Simple Ways to Cut Fleet Fuel Costs – Right Now

Simple ways to cut fleet fuel costs – right now

Key takeaways:

  • Invest in fuel-efficient equipment
  • Service vehicles routinely
  • Encourage safe driving habits to conserve fuel
  • Educate yourself on the risks of fuel fraud
  • Use a fleet card to save on fuel purchases

In 2022, the cost of operating a commercial vehicle surpassed $2 per mile for the first time, and high fuel costs were a big reason why. Fuel makes up about 40% of a commercial fleet’s total operating budget. And though fuel costs have dipped since last year’s record high, fuel continues to be a top expense for commercial transportation businesses.

Higher fuel costs begin with the cost of crude oil. From 2003 through 2022, the cost of crude oil accounted for about 50% of average on-highway diesel prices. And that’s not the only culprit. Many factors contribute to the rising cost of fuel, including:

Supply and demand imbalances

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), transportation fuel prices are generally more volatile than the cost of other commodities. Commercial fleets depend almost entirely on petroleum. If petroleum supply declines due to refinery problems or slow imports, diesel inventories may plummet and drive up costs.

Distillate fuel demand and seasonality

Distillate products include kerosene, diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil. Because heating oil and diesel are similar and produced at the same time, changes in demand for one may affect pricing for the other. Higher demand for heating oil in the fall and winter can divert diesel inputs toward heating oil, putting pressure on the diesel market. Winter conditions may hinder extraction, refining, and last-mile fuel delivery, leading to higher prices.

Transportation costs

Transportation costs generally increase based on the distance between the retail location and the sources of supply. Areas farthest from the Gulf Coast, where about half of the U.S. diesel supply is produced, tend to have higher diesel prices.

Regional operating costs and local competition

The retail price of diesel fuel also reflects local market conditions and the location and ownership of retail outlets. Refiners own and operate some retail outlets, while other retail outlets are independent businesses that purchase diesel wholesale. The cost of doing business can vary dramatically depending on a dealer’s location. High-volume fueling stations that service large commercial vehicles tend to sell diesel at lower prices than smaller-volume service stations.

Start saving on fleet fuel costs

Fortunately, businesses can do a lot to improve fuel efficiency and cut fuel costs. Here are some of the most effective strategies.

1. Vehicle maintenance

When vehicles aren’t maintained properly, transportation businesses face any number of problems. The most common include:

  • Safety and compliance issues
  • Costly repairs
  • Vehicle downtime
  • Lost revenue

A comprehensive vehicle maintenance strategy can improve fleet safety while conserving fuel. Ensuring correct tire pressure, inspecting vehicles frequently, optimizing maintenance schedules, and getting regular engine tune-ups have all been proven to improve fuel economy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), businesses can improve fuel mileage by up to 3% just by keeping tires properly inflated. Routine maintenance will help vehicles run at their best, leading to fewer accidents, fewer repairs, and less downtime. Tuning a vehicle that’s out-of-service, or fixing one that failed an emissions test, can increase fuel economy by an average of 4% as well.

2. Driving behavior

For better or worse, driving habits can have a big impact on fuel economy. Idling, speeding, and harsh acceleration tend to burn the most fuel, so reducing these behaviors should be a top priority for any transportation business looking to cut costs. Safe driving can improve fuel economy by up to 30% at highway speeds, and up to 40% in stop-and-go traffic. By coaching drivers to be more mindful of fuel-wasting habits, businesses can improve fuel economy and safety at the same time.

Video and telematics data captured by today’s AI dash cams and vehicle gateways provide detailed insight into the most unsafe and wasteful driving behaviors in a fleet. The most effective dash cams and telematics systems proactively reduce fuel-wasting behaviors by alerting drivers to them in real time — including idling, close following, speeding, and hard braking.

Data captured by best-in-class vehicle gateways feeds into a fleet dashboard, where fleet managers can monitor fuel economy and benchmark fuel performance. Managers can track idling, miles per gallon, and other trends over time to identify progress and opportunities for improvement.

A recent study on fuel ROI found that fleets that use fuel insights together with driver coaching achieve up to 13% greater fuel economy than other fleets. Drivers at these fleets also practiced safer habits, resulting in a 79% drop in hard acceleration, a 40% reduction of hard braking, and 20% less idling.

3. Understanding and catching fuel fraud

Scams like cargo theft have put fleets at risk for several years. With fuel costs on the rise, transportation companies are faced with another emerging threat — fuel-related fraud.

A recent study explored fleet card fraud’s impact on profitability. Nearly half of the operators surveyed estimated that up to 5% of their fuel spend is fraudulent. Most operators cited third-party fraud, such as card skimming, as the largest threat. They also said prevention methods, such as spend controls, were some of the most complicated and time-consuming aspects of expense management. A majority of operators still rely on outdated methods, such as manual tracking, to detect fraud, though many plan to leverage more advanced methods in the future.

Fortunately, automated platforms that integrate fleet and spend management give physical economy leaders the visibility and control they need to stop unauthorized fuel spend in its tracks. Through telematics-backed fraud detection, businesses can monitor transactions and get alerted to fraudulent activity in real time — before it becomes a problem.

4. Fleet cards

With fuel costs averaging about 64 cents per mile, physical economy businesses are looking to lower fuel costs any way they can. The payment method that drivers use at the pump won’t improve fuel economy, but it can reduce fleet fuel costs.

The Motive Card is a fleet card that leads to impressive financial savings. Businesses can save as much as $0.20 per gallon at partner fuel stations such as Love’s, TA, 7-Eleven, and Road Ranger. Cardholders can use the Motive Card to pay for purchases anywhere Mastercard is accepted . And with competitive discounts and no hidden fees, savings can add up fast.

To prevent unauthorized spending, fleet managers can control who uses the Motive Card and how they use it. They can add spending limits, improve security, restrict card use to certain times and locations, and ultimately, reduce fuel spend.

5. Equipment upgrades

Investing in fuel-efficient vehicles can be the most impactful way to reduce fuel consumption and costs. Of course, investing in new vehicles is a long-term plan, not a short-term solution. If you’re ready to replace your combustion-engine vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs), you’ll improve fuel economy dramatically. EVs are a big investment upfront but require less maintenance in the long run. Initial costs are also offset by better fuel mileage, federal tax credits, and state incentives, making EV investment a cost-effective choice for businesses that are ready now.

And since electric vehicles produce zero emissions, they’re a much more sustainable option than diesel-powered vehicles. If investing in EVs is out of the question, tractor upgrades or simple equipment adjustments will conserve fuel. Low-rolling resistance tires, aerodynamic components, and engine accessories reduce air drag and improve fuel economy as well. Such capital expenditures can be pricey, especially when businesses are trying to save right now, but they’re much more affordable than investing in new vehicles.


As fuel costs make up a large portion of operational expenses, simple fuel-saving measures are helping businesses save money. There are many ways to conserve fuel and cut costs. Sometimes, the smallest adjustments can make the biggest impact.


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