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    Contractingbusiness 1439 0410 Smallvehicles

    Getting There for Less: Small Vehicles, Big Benefits

    April 1, 2010
    Light trucks or smaller passenger vehicles, improved dispatching methods, and on-site vehicle service can help you economize on fleet expenses and maximize service efficiency.

    If you want to save big on your fleet bills, consider going small. For the past three years, we at Benson’s Heating & Air Conditioning have been taking a new approach with our service vehicle fleet. We’re getting away from heavy, utility-body vehicles and buying more light trucks and other vehicles with small, fuel-efficient engines.

    We’re carefully controlling the inventory we carry on our trucks, so that we’re not carrying equipment (and weight) that we don’t need. We still have some vans, but as we update the fleet, we’re buying half-ton pickups with six-cylinder engines. We equip these smaller, lighter trucks with built-in, locking aluminum tools boxes and a ladder rack, and they do the job just fine.

    In the process, we’re increasing our miles per gallon per vehicle by more than 50% — the vans get about 10 mpg, while the trucks get 15 to 16 — so it makes a huge difference.

    We’ve also found that many supply houses will deliver materials to site for us. Our supply houses now take on much of that responsibility, which allowed us to downsize our delivery vehicles. In addition, now we can almost always just leave our big delivery truck parked — and a parked vehicle is the most fuel-efficient kind.

    Servicing Fleet While Technicians Meet
    Also, we maximize our fuel mileage and our fleet’s life by being extremely careful with our maintenance. We now have one person in charge of tracking all the mileage and making sure that all the manufacturer’s maintenance schedules are met. We’ve hired an auto service company that performs our oil changes right here in our yard. That way, we know it’s done on our schedule and our time. The mechanic comes to our office when all of our technicians are here for their monthly meeting, and takes care of three or four vehicles while the meeting’s in progress. It’s very efficient. All of our vehicles are here at that time, and we know that the maintenance is getting done.

    Since we’ve been keeping up with the maintenance ourselves, we’ve had no major repair issues, such as transmissions, or engines that just weren’t being properly maintained.

    Letting Customers Know
    Fuel-efficient vehicles, efficient dispatching, and regular maintenance help make our fleet as green as it can be, and we let our customers know about it. In all of our customer communications — our quarterly newsletters, post cards, and television and newspaper ads — we have a picture of me standing in front of one of our little vehicles: our Scion XB or our Chrysler PT Cruiser. These cars look great with all of our company’s graphics on them, and they help people realize that not only is my name Green, but also that we’re the green company.

    These tips will save you money, make your company more efficient, maximize your fleet’s life, and boost your company’s image. Those are big benefits from going small.

    Benson Green is the president of Benson’s Heating & Air Conditioning, Tallahassee, FL. He can be reached at 850/205-7244 or [email protected]