Fuel consumption monitoring

Description / objective

Fuel Consumption is monitored by transport operators for a number of different reasons:

  • Fuel is a significant cost input for any bus company. In developing countries, fuel can account for 30-50% of total costs. The difference between efficient and wasteful consumption of fuel can equal the profit margin of the operator and determine its viability.
  • It is attractive to steal fuel, as it is untraceable and can usually be traded easily for cash. This is especially the case in developing countries where 4-5 litres of fuel may equate to the average daily industrial wage. Fuel theft can become rife among drivers who attempt to siphon it off, or among other staff who try to organise bulk theft.
  • Higher than average fuel consumption indicates poor driving habits, such as heavy acceleration. Such driving habits are hard on the vehicle (with reduced life and increased maintenance costs) and increase the risk of accidents.
  • Higher fuel consumption usually results in increased greenhouse gases and other emissions.

Efficient Operators make a concerted effort to eliminate theft of fuel and wasteful fuel consumption. As with Revenue Protection, the strategies are based on principle of “detect and deter”. The IT systems assist the Operator in the detection role. Deterrence remains a disciplinary matter, and court process where the scale warrants it.

The Fuel Consumption Monitoring function has the following tasks:

  • Record all fuel dispensed against every vehicle, and track this over time.
  • Reconcile total fuel dispensed against total fuel deliveries
  • Relate fuel dispensed to vehicles to the kilometres operated, route, and allocated driver(s)
  • Analyse averages and variances by vehicle, by driver and by route, and highlight high/low values and anomalies
  • Track the impact of interventions and remedial actions
  • Support user-configured queries
  • Generate standard and customised reports

It is important to note that Fuel Consumption Monitoring tools do not automatically improve fuel consumption (just as Revenue Protection support tools do not automatically eliminate revenue leakage). These tools assist an experienced user to identify anomalies and where there are potential problems. It is still the task of the Operator to interpret the results, and follow through with detection and deterrence actions.

Technologies, data and resources

Fuel Consumption Monitoring tools are software systems. They are primarily tools to track data over time, compare patterns, and to highlight patterns, vehicles and drivers that merit on-the-ground scrutiny. There are many off-the-shelf products, since the issue is also of high concern in the logistics sector. Some operators develop their own in-house software, usually as extensions of in-house fuel dispensing software or AVM systems.

The primary data requirements are the fuel dispensing records (from the fuel dispensing system), vehicle kilometres (from AVM system and hub odometer readings), daily vehicle assignment by route (from AVM system), and driver to vehicle assignment records (from AVM or rostering system).

Computational requirements are modest, as the analysis is not complex. The number of records may be significant.

Advantages and cautions

The primary advantages of ITS-supported Fuel Consumption Monitoring are:

  • All available information is consolidated in a single system to cross-check and detect potential problems
  • Input data is generated automatically by the various ITS systems (especially the AVM and staff assignment functions). This saves substantial time and cost.
  • Data can be transferred automatically, both as imports and exports. This saves on data inputting costs, and eliminates human errors.
  • Profiles of usage can be generated and tracked over time
  • The impact of remedial and deterrent actions can be tracked over time, and their actual value assessed. This can provide valuable feedback on whether to continue, modify or terminate various actions.

The primary cautions are:

  • The Fuel Consumption analysis can only detect high/low values and anomalies. It still requires experience to interpret the information, and it is still a significant task to follow through with on-the-ground detection and deterrence

Case Studies