Fuel Management System Drives Down Costs

No matter how many plants a ready-mix company owns, each one has several types of vehicles constantly moving in, and out, and throughout the yard. Whether

No matter how many plants a ready-mix company owns, each one has several types of vehicles constantly moving in, and out, and throughout the yard. Whether it’s a tractor-trailer bringing dry bulk cement into the plant, front-end loaders transferring ingredients onto the conveyor belt, ready-mix concrete trucks delivering the finished product to a site, or pickups running errands from site to site Û each operation spends a significant amount of money on fuel.

Breaking down the fuel cost to operate only one type of vehicle used Û the mixer truck, for instance Û company owners can quickly see why the proper fuel management system can make a significant impact on the bottom-line. On average, companies operate three- and four-axle concrete trucks with a 400-horsepower, 6-cylinder diesel engine that gets a fuel efficiency of roughly 2 to 3.5 miles per gallon. Assuming each truck drives an average of 100 miles per day at 3 mpg and $3 per gallon, the cost to keep one truck fueled per day would be $100 or an estimated $26,100 per year.

Beyond the simple fuel cost of operating the fleet, one must also consider the amount of money lost due to fuel theft, inaccurate record-keeping or the inability to allocate the correct amount of fuel cost to a given job. With diesel and gasoline prices both hovering around $3 per gallon with no relief in the short or long term, the ability for companies to properly manage their fuel is quickly becoming a top management priority.

With this in mind, a fuel management system offers a viable and effective solution for managing high-value fuel assets. The benefits of a fuel management system include accurate tracking of fuel; eliminating the need for manual (and error-prone) record keeping; improving fuel tracking for tax purposes; allocating fuel expenses for job-costing; eliminating theft; and, improving driver accountability. One company focused on providing fuel management systems to ready mixed producers is Hodgkins, Ill.-based OPW Fuel Management Systems. The company’s workhorse is the Petro Vend K800 Hybrid Fuel Control System, a complete management solution that has been installed at concrete plants across the U.S.

Suited for ready-mixed companies ranging in scale from those with a few vehicles up to large multi-site operations manning large fleets, the K800 consists of a FIT (Fuel Island Terminal), FSC (Fuel Site Controller), a choice of reader (accepting magnetic-striped cards, ChipKeys or proximity cards/keys) for user authorization and Phoenix fuel management software. The FIT is connected to dispenser(s) at the fuel island, usually next to the aboveground storage tank. The FSC is typically located in the plant office and is connected via Petro-Net cable, or wirelessly to the FIT and tank gauge at the site.

To begin the fueling process, the driver inserts a magnetic-striped card and enters the required PIN data (or other prompts selected by the owner). When the system authenticates the user’s data and fuel type, the pump is activated and the vehicle can be fueled. Driver, vehicle and transaction data are recorded in the system for later retrieval. Other popular authorization methods are available.

Rugged, tamper-resistant ChipKeys contain a microchip that can be programmed and reprogrammed as needed to change any type of fuel restrictions, mileage limits, or even flag vehicles for service. With proximity card verification, the most secure and reliable form of driver or vehicle identification available today, fueling access is either granted or denied when a cardholder waves their proximity card or key (containing an internal antenna) within a few inches of the proximity card reader installed in a K800 FIT.

Back in the office, the FSC (the heart of every K800) stores transaction data and driver and vehicle records, including fueling restriction data critical to proper fleet management. Since this controller is located indoors, away from the hazards of a fueling island, the data stored is sure to be kept safe. The FSC can store up to 64,000 proprietary cards and 2,000 transactions with one memory card, so even the largest operations have room to expand. Programming is done right from the office PC, either locally or over phone lines using a modem, or via a LAN/WAN connection. Easy-to-use menu choices guide users through initial set-up and daily operations. No formal PC training is required.

With the multi-trucking feature, K800 System can accept many different types of commercial fueling network cards, such as CFN, Voyager and Wright Express. In addition to the demand side of a fuel equation, the supply side can be managed properly through an automatic tank gauging system that can be integrated into the entire fuel management system. OPW’s SiteSentinel 1 operates as a fuel inventory and leak detection system to provide consumption, delivery and environmental compliance data for any fueling site with up to 16 UST/AST (underground/aboveground) storage tanks. The SiteSentinel 1 provides real-time inventory data by providing gross- or net-correct tank volume, product level, water level and temperature for each tank.

Every year, several UST/AST operators are found liable for contaminating the environment. In order to keep operators in compliance and avoid possible leaks, the proper monitoring equipment is needed. The SiteSentinel 1 tank gauging system incorporates certified automatic or on-demand leak detection that meets and/or exceeds U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulatory requirements. Alarms built into the tank gauge warn operators of issues such as low fuel inventory, high water amounts, or detection of a leak.

The entire fuel management system is managed via Phoenix, a Windows-compatible PC software package that gives operators centralized control over the entire fueling operation, allowing them to navigate between the site, account, card and transaction screens. In addition to full-featured back-up and restore, terminal emulation and on-demand transaction polling capabilities, Phoenix gives ready mixed producers the ability to schedule activities such as capturing transaction data, backing up site configurations and backing up or updating card records on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The software also has an enhanced odometer-checking feature that lets operators easily find obvious, incorrect mileage entries such as single, sequential or repeated numbers. Users can also define an average MPG with a tolerance for each card, which is then used to verify the amount fueled against the odometer entry, measuring against employee fuel theft. With additional options, Phoenix can automatically poll the K800 and the SiteSentinel 1 tank gauge (or many other brands of automatic tank gauges) for real-time fuel inventory information for reconciling the site’s fueling activities.

Ready mixed producers have many operating costs that can negatively impact their businesses if not managed properly. There are a number of ways an operators can increase company profitability, but by incorporating a fuel management system into the mix, they can make sure they are getting the most out of every dollar spent on a gallon of fuel, and keep control over their valuable fuel assets. At the same time, with a tank gauge system, they can also meet environmental compliance requirements and guard against potential, and costly environmental mishaps when storing fuel on premises.
Û OPW Fuel Management Systems, 708/485-4200; www.opwfms.com