6 Tips for Efficient Fuel Consumption and Route Planning

Two positive things about 2020 were the low gas prices and the desolate highways.  It was almost eerie at times when I was leaving the city at 5:00 pm—the gridlock hour—and I’m breezing along 95 because there’s only a few vehicles driving beside me. The wonderful surreal experience is now over along with cheap fuel.

With gas prices rising fast and traffic returning to normal congestion, reducing fuel consumption is another place interiorscapers can work to cut costs. Since a majority of the interiorscape industry is traveling from one client location to another, improving gas mileage can have a major impact on profits.  Here are some ideas to help improve margins with this expense.

Fuel Surcharge

One way to offset fuel costs is to add a small fuel surcharge on to monthly invoices. This may cause some client complaints, some cancellation threats or perhaps no reaction at all. Preparing how you or your team reacts to this pushback can make the difference between a little extra cash flow or possibly losing a client.  

Review Service Routes

If you’ve gotten a little lax like me with your company driving habits, now is the time to take a hard look over service routes. Many of mine haven’t changed in years. While they are all grouped together by area, I was able to incorporate some of the smaller buildings into larger routes, and was able to eliminate an entire route, further minimizing my fuel consumption. 

You may also have some smaller accounts which don’t require much maintenance every week.  For example, I have one building with all drought tolerant, low light foliage that’s fifteen miles from the next account. I switched that building from a weekly to a bi-monthly schedule.  Besides saving valuable time and gas, this change actually improved replacement costs since weekly watering was causing some root rot. 

Installs and Replacements

Some larger interiorscaping companies have a separate team that handles all the new installs and account replacements.  Generally, they will use a large box truck which is the worst on gas mileage. I used to do installs as soon as all the material was ready, but now, I may hold off a week or so until I have other jobs in the same area. Sending out a half empty truck is inefficient, and having technicians replace smaller 6” plants instead can make a big difference in fuel consumption.    

Gas Cards & Apps

The traditional way to save at the pump was to acquire a gas rewards credit card. If you’re good at paying off your credit card balances every month, unlike myself, this is a great option. I’ve found using a fuel app on my phone works best for me. There are several to choose from and depending on which gas stations you frequent, and some will offer more benefits than others.  Some apps will give you savings on each gallon, some give cash back or gift cards with points. One nice feature is when the app alerts you when you’re in a gas station’s vicinity.  Now, if you’re good with credit and use an app, your savings can double. 

Vehicle Maintenance

Make sure your fleet is on schedule for oil changes, clean air filters and spark plugs to help enhance proper gas mileage. Correct tire pressure also makes a difference. I used to carry a tire pressure gauge in my glove compartment, but with newer vehicles, the dashboard saves you this trouble if you don’t ignore the symbol. Another vehicle improvement to make are low rolling resistance tires that increase mileage by 1-2 percent.  So, replacing old tires with LRR tires can offer benefits in the long run.  

Driving Habits

In addition to safe driving habits, taking on other driving habits can help save with gas consumption. Parking in the shade instead of direct sun can help prevent gas evaporation and also cooling strain on the engine. An easy fuel saving habit is also not carrying any unnecessary material.  The more weight your engine has to move, the less efficient it gets. So, take out those heavy bags of soil or containers until you need them. 

On hot days when the air conditioner is running, make sure the air intake control is set on the inside intake and not from the outside vent. The vehicle will cool much faster and will put less strain on the engine. Idling for more than a minute will require more fuel, than if the vehicle was turned off and restarted. This is the main reason that scheduling routes around peak travel times will not only help your sanity, but also help you save money at the pump.

It can be easy to settle into regular routes and routines. However, periodic review of regular routes can help you and your team save both time and money. What recent route changes have you made that led to improved efficiencies?

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

Fiberglass Planters

Leave a Reply

Join the Community