Across the country, fuel costs are forcing schools to alter their schedules and plans for next year.
A Tennessee school district pulled school bus services on the last day of school. A North Carolina district trimmed the amount of field trips students were able to go on. And a Minneapolis school district is considering eliminating a day of school each week next year to trim their fuel costs.
There are countless other examples of ways districts are reducing their school bus fuel expenses. There are also ways school bus fleets can help curb costs.
Here are five ways your fleet operation can reduce its fuel consumption:
Correct Drivers’ Behaviors
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, fleets can reduce fuel usage by 5 to 10% by improving drivers’ behaviors. Correcting aggressive drivers can result in even more savings – up to 20%.
Some of the costliest driver behaviors are speeding, sudden acceleration, aggressive braking, and excess idling.
The U.S. Department of Energy states that speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking can lower your gas mileage by 15 to 30% at highway speeds, and 10 to 40% in stop-and-go traffic. Idling can waste one gallon per hour. This can add up if drivers are idling their vehicles excessively.
Identifying drivers who are engaging in these behaviors and providing them with training to eliminate these actions can result in savings for your operation. A telematics solution can help you determine which drivers are the biggest offenders. These can also work with certain apps to tell drivers which gas station has the lowest fuel prices per gallon to help save money.
If you have diesel buses in your fleet, you can also use the electronic control module and set it to limit idling to a specific time – like 5 minutes, for example – before the vehicle will shut off.
Check the Tires
Check the buses’ tires before they set out on their routes. Under-inflated tires can result in high fuel usage. This can be an easy fix and something that can be completed during a pre-trip vehicle inspection. Have the drivers check the tires and ensure they are properly filled before hitting the roads.
In addition to reducing fuel costs, correctly inflated tires can also endure more wear and tear, meaning they will last longer before needing to be replaced.
Inspect the Axle Alignment
Properly aligned axles can help reduce a buses’ fuel consumption. Axles that are significantly out of alignment can result in poor fuel economy, as well as reduced tire life, difficult driving conditions, and an unsafe vehicle for drivers to operate and students to ride in.
Perform Regular Preventative Maintenance Services
Keeping your school bus in good working condition can let it operate efficiently. Performing regular preventative maintenance services allows your shop to inspect the vehicle regularly to:
- Perform oil changes at manufacturer-recommended intervals.
- Check all fluid levels and replenish as needed.
- Check the exterior of the vehicle for damage.
- Check the interior of the vehicle for damage.
- Check for operational defects.
- Examine the headlights, taillights, and blinkers.
- Inspect the tires for wear and tear and pressure levels.
- Inspect the brakes, including the emergency brake and brake pads.
- Inspect the heating and air conditioning systems.
- Check the windshield wipers and fluid levels.
- Check the flashing lights and stop-arms.
- Examine all safety equipment.
This can help technicians identify potential issues with your buses before they become major issues, and correct ailments that could be impacting your fuel efficiency.
Negotiate Better Prices
Another option to reduce fuel spending is to negotiate a contract for lower fuel prices. You can pursue this through a state contract with a co-op, or by asking for lower pricing based on your fleet’s usage and volume. This can result in savings that you wouldn’t have if you just paid the requested retail price.
Use an Electronic Fuel Interface
To reduce your school bus fleet’s fuel usage, you must identify how much fuel each vehicle is using. This can be difficult to monitor manually as you need to keep track of each vehicle’s odometer and fuel usage. An easy way to do this is through an Electronic Fuel Interface (EFI). This can sync with your fleet management software system, like RTA’s, to give you the data you need. This lets you determine if a particular driver is using more fuel than necessary (which can help you identify if he or she is using the vehicle for personal usage or errands and not just completing his or her route), and also if a particular vehicle is using too much fuel per gallon. Determining this can help you identify if there is a maintenance issue with the vehicle, or if it’s becoming too expensive to keep that bus on the roads. Pulling analytics from your fuel usage can help you identify cases of fraud, theft, or even if drivers are using the wrong fuel type (using premium instead of regular).