Fight Higher Fuel Prices With Street Smarts

Gas GaugeIt’s no secret that gas prices are on their way up significantly again. Upward pressures due to global demand and unrest in the Middle East always seem to trump increased domestic production.

I’m certain the neither of us like it, but there’s nothing we can do about it, except incorporate strategies to reduce our consumption. Small businesses do not have as much ability to absorb these price hikes as large corporations, so that means SMBs need to play all the angles. These “street smart” tips should get your started:

Route planning. There are a number of good apps available today that allow you to find the most fuel-efficient way to drive between Point A and Point B. Many are free. See if they take traffic into consideration.

For small businesses that need to make deliveries or the solopreneur who calls on a variety of clients, a fee-based app like Route4Me is worth considering. You can get the ideal route for multiple stops.

I need to mention one more thing before moving on: not only does efficient route planning save on fuel, it saves on your time as well as all the maintenance associated with keeping vehicles in good condition.

Scheduling. Virtually every metropolitan area has distinct traffic flows associated with the morning and evening commute hours. Sitting in traffic is a huge waste of fuel and time even if you’re navigating the most efficient route. Can you make some creative schedule adjustments that would keep your drivers out of the heavy commute traffic?

Perhaps stationing a company delivery vehicle off site to allow a route to begin from a more favorable position could be arranged. Maybe starting earlier or later would be a strategy that works for you.

Maintain your vehicles. Dirty air filters, under-inflated tires and other maintenance items can erode fuel efficiency. You might want to move up to higher performance air intakes and other upgrades when you have the opportunity. If you have a fleet of vehicles, you could use one to test various upgrades and see if the changes would be worth making to the others. Also, get unnecessary junk out of and off of your vehicle; extra weight costs MPGs.

Promote efficient driving habits. Some folks are into “hypermiling” which promotes a wide range of driving tactics to maximize fuel efficiency. Most are not suited for business, however one of the biggest principles behind hypermiling is: go slower and steadier. Here are 100 driving tips—from the ridiculous to the very practical—and if you want to see how the Mythbusters increased their mileage by 30 percent as they held a steady speed of 45 mph, check out the video of the experiment and the after-show.

Weigh in on proposed gas tax hike. You need to know that Congress is beginning to consider a proposal to increase the federal tax on gasoline by 12 cents and then index it to inflation. They promise to offset the increase by reinstating some tax breaks. Check out the proposal and let your representatives in DC know if your for it, or against it.

Finally, remember that higher fuel prices hit your employees personally as well. More flexible scheduling and telecommuting might work for your business and help increase loyalty among your team.

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