Fuel: Why picking the right type matters for your fleet
Driver performance, fleet risk, the costs of vehicle downtime and accidents... all are common anxieties for fleet managers. Given that, it makes sense to lower fleet risk and costs any way you can.
To do so, it's important to look at the little details. One way is making sure you’re using the best fuel type for your fleet. The right fuel can greatly reduce operational costs while maintaining vehicle performance and value over time. That means less servicing, more uptime, and greater fleet efficiency and stability.
In this blog, we’ll explain how to choose the right fuel for your fleet, and share key features of common fuels to help you decide.
What factors affect fuel choice, and why does it matter?
First, fuel type should fit the essential characteristics of your fleet. By reviewing the way your fleet works, you can effectively narrow down which fuel type will be most practical and cost-effective in the long run. Some factors to consider are:
- Who your fleet operators are. No two fleets are the same, and different driver job roles naturally call for different vehicles and driving expectations — for example, sales associates vs. truck drivers.
- When the vehicles will be used most. The time of day your drivers work, and whether they are driving every day, could both influence fuel choice.
- What purposes the vehicles are used for. Vehicles carrying supplies or special loads often have very different fuel needs from cars meant to carry just a few people at a time.
- Whether your fleet operates over short or long distances. Shorter journeys are better suited to some fuel types than long ones.
Taking the above into account, the right fuel choice can mean huge savings at the refuelling station or when maintenance is needed. On the other hand, a mismatch between fuel type and your fleet’s purpose can lead to shortened vehicle lifecycles, more downtime, higher service and repair costs, and lower efficiency.
The roles of fuel economy, sustainability, and local government standards
Controlling costs is a key goal of fleet management. By picking vehicles that offer better fuel economy — that is, vehicles that run on more cost-effective fuel types — you'll spend less to get more mileage out of your fleet.
Also, companies everywhere are increasingly concerned about meeting sustainability targets and reducing carbon emissions, both as part of corporate missions and because laws require it. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment amended fuel regulations in 2017 to improve petrol and diesel quality, aiming to reduce harm to the atmosphere.
As local fuel regulations evolve, adherence will become more and more important. Early compliance with environmental rules can spare your company from admin and legal burdens down the road.
Four fuel types, and their pros and cons
Here are the four common types of fuel, along with some key benefits and drawbacks of each for modern fleets.
Petrol is one of the best-known and most-available types of fuel. Vehicles that run on petrol tend to be the cheapest. It’s also easy to find a petrol station for refuelling, and costs are reasonably low. However, vehicles that run on petrol tend to score lower on fuel economy and resale value than other types. They can also be more expensive to maintain.
Diesel is also a popular choice for fleet vehicles. The clear advantage is better fuel economy than petrol offers. However, diesel-powered vehicles typically cost more to purchase and refuel. Diesel also releases more nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) into the atmosphere than petrol does, a drawback in terms of environmental targets.
New-tech hybrid vehicles feature batteries that are recharged with consistent braking. Combined with the fuel economy and sustainability advantages they offer over diesel- and petrol-fuelled vehicles, this makes hybrids a great option for fleets operating over small distances or in urban areas.
Because of the regenerative braking needs, hybrids are a poor choice for fleets that heavily depend on highways.
While electric vehicles are not yet mainstream, they offer virtually zero carbon emissions, low refuelling expenses, and low maintenance. But because charging points can be few and far between, electric vehicles are best for fleets operating in big cities and sticking to short distances.
Choosing the right kind of fuel is a big deal for your fleet — with many more nuances than meets the eye. It’s important to consider exactly how your fleet operates and the costs of refuelling, as well as your fuel economy and sustainability targets. From there, you’re better able to choose a fuel that will keep your fleet running profitably and efficiently.
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