Most businesses based on road transport are highly competitive and the winners will be those that have a clear understanding of their day to day operational costs. The information also provides a direct correlation with the operator’s carbon footprint. As they say – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
Measuring vehicle fuel consumption is fairly straight forward. Traditionally expressed as miles per gallon or if you prefer miles per litre, it’s a calculated figure based on how much fuel was put into the vehicle and the distance it has travelled.
The benchmarks are clear – so any sudden drop in performance should ring alarm bells immediately. Given that fuel quality is constant the only variables and potential anomalies (apart from criminal activity) are dependent on the condition of the vehicle and the way in which it is being driven. Factors such as engine performance, correct tyre pressures, excessive idling and driving style will all have some impact on the vehicle’s fuel consumption.
For fleet operators that have installed depot facilities, there are four fundamental pieces of information that can be captured as vehicles are being fuelled; the actual vehicle, the person fuelling, current odometer reading and the amount drawn.
Fuel management systems require this information to authenticate the transaction.
There are various methods to identify the vehicle. Datatags are the most common. These are assigned to individual vehicles and are usually carried with the vehicle ignition keys. As an alternative to datatags Merridale can also support agency cards, datakeys or simply using the keyboard to enter the vehicle details. (registration or fleet number). Alternatively a fixed ID tag attached to the vehicle can communicate with the fuelling point by using a cabled reader. Of late this method has proved to be an extremely popular and reliable choice in that it prevents all the potential swapping and loss of hand held options.
For driver identification and as an additional security factor, the vehicle driver can also be identified by entering a PIN or by means of a phob datatag or card swipe. Some fleet operators require this function to compare the economy performance for individual drivers who are assigned to different vehicles.
Distance travelled since the vehicle was fuelled previously is based on the odometer reading. This can be entered either manually via the pump keyboard, or obtained electronically by using a vehicle mounted wireless transducer. Since the quality of the reports depends on the integrity of this input, the software can be set up to validate the odometer reading. To do this the new input is checked against the mileage entered for the previous fuelling transaction.
New developments include the integration of the depot fuel management system with odometer or distance travelled data obtained directly from telematics and the tracking company’s servers automatically. The final part of the equation, the fuel drawn and date are recorded on completion of the fuelling transaction.
One major advantage over other devices is that by measuring the quantity of fuel that has actually been delivered to the vehicle fuel tanks, the Fleet operator will have better quality and more consistent statistics to work with than by using various other means of calculating fuel usage
Having captured the data the basic purpose of the Fuel Management system is to present this to the company managers in an appropriate format. The data can be processed according to different requirements. Cost accounting needs to be accurate but not necessarily urgent. On the other hand, a more serious situation highlighting possible malpractice needs to be processed urgently and within a restricted distribution.
The web-based reporting service can be set up to provide a management dash board with real time data feeds showing the current status of one or multiple fuelling points. In general the information is organised to suit the user requirements. It can be consolidated as summary reports available either on demand or scheduled to be delivered on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. Since it is a web service, the information can be accessed from any web browser as and whenever it is required.
Stephen Hannan, Sales Director, Merridale