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Rising fuel prices are forcing businesses to take multiple actions in order to reduce their fuel spend. A recent Fleet News survey of 172 fleet operators found that, on average, companies are taking five actions to tackle their fuel bill... /SME September 2011 19By Sarah Toozeusinesses that need to run vehicles whill have seen the impact of a steep rise in fuel costs over the last few years, and many will have taken action to tackle it. According to the Fleet News survey, the most popular fuel-saving actions are using fuel cards, increasing the number of lower CO2/high-mpg vehicles on the fleet, encouraging drivers to fill up at supermarket forecourts, checking tyre pressures and issuing drivers with tips on driving more fuel efficiently. But some organisations are taking a more proactive approach than others. One has adopted 18 different methods to reduce its fuel bill, for instance, while some are only taking one or two actions. Fleets of more than 500 vehicles are typically taking seven or more actions while businesses with fewer than 50 vehicles are taking four actions."With fuel costs continuing to increase, we must be proactive in their management of these costs and there are a range of initiatives that can be introduced to help," says one respondent. First - the quick winsArguably the easiest step to take is to avoid gas-guzzlers and opt for lower CO2/high-mpg vehicles. Many companies - and drivers - adopted this approach after the Government linked benefit-in-kind tax to CO2 emissions Bin 2002 while manufacturers developed lower-emitting vehicles with improved fuel consumption to meet future European legislation.Many manufacturers also now offer specific low CO2 variants which feature wide-ranging technology such as stop/start and brake regenera-tion to further improve fuel efficiency.Changes to capital allowances have seen many companies introduce a CO2 emissions cap of at least 160g/km and there are further taxation savings by opting for even lower-emitting vehicles.Some organisations, such as the Countryside Council for Wales (see case study, p23), now have a sub-100g/km policy - cars that typically return around 74mpg for diesel and 63mpg for petrol. Of course, whether drivers achieve manufacturers' official fuel consump-tion figures is another matter. Fuel cards - which 70% of survey respond-ents say they use - monitor the figures drivers are achieving and highlight which might be costing the company more money. Variations in figures for similar vehicles should be reported back to drivers and their line managers.And the differences can be substantial. A telematics trial on Fleet News owner Bauer's fleet showed a variation between drivers of an Audi A3 1.6-litre TDI of 45mpg to 60mpg. Over the course of a 15,000-mile year, the cost differential is £530.Fuel cards can also help prevent fuel fraud, analyse what price drivers are paying and whether they are filling up with FUEL REPORT

AFRs mean companies are not concerned over fuel costsMany companies reimburse drivers for business mileage at Government set Advisory Fuel Rates and one survey respondent commented: "As we pay AFR rates to drivers there is no real incentive as a business to worry too much about fuel costs."Companies that pay AFRs still need to drive down mileage figures - an area which many may be over-looking given that only 10% of respondents stop drivers 'rounding' mileage claims. Worryingly, more than a fifth of drivers admitted to exaggerating mileage claims in a survey last year by GlobalExpense and the HMRC is known to be clamping down on mileage fraud.The Miles Consultancy claims that companies with a mileage capture system can expect to reduce their mileage by a quarter.If the company sticks with AFRs, savings could be achieved by downsizing engines or an alternative approach could be taken - Astrazeneca, for instance, has only one fuel rate for reimburse-ment which encourages drivers to choose a fuel-efficient car. There is corporate social responsibility (CSR) to consider too. David Graham, fleet manager at Eon, believes that fuel efficiency is part of CSR and that all drivers should be engaged in the company's sustainability programme. premium fuel, as well as where they are refuelling. "Look for outlets that are consistently cheaper in your area," Peter Bonney, fleet controller at The Salvation Army, advises.Many respondents discourage or ban drivers from filling up at expensive motorway service stations. Jeff Addley, fleet and stores manager at HVMS, sends drivers the national average price for unleaded and diesel and asks them to keep within 4ppl where possible. Drivers are allowed to refuel at motorway services in exceptional circumstances but a 15-litre limit is imposed. Half of survey respondents encourage drivers to fill up at supermarket forecourts, as these tend to be the cheapest locations. Inspired Gaming Group has shown it is possible to change driver behav-iour, with 95% of its fuel consistently purchased at supermarkets. But this approach can backfire if drivers travel miles out of their way to refuel. "We tell drivers not to drive 20 miles to save 20 pence," Tony Witterick, fleet administrator at Coast and Country Housing, says. "We advise drivers to refuel en route and on a weekly basis we inform them which is the cheapest place to refuel in their area."Witterick has also negotiated a discount with his fuel card provider, which is another advantage of using certain types of fuel card. Brendan Gott, group operations manager at Rigby Taylor, which has 62 company cars, says his fuel card provider guarantees to be competitive and has one price nationally. "Our previous fuel card provider kept putting their prices up," Gott says. "We then switched to using credit cards but we were not able to get the mpg figures or the data we needed. With our new provider we have that and they are proving to be cost-competitive."However, not all survey respondents have a positive view of fuel cards. One said: "Too many fuel cards restrict the choice of outlet so more multi-brand cards would avoid wasted mileage to reach a particular brand."20 September 2011 actions do you take to reduce fuel spend? (top 14 answers)Use fuel cards 70%Increase number of lower CO2/high mpg vehicles on the fleet 69%Encourage drivers to fill up at supermarket forecourts 51%Check tyre pressures 41%Issue drivers with tips on driving more fuel efficiently 37%Check that drivers are not using super unleaded petrol 37%Encourage tele/video conferencing 34%Encourage car sharing 33%Route planning 30%Encourage the use of public transport 24%Use speed limiters 22%Eco driver training 20%Use telematics 20%Use a mileage capture system 20%Top 10 fleet-recommended actions to reduce fuel spendIncrease number of lower CO2/high mpg vehicles on the fleet 65%Use fuel cards 56%Encourage drivers to fill up at supermarket forecourts 48%Check tyre pressures 32%Encourage car sharing 31%Encourage tele/video conferencing 28%Check that drivers are not using super unleaded petrol 28%Route planning 25%Issue drivers with tips on driving more fuel efficiently 23%Encourage the use of public transport 22%Top four single-most effective actions to reduce fuel costs, according to fleets29%Increase the number of lower CO2/high mpg vehicles on the fleet 21%Encourage drivers to fill up at supermarket forecourts14%Use fuel cards10%Use telematicsFUEL REPORTNew tools at Fleet News onlineFleet News is constantly looking for ways to improve its website and develop tools that help companies run effective and efficient fleets.We are pleased to bring three new tools in collaboration with comcar:To test the new tools go to Carbon footprint calculator n Van tax calculator n Van chooser tool