Businesses could be saving around £600 per car per year in fuel costs simply by changing driver behaviour.
Delegates to this year's Institute of Car Fleet Management (ICFM) annual conference were told that the £600 figure (consistently cited by three seminar speakers at the conference) is in line with findings from the Energy Saving Trust, which suggest potential savings of 15% in fuel consumption after drivers attend an 'eco-driving' training course.
However, Jon Mackney, manager of Arval's UK Consultancy division, said businesses could do more than just send drivers on training.
"Looking at fuel costs on a holistic basis, we can identify savings around the equivalent of 30p per litre," he said. "Vehicle selection has by far the greatest influence on that figure but fuel-purchase habits and fuel consumption are areas where we can really change driver behaviour."
Mackney highlighted average fuel costs in a recent survey where the cheapest diesel was sold at Asda supermarkets for 136p a litre while the most expensive was a BP station at 144ppl. For a typical fleet of 300 LCVs averaging 30mpg, the potential saving in fuel cost alone over a year was £72,736.
"You need to identify the non-conformers, those drivers who always fill up at motorway service stations, and drop them an e-mail," he said. "Once that happens, people start to take note and it sets the parameters of behaviour that you are expecting."
Mackney said it was "not unusual" to reach a point where 70% of drivers were consistently buying from low-cost sites.
Anthony Sale, a senior engineer from Millbrook Proving Ground, said analysis of driver behaviour under controlled conditions suggested savings of 29% in fuel consumption could be achieved, but 10-12% was more typical in real-world driving. Key factors were teaching drivers to change up earlier, coasting in gear where possible and avoiding harsh acceleration.
Sale called for a green, 'eco-band' to be displayed over the most efficient engine range on rev counters to encourage better driver behaviour.
Dr Gerhard Manogg, director of Imagitech, said driver behaviour could best be influenced by engaging them in a formal assessment programme. His figures suggested a 5-10% improvement in fuel consumption.