Smart fuel management

Published:  06 January, 2012

Depot administrator Jayne Brown keeps a close watch over the fuel used by North Kesteven DC's fleet of RCVs with the help of a Merridale fuel monitoring system.

Prior to the introduction of Merridale, fuel management at the North Kesteven District Council dDpot in Metheringham was basically a paper chase. Access to the fuel dispenser was controlled by a key and the amount of fuel drawn would be displayed on the pump meter. The driver was then expected to enter this information together with the vehicle registration onto a daily record.

Depot administrator Jayne Brown collected the record sheets each day for checking and to compile a weekly return for the finance department at the council's headquarters at Sleaford.

“This depot has a bulk storage tank and we are taking delivery of up to 8,000 litres of diesel a week. The finance department need to know where this diesel has been used and it's my job to reconcile the amount of fuel used. We have to record how much and which vehicles had been filled and balance the remaining stock in the storage tank,” she explains.

Essentially this was a manual process and therefore quite laborious and inevitably prone to errors and omission. It wasn't unusual to have a discrepancy of as much as 200 litres unaccounted for. More time would then be taken up with a forensic investigation to check that the vehicle fuelling records had been updated correctly.

Jayne continues: “As with all public bodies, operating costs are under close scrutiny. Diesel is an expensive commodity and we could see that we needed to update the management process to improve our control of this resource.

“Having been given the approval to upgrade our dispensing system, we looked around to see what solutions were available and how other fleet operators were dealing with depot fuel management.

“Merridale was selected following a competitive evaluation. Testimonials from other users were helpful and in particular, the system was also being used by a local bus and coach operator.

“Now that the Merridale system is operational our fuel management process has moved onto a different level. We are measuring fuel usage far more precisely and that has given us more insight and therefore potential for making savings in the future. The system is easy to use, information is collected automatically and the emphasis has shifted to education of the drivers.

“The Merridale reports enable us to compare vehicle mpg performance which has revealed some interesting insights – for example we have noticed that the later vehicles with low emission engines do not appear to be as fuel efficient as the older vehicles in the fleet.

“By measuring fuel economy we can also check the CO2 emissions, allowing us to monitor and reduce pollution. For instance, if we see any anomalies in fuel consumption this could point to a servicing problem with the vehicle engine.

“We can also evaluate the comparative performance for vehicles over different routes and for drivers to see how much fuel they were using – doing the same route.

“Observations have also shown that a driver with a more relaxed driving style uses less fuel than a driver who is inclined to push on quickly to finish the route as soon as possible.

“The Merridale reports will allow management to make informed decisions about vehicles and routes and re-assess our approach to shift timings in order to optimise operating costs, which is an important benefit,” concludes Jayne.

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