Ship Supplies to Minimize Office Trips

"Our major fuel-saving initiative is doing a better job with our internal route optimization/scheduling program," says Larry Leahy, vice president of Foundation Management Services, a home care and hospice services provider in the Southwest.

"We are moving toward a system in which we drop ship medical supplies to the patient's home. Shipping costs are outweighed by alleviating the cost of having the clinician come into the office to pick up supplies. We are realizing other cost savings associated with less weight in the clinicians' cars, less inventory in the office and the soft savings associated with staff coming in the office and spending time just visiting."

"We are also employing a point-of-care system in which the clinician documents everything at the patient's home and transmits data over a secured, encrypted Web portal into our patient information system, further alleviating an extra trip to the office to fill out paperwork."

Rely on Turn-By-Turn Directions

"We have improved routing and saved fuel by upgrading our Onstar service to include turn-by-turn navigation, which gives our drivers the most direct and fuel-efficient route," says Carrie Dorsey, director of public relations for AT Home Care, an independent home healthcare agency in Virginia.

The system also informs the driver of improper tire pressure immediately, Dorsey says. Proper tire pressure can improve fuel economy by an average of 4 percent, according to the EPA.

Use Load Boards

JMC Restaurant Distribution uses Freightliner trucks to deliver supplies to Cici's Pizza restaurants in about 30 states. When the company makes a delivery, one of its trucks might have available space to haul cargo for another company that needs cargo moved in that specific part of the country.

"This keeps JMC trucks operating at capacity more often, which is a much more lucrative and efficient way to run a route," says Bob Kulich, president of JMC.

For a monthly subscription fee, online load boards connect brokers with haulers, whose needs are customizable by geographic location, type of truck, size and weight of the load.

Though not specifically a fuel-saver, this age-old concept is gaining traction for local shipments and even small parcels to offset high fuel costs.

Make Deliveries at Night

JMC does about 80 percent of its deliveries at night, with drivers possessing keys to the various facilities or alarm codes to enter the facilities. "If a shipment gets there at midnight it doesn't have much effect on the customer, as long as it's there in the morning when he comes in," says Kulich. "We've tried to develop our business model with as much fail-safe in it as possible so that the franchisees don't have to worry about what we do."

Efficiency shot up after the switch to nighttime deliveries because JMC didn't have traffic to deal with or people in the restaurants getting in the way, Kulich says.

Weigh Your Parts

Gem Plumbing of Lincoln, R.I., attacks fuel costs by proper load planning. The fleet department knows the exact weight of every plumbing part that is carried on a vehicle, says Larry Gemma, co-owner.

Each truck used to have 1,139 parts on it, but after the company removed about 300 pounds of unneeded parts from each truck, the miles per gallon on each truck improved from 7.1 to 7.35.


Monitor Traffic with Roadway Cameras

Gem Plumbing also manages traffic through a program in which the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts have cameras set up on various roadways. The program allows companies to access the cameras over the Web to figure out the most efficient traffic routes to take. That program, along with a GPS system, helps improve Gem's efficiency in dispatching vehicles.

Through these initiatives Gemma says the company is saving about $2,800 a month in fuel costs.

Find the Cheapest Gas

Fuel prices can vary as much as 20 cents per gallon within a couple mile radius. Find the cheapest gas station in your area by visiting Web sites such as GasBuddy is a collection of 178 local Web sites that gather prices using a network of volunteer gas price spotters in each area.

Assign Value to Your Stops

Sometimes it's less about reducing miles or the most efficient trip-it's about valuing the quality of the stops you make, says Colin Sutherland, vice president of sales for Geotab, a GPS, engine diagnostics and driver safety information provider.

A distributor plans a 64-mile route-32 miles out, 32 miles back-to make an $80 delivery with a $20 profit margin on the goods being delivered. The minimum fleet cost to deliver any product or service on a 64-mile trip is 50 cents per mile, so this trip has a net loss of at least $12, says Sutherland.

"The distributor just paid the customer $12 to deliver the product to them," says Sutherland.

Sutherland suggests assigning a priority to each customer on a scale of 1 to 5. Single piece, low margin, but frequent order customers can be grouped and served at greater net profit inclusive of the physical delivery costs.  

Email Fuel-Saving Tips to Drivers

Shelly Lofgren, fleet manager for Honeywell International, includes fuel-savings tips at the bottom of every email. These include maintaining proper tire inflation, changing driving habits, such as not racing to a red light, maintaining posted highway speeds and eliminating unnecessary idling engines.

Another company increasing communications to drivers is E.A. Sween Company. "We communicate to all of our employees the methods to conserve fuel with lower highway speeds and driver behavior changes," says Gregg Hodgdon, CAFM, director of fleet operations.

Get a Fleet Fuel Card

A fuel management program helps avoid unauthorized purchases by allowing fleet managers to control exactly what drivers purchase, when and where. Limiting the type of fuel purchased is an easy way to control costs. A fuel card can restrict driver purchases to only regular unleaded gasoline, not more expensive premium and super-unleaded grades of gasoline.

Investigate programs offered by Wright Express, Voyager, Comdata and Fuelman. Also, FleetCards USA matches the right fleet card to each company's fueling needs. The company also offers a fuel savings calculator. The calculator evaluates the basic business structures of each user and shows the potential annual savings when using a fleet fuel card. BF