Operators have also looked at changing fuels. Before diesel was as expensive or more expensive than gasoline, operators were looking at converting their fleets to diesel. Many have halted those plans due to cost.
One alternative is biodiesel, defined as a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable oil resources. It contains no petroleum, but can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. More information is available online at biodiesel.org.
When blended with diesel fuel, it adds lubricity and reduces harmful emissions, although it is not always cheaper.
FreshDirect, a New York City food delivery company, donates cooking oil from its kitchen to New York City-based Tri-State Biodiesel. Tri-State Biodiesel blends it with diesel and provides FreshDirect with a blend to run the delivery trucks.
Certain news reports blame biodiesel for increased food costs, but biodiesel, unlike the enthanol added to gasoline, can be made with non-food products such as reused vegetable oils. For more information on biodiesel or other fleet fuel saving technologies, browse Fuel Advantage magazine at fuelpub.com.
A vending operator who wished to remain anonymous reported using cooking oil (not a biodiesel blend) to power some of his vehicles.
More companies are charging a fuel surcharge than ever before. The 2008 Automatic Merchandiser State of the OCS Industry Report, published in July, noted 30 percent of OCS operators were charging a fuel surcharge. Traditionally, vending operators didn’t feel they could add a fuel surcharge, but that’s changing.
Several vending operators who did not want to be identified reported using fuel surcharges. They said they have found it a good alternative to raising product prices. It is possible to simply deduct the charge from commissions in accounts that get commissions.
FreshDirect, a grocery delivery company, charges a fee based on the average retail price of gasoline in their area (published by the Department of Energy). For $3.00 a gallon or more, the fee is $.79. On its Website, the fee is explained: “The fuel surcharge helps cover not merely the increased cost of making deliveries to our customers, but also broad increases in commodity and utility prices that directly effect running — and refrigerating — our facility.”
There’s no fast and easy way for vending operators to save money on fuel. Investing in equipment and designating time to analyze savings possibilities is more important than ever. Product price increases due to added fuel costs and technology investments are inevitable. Communicating with location managers will soften the blow.
BEWARE OF FUEL SAVING SCAMS
When adding technology to vehicles to save gas, beware of gimmicks. In a Wall Street Journal article titled “Do Fuel-Saving Gadgets Take You for a Ride?” author Jonathan Welsh reports that fuel savings kits, like fans to swirl air before combustion or inject material into fuel lines, have no governmental backing. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission said these products don’t generally improve fuel efficiency. Manufacturers of such products claimed the government only tested products that didn’t work.
One technology that got anecdotal support in the article was the ScanGauge II (www.scangauge.com). A device that plugs into the OBDII connector inside a vehicle, the ScanGaugeII monitors miles per gallon in real time based on engine information. The rate value goes up and down as the driver drives, giving feedback as how to maximize fuel usage. It shows fuel per trip, per tank and allows the fleet manager to compare routes for fuel economy.
Fuel saving actions and the savings they can provide:
Avoid Aggressive driving
- Prevent rapid acceleration
- Eliminate hard braking
- Use cruise control on relatively flat roads
- Use overdrive gears
= 5-33% savings in fuel
- Speeds over 55 to 60 miles per hour are less efficient
= 7-23% savings in fuel
Reduce Truck weight
- Pare down weight with lighter shelving and fewer products or equipment
= decrease of 100 lbs. equals 2% savings in fuel