Rightsizing Your Vehicle Fleet to Conserve Fuel

Photo of a vehicle fleet

Fleet rightsizing is a management practice that can help vehicle fleet managers build and maintain sustainable, fuel-efficient fleets. Fleet inventories often grow over time to include vehicles that are highly specialized, rarely used, or unsuitable for current applications. By optimizing fleet size and composition, managers can minimize vehicle use, conserve fuel, and save money.

Evaluate Vehicle Needs and Use

Fleet managers should understand how their drivers use vehicles daily. Most fleet managers already have a handle on vehicle quantities, types, average mileage, payloads, and fuel economy. Fleet rightsizing combines this information with a critical look at fleet operations to identify opportunities for reducing fuel use.

Case Study

The City of Detroit generated $1 million in revenue working with the Clean Energy Coalition to rightsize the city's fleet by selling surplus vehicles and equipment. Learn about selling vehicles.

A fleet rightsizing strategy should evaluate the business case of each vehicle to determine whether reassigning, replacing, or eliminating the vehicle would reduce petroleum use and costs without compromising fleet activities. Fleet managers often need to define evaluation criteria and rank vehicles to complete this analysis. A fleet dominated by sport utility vehicles, for example, may find that mid-size sedans suffice with a significant reduction in fuel costs.

Fleet managers may develop their own analysis or use existing evaluation tools. The Vehicle Allocation Methodology developed by the U.S. General Services Administration is an evaluation framework that federal agency fleets use to ensure fleets are cost-effective and contain the appropriate number and type of vehicles. Learn more about this methodology in the Comprehensive Federal Fleet Management Handbook.

Make Smart Vehicle Purchases

State and Local Laws

The State of Maine has a law that requires fleets to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles to help state fleets conserve fuel and save money.

The City of San Jose, California, has a Green Fleet Policy with a strategy to optimize fleet size by removing or reassigning inefficient vehicles.

Fleet managers may decide to replace older vehicles with more fuel-efficient or alternative fuel vehicles. These purchasing strategies may help fleet managers make decisions that meet operational needs and conserve fuel:

  • Transition to Smaller, More-Efficient Engines: Using smaller engines and improving horsepower can help fleets meet operational needs without downgrading vehicle class. Some fleets choose to switch from 6-cylinder to 4-cylinder engines to help reduce fuel use and emissions.

  • Choose Lighter Vehicles: When purchasing new vehicles, look for opportunities to reduce vehicle weight. Lightweight materials and smaller components can improve fuel economy by up to 2% for every 100 pounds of weight reduced. Also try to avoid unnecessarily large body configurations and heavy accessories.

  • Use Alternative Fuels and Vehicles: Alternative fuel and fuel-efficient advanced vehicles can reduce or eliminate petroleum use and can be economical options for many fleets. Cost savings from vehicle maintenance, operation, and fuel use typically offset higher purchase prices.

Minimize Vehicle Use

In addition to reducing vehicle inventory, fleet rightsizing is about finding creative and strategic ways to reduce vehicle use. Learn about reducing vehicle miles traveled through strategies for transportation system efficiency.

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Find light-duty fuel economy information in the Fuel Economy Guide.