Planning for Fuel Efficiency: What are the Best Strategies?


Fuel is one of the highest regular expenses for any fleet. In turn, route planning can make a dramatic difference to fuel efficiency; however, sometimes it is hard to know how to approach it. Optimization covers a lot more than getting trucks from A to B. 

Here are seven strategies you can integrate into your route planning to maximize fuel efficiency.

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Planning shorter trips is the most obvious way to reduce fuel consumption in route planning. However, you should not just be picking the path with the fewest miles. You should also consider the route’s speed limits and directness.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, light-duty trucks are most efficient at between 40 and 50 miles per hour, with a significant drop off after 60 mph. While going faster may mean less time on the road, it does not necessarily mean you are burning less fuel, as your engine will be less efficient. Finding routes with average speeds within that 40 to 50 mph sweet spot may yield bigger savings than faster alternatives.

Routes with minimal turns are also ideal. The more direct a path is, the less likely a driver will make mistakes or need to slow down to see where they are going.


You should also consider traffic along potential routes. One way may be faster on empty roads but experiences heavy daily traffic. Consequently, it may be less efficient in the real world than it seems on paper.

According to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, trucks idle for 1,000 hours annually on average, leading to millions of dollars in wasted fuel. If you can avoid traffic, you can minimize that idling time. While you can’t predict all traffic jams, you can recognize congestion-prone roads and events ahead of time, and plan to go around them.

Look at your past routes to see where you have encountered traffic the most often. It’s also important to consider temporary factors like construction or local events that could draw large crowds. Finally, always refer to real-time traffic data in case congestion does not follow predictable patterns.


Vehicle right-sizing is another great route-planning strategy for fuel efficiency. In the rush to shorten delivery times, many fleets send trucks out half-empty. While this seems faster initially, it is highly inefficient in the long run.

Smaller loads may shorten one truck’s route, but you will need more shipments overall. Completing more deliveries in a single trip is far more fuel efficient. The key to balancing these larger loads with productivity is to choose the right-sized vehicle for the job.

If you have multiple deliveries within a reasonable distance of each other, pack all these goods into a larger vehicle. Save smaller trucks and vans for shipments that do not fit neatly into the routes. In all cases, adjust your schedules not to send any vehicle out until it is at optimal capacity, being careful not to overload or underload anything.


Similarly, you can do more in one trip if you factor in backhauls. Your vehicles must drive back at the end of their day anyway. Why not take that opportunity to move more goods while you are at it?

If any deliveries are near a pickup location for another shipment, see if a truck can pick the order up on its way back. En-route pickups offer a similar opportunity. As your vehicles make deliveries, their onboard capacity grows. You may be able to pick up more goods on the way to extend their trip.

These adjustments will make individual routes longer. However, they can minimize your overall number of shipments, using less fuel overall.


Effective route planning is about more than choosing a path to follow. You should also schedule vehicles around their ongoing maintenance needs.

Seemingly minor factors can make a significant difference in fuel consumption over time. According to Fisk Tank Carrier, tire inflation alone can reduce your fuel efficiency by three per cent in some cases. If you do not consider wear and tear when scheduling shipments, your fleet will struggle to reach maximum efficiency. Maintenance-centric route planning starts with understanding each vehicle’s care needs. From there, you can determine when each needs tire rotations, inflations, oil changes and similar maintenance. Cycle through vehicles so each has time for these regular steps and no one truck spends more time on the road between repairs than others.


Regardless of your other route-optimization strategies, you must be ready to adapt. Having a schedule is essential, but few, if any, plans work out as expected the first time. Alternatively, your strategy could work perfectly, but then conditions change, and it is not as effective anymore. Adaptation is key in both scenarios.

Effective adaptation relies on measurement. Track your fuel spending, mileage, route lengths and any other related factors. Over time, this data will show you how effective your strategies really are.

If your fuel efficiency is declining or does not improve as you hoped, adjust your plan. Keep watching the same factors to see if those changes worked. You will have to keep tweaking little things, slowly becoming more efficient.


Finally, do not be afraid of technology. Artificial intelligence (AI) makes implementing all these other strategies easier and is often more accurate than humans trying to do the same.

Some logistics companies have improved efficiency by 25 percent using AI route optimization software. These tools use machine learning to look at factors like real-time traffic, speeds, and even backhauling opportunities to determine the ideal route for each shipment. Weighing all these factors yourself is difficult and time consuming, but AI excels at this kind of problem-solving.

You can choose from several AI-powered route planning software options today and new options emerge regularly. Look for one that meets your budget and weighs the factors most important to your fleet, and do not forget to adjust it over time.


You can boost your fleet’s fuel efficiency with just one of these route-planning strategies. Implementing a few or, ideally, all of them will produce even bigger results.

When you know what practices waste fuel, you can adjust your routes to avoid them. The more you save, the more sustainable and cost-effective you will become as a company, securing a brighter future for your business.


Emily Newton has eight years of creating logistics and supply chain articles under her belt. She loves helping people stay informed about industry trends. Her work in Global Trade Magazine and Parcel showcases her ability to identify newsworthy stories. When Emily is not writing, she enjoys building Lego sets with her husband.

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