How small-business owners can save on summer fuel costs

Small-business owners are constantly looking for new ways to trim company expenses. As summer gas prices kick in, fleets responsible for direct store delivery runs may be spending more on fuel, which can hinder business growth plans and eat up any extra funds. As a result, more entrepreneurs are searching for ways their drivers can save on fuel use this summer.

• Encourage AC use. While many people assume air conditioning uses additional gas, it can actually help save on costs in addition to keeping drivers cool on hot days. Leaving the windows open may allow a cool breeze in, but it also creates a drag that uses more fuel than air conditioning.

• Drive sensibly. Drivers zooming along at top speeds may finish their deliveries more quickly, but they'll be wasting more fuel in the process. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) conducted research that showed the fuel economy of most vehicles drops when they are driven at speeds greater than 50 mph. By abiding by speed limits, drivers can stay safe on the road, avoid tickets and limit the number of fill-ups they need throughout the week.

• Inflate tires. Improper air pressure in tires can contribute to wasted gasoline. Company vehicles should have their air pressure checked regularly to ensure maximum fuel savings over the course of the year.

• Carry only what's necessary. Drivers need to load up their vehicles with the products they'll be delivering to clients, but they should remove all other items from the car. Extra heavy boxes and tool kits can weigh down a vehicle even more and make it less fuel efficient. By asking drivers to carry only what they plan on delivering each day, entrepreneurs can cut their expenses.

• Invest in regular maintenance. Cars, trucks and vans that aren't running optimally may cost a business more in fuel expenses, and if these problems are left unresolved, they can lead to large repair bills down the road. By scheduling regular maintenance and ensuring any issues are fixed in a timely manner, small-business owners can slash fleet bills.

• Use routing software. Fleet managers manually planning runs may not be aware they aren't accurately determining the best roads for drivers to take. By implementing the use of route planning software, business owners can rest assured their drivers are taking the shortest runs when completing pickups and deliveries, ensuring they not only make stops on time but also use as little fuel as possible.