By Michael Buck
This Opinion piece appears in the March 14 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Staggeringly high prices for fuel are with us again. The last time fuel prices were hovering in the neighborhood of $3.80 to $4.40 per gallon, many trucking companies fought back aggressively, using fuel conservation techniques and making sure drivers used the cheapest options available. However, for others it was just one more thing to put up with â€” with the help of fuel surcharges.
Many carriers climbed aboard the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyâ€™s â€œSmartWayâ€� bandwagon, which encourages companies to be fuel efficient while being good to the ecosystem. The problem with that is if a carrier lacks an â€œofficialâ€� fuel conservation program, being â€œSmartWayâ€� certified is almost a matter of â€œready, shoot, aimâ€� and doesnâ€™t accomplish much beyond its public-relations value. You even can get an outside expert to fill out the documentation SmartWay requires, and many companies have taken that route.
I hasten to add that thereâ€™s nothing at all wrong with being SmartWay certified, or even outsourcing its paperwork. But the simple truth is even with SmartWay, your effect on the environment is negligible unless you are managing the one factor with a 30% to 35% effect on fuel economy â€” your drivers.
There is absolutely nothing available on the market, no whiz-bang technology that will have more effect on your fuel bills than simply holding your drivers accountable for the fuel they use â€” or, more to the point, waste.
Itâ€™s a simple fact that when drivers operate at higher speeds, fuel costs go up â€” and maintenance and tire costs increase proportionally as well.
Whatâ€™s more, as transportation publications including Transport Topics have been reminding us in issue after issue, trucking company officials at the dawn of CSA â€” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrationâ€™s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program â€” are now mandated to hold drivers accountable for safety.
If you are in a position that now requires you to keep a close eye on drivers, you should go the next step and put the â€œtools and rulesâ€� in place to make sure those drivers are accountable for fuel performance.
Â© 2010, Transport Topics Publishing Group. All rights reserved.