
Fuel management systems can be entirely software-based or, with more advanced systems, include specialized hardware that automates some of the tracking and reporting features that support effective fuel management.
There are, for example, apps that integrate with fuel card accounts so that fuel purchase data can be automatically collected. This data can include:
Other systems can integrate GPS data to automatically calculate miles per gallon and other efficiency metrics.
Software-based fuel management systems are sold as on-premise installations or cloud-deployed services and are offered from a variety of vendors in both broad product suites or stand-alone, best-of-breed applications.
Fuel management systems include the basic applications required for fuel-use management. They may also include a variety of other applications to support automation and monitoring of fuel management processes. In addition, they may provide tools to integrate fuel management into fleet management platforms.
|Fuel estimating||Assists in making accurate projections about fuel usage. These can help increase operational efficiency by, for example, estimating usage on a variety of possible new routing scenarios.|
|Performance tracking||Helps companies and fleet managers track performance of individual drivers or specific vehicles, allowing them to take corrective measures.|
|Route planning||Typically found in comprehensive fleet management systems. But because route planning and fuel usage are closely related, some fuel management systems directly incorporate route planning apps.|
|Fuel card monitoring||Assists with tracking, monitoring and updating fuel purchase information from drivers’ fuel cards and fuel accounts.|
|Alerts and monitoring||Customizable alerts which can be programmed to, for example, issue an alert whenever fuel costs rise above a set amount.|
In our experience, there are several ways to approach this question, depending on your company’s most immediate priority:
Concerned only with fuel management. If you have a small fleet and your goal is to maximize fuel efficiency, stand-alone fuel management software would be a good place to begin your search. Companies that already have fleet management software but need to add functionality for fuel management can also begin by looking at these stand-alone, best-of-breed fuel management platforms.
Concerned with both fleet and fuel management. If your company is shopping for both fuel management and fleet management systems, then begin your search by looking at the latter. Ideally, you’d save on integration and (possibly) licensing fees by finding one platform, or one vendor, that can address both needs.
Need integration into other business units. Many companies are in the process of “de-siloing” their internal IT infrastructure and looking for platforms that can be used interdepartmentally. If your company is in this boat, then start your search by looking at platforms by the major ERP, SCM or fleet management vendors, or with whichever platform vendor most closely aligns with your company-wide goals.
Here are some recent news reports that cover fuel management trends to keep your eye on. They demonstrate how new technologies and approaches will help companies optimize their fuel efficiency in the years ahead:
Truck platooning can provide additional fuel savings. A new report by NACFE has revealed that truck platooning can lead to a four percent savings on fuel costs. According to the organization, "Platooning combines existing commercial vehicle safety technology with emerging vehicle-to-vehicle communications and autonomous vehicle control technology to electronically 'tether' tractor-trailers together in a convoy formation at highway speeds."
ATA study predicts continued strong growth in trucking. The American Trucking Association revealed its predictions for the future of freight transportation in its "U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2027" report. The report suggests “truckload volumes will grow 2 percent annually between 2016 and 2022 and 1.6 percent per year after that until 2027.” Additionally, volumes shipped by private carriers are expected to grow 2.3 percent per year through 2022.
Trucking firms are choosing fuel efficiency over alternative fuels. The American Transportation Research Institute completed a survey of fuel management strategies used across the nation. It found that truckers and trucking companies prefer increasing the efficiency of their fuel usage over the adoption of more eco-friendly alternative fuels. Lack of availability was cited as a main reason for not preferring alternative fuels.
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