Committing to fuel efficiency

To run an effective fuel efficiency programme, management commitment is vital. This page outlines issues you should consider before you get started.

Benefits of fuel efficiency

There are many benefits to running a more fuel-efficient fleet.

  • Improved profit - fuel cost savings of up to10% are typical in fleets with a fuel efficiency programme.
  • Improved safety - safe driving and fuel-efficient driving are essentially the same. Both require drivers to observe and anticipate situations, manage speed and keep vehicles in good condition. Benefits include fewer infringements, complaints and lower maintenance and insurance costs.
  • Reduced emissions - improved fuel efficiency reduces a company's carbon footprint.
  • National benefits - better fuel efficiency reduces New Zealand's reliance on imported fuel, which is good for the economy and energy security. It also reduces national carbon emissions.

What affects fuel consumption?

Fuel use is affected by a number of factors. Even if some are beyond your control, it's important to understand their influence on overall fuel consumption.

  • Staff - drivers have a major effect on fuel consumption. Understanding and influencing their daily activities is vital in managing fuel use. This covers recruitment, training, motivation and participation in your programme.
  • Vehicles - the key factors affecting fuel use are:
    • specification - gross vehicle weight, vehicle size, engine specification, engine power and torque, gearbox, final drive ratios
    • vehicle age
    • condition and maintenance - including tyre pressure and engine tuning
    • equipment and products used - such as lubricants, telematics and aerodynamics
    • body type - appropriate for the load.
  • Load - size and weight of the load affect fuel use.
  • Routes and traffic conditions.
  • Weather.

Starting your fuel efficiency programme

  1. Develop an action plan - establish costs and benefits at the beginning of your programme to help you set targets.
  2. Get senior management commitment - your programme is more likely to be successful if staff know the whole organisation is committed to it.
  3. Appoint a fuel champion - having one person who’s responsible for the programme provides a focal point and accountability. They must have authority to implement changes.
  4. Manage the effect on staff - a fuel management programme means culture change. Managers must support and encourage drivers while they learn new fuel-efficient skills and behaviours. Treat fuel usage as a manageable issue. Regularly talk about progress to drivers and managers.

Example of payback

A fleet operator decided to invest in aerodynamic equipment for an articulated vehicle.
The capital cost per vehicle was $2,000 and the fuel used by the vehicle cost $50,000 per year. Tests showed an average 5% fuel saving through using the aerodynamic equipment.

  • Investment - aerodynamic equipment $2,000 including fitting.
  • Estimated fuel savings - $2,500 per year (5% of $50,000).
  • Payback period - 9.6 months (approximately).

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

For saving fuel, the most important KPI is fuel efficiency in km/litre for each vehicle, or litres per 100 km travelled (L/100km).

Calculate this by filling your tanks at the end of each month and taking odometer or hubodometer readings. GPS-based service providers may be able to provide distance figures, too. As with all your figures, they must be accurate to be useful. You need at least 3 months to establish a reasonable baseline.

Other KPIs to consider:

  • fuel productivity in tonne-km/litre or revenue/litre of fuel used (fuel intensity), to help you to look at ways of getting the most out of every dollar of fuel you spend.
  • time spent when the engine is idling and the vehicle is not moving down the road
  • speeding events or time spent over the legal speed limit, especially time spent above 90km/h. Speeding makes very little difference to total travel time, but uses a lot more fuel. 

Start making changes


Harsh driving uses up to 30% more fuel than smooth driving uses.  There are several simple measures you can take to improve your driver's fuel consumption.

Driver behaviour

Tyres and wheel alignment

Inflating tyres and aligning wheels correctly saves fuel. A vehicle with a tyre under-inflated by 10 psi across an axle set uses 1% more fuel. Having even one degree of misalignment across an axle set not only increases wear on tyres but also increases fuel use.

Tyres for buses and trucks


Review your maintenance procedures to give special attention to engine tuning, unblocking air filters, using the best oil and making sure brakes don't drag.

 Maintaining buses and trucks

Aerodynamic devices

There is little benefit to be had from fitting aerodynamic devices to vehicles that operate at average speeds lower than 70km/hr. However, to save on fuel when operating at these lower speeds, place loads near headboards when possible. Using covers on empty tipper bodies saves fuel at all speeds. For higher speed operation, the biggest improvement will come from a properly fitted cab roof deflector or fitting side guards or panels (skirts) to trucks and trailers. Skirts not only improve fuel efficiency but also reduce road spray in wet conditions, provide some under-run protection and improve vehicle stability.


Route planning systems

Route planning software (also known as job booking and dispatch software) can help you operate your fleet more efficiently, reducing costs and improving profitability and competitiveness.

Route planning systems


Used well, telematics can significantly improve heavy vehicle fleet productivity and efficiency, including through reducing distance travelled, operational costs and fuel consumption. However telematics are a measurement and reporting tool only - not a substitute for fleet management and driver training.