30 Oct
Investing in a raft of new fleet vehicles can be a difficult decision for business owners, even if they're more fuel efficient.

Is fuel economy a burden for fleet managers?

In today's enterprise space, any kind of solution that can save company funds – even marginally – will most likely be welcomed by decision makers. For fleet managers, as vehicles grow more efficient and tools such as fuel cards become widely used, it would be safe to assume that they're saving the operation money.

Fuel economy at large has hardly improved over the last 15 years.

Stagnant efficiency

However, while many are seeking out ways to improve the cost effectiveness of their fleets, research from the University of Michigan suggested that fuel economy at large has hardly improved over the last 15 years.

Researchers with the University's Transportation Research Institute explained that the average actual on-road fuel economy for all vehicles (trucks, cars, vans, motorcycles and buses) was at 16.9 miles per gallon (MPG) in 1991. The figure improved marginally to 17.6 MPG in 2013.

"Vehicle manufacturers achieved major improvements in the on-road fuel economy of vehicles [in the mid 20th century]. However, the slope of the improvement has decreased substantially since 1991," explained University of Michigan researcher Michael Sivak.

The reason for the lack of truly noticeable change is due to the fact that the turnover of an entire fleet can take some time. Even as the vehicles available to fleet managers have grown more complex in how they use fuel, implementing them in one movement just isn't cost effective for the vast majority of enterprises.

Change on the horizon?

While sweeping change may not be achievable by fleet managers alone, the fact that they can save their businesses money by using the most efficient vehicles means that the majority are for amendments to current regulations.

In fact, a research study collated by CALSTART explained that 87 per cent of fleet managers support changes to the guidelines surrounding fuel economy. Perhaps even more tellingly, 89 per cent said they'd be happy to pay higher up front costs if it meant that they garnered a more fuel efficient fleet in the long term.

It may not be cost effective to replace a large fleet with more fuel efficient vehicles over a short period of time.It may not be cost effective to replace a large fleet with more fuel efficient vehicles over a short period of time.

The business decision

As touched on, the majority of fleet managers are looking to secure vehicles that will service them for many years to come, while also being efficient over that period. Despite the statistics from CALSTART, this leaves business owners in a catch-22 situation.

There are savings to be made by purchasing the most fuel efficient vehicles today, but the initial outlay may be too much for the company to afford.

Ultimately, fuel efficiency should be well considered by fleet managers and business decision makers alike. Striking a balance between the costs of a highly economical vehicle and how much it could save in the future is certainly an issue, but it is one that should yield positive results once overcome.