Fuel Monitoring 101

If you ask fleet owners what they want to monitor, 90% of them will have fuel on their list. Be it fuel consumption or the actual fuel levels.


Why?
According to studies fuel theft is costing companies worldwide billions of dollars in lost revenue. This isn’t just an African problem, but rather a worldwide challenge.

What is the solution?
In the past, companies have tried numerous ways of preventing fuel theft:

  • Locking down the tank and pipes in order to make syphoning and draining a bit harder. This has achieved some success but drivers will always find a way of getting the fuel out the tank.
  • Giving the drivers an allowance to take out the tank. Yes folks, there are companies that do this! The logic is that instead of taking preventative measures and having to pay for potential damage to the truck, fleet owners allow drivers a daily or weekly allowance of fuel to be taken out the tank.
  • Reading the data from the CAN: the 2 bits of information we read from the vehicle data is fuel consumption and fuel level. Fuel theft is a bit tough to detect from fuel consumption but with a bit of fancy foot work it can be done. This is more about telling you about the fuel being used and thus calculating how much the fuel bill is going to be.
  • Fuel level sensors have probably been the most successful means of monitoring fuel theft. In the older days, we used to be able to connect our analogue input to the trucks existing float sensor and read the level this way. As technology has moved on this has become increasingly difficult, as the trucks existing fuel sensors now send a variety of signals that get decoded by the ECU. We are also told that the vehicles own sensor which is a float arm sensor only has an accuracy of 80%, which leaves a lot of room for error in picking up theft of say 20-50 litres. There are a number of third-party sensors on the market with each claiming they are the more accurate than the other. For the moment the capacitive sensors are more popular. They now have filtering and added logic to compensate for road conditions and the “sloshing effect” in the tank. These are claimed to have around 99% accuracy in a perfect world scenario, which in a 400L tank is 4L.

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So if it seems so simple why has no one cornered the market?

We have seen that this is one of the most requested features in the fleet management world and there are multiple ways that it can be done. It may be that companies have been burnt by using cheaper solutions that don’t provide accurate data. Fleet telematics solutions are much like most technologies in that you get what you pay for i.e. cheaper isn’t necessarily better.

Experience has taught us a few things:

  • Cost – the cost of the hardware and installation may seem a bit high, but when you take into consideration that ROI on these sensors are around 3 months, it makes business sense.
  • Driver accountability – drivers need to be made responsible for their vehicles. That is when theft occurs and when they damage it as well.
  • Potential clients need to be educated on newer technologies and be made aware of costs vs savings.

In closing, we at GEOTAB AFRICA have done some hard yards and found what we deem to be the best solution out there in terms of fuel sensors. Added to that, we have the ability to read the fuel consumption data from the CAN. Our fuel monitoring solution will continue to evolve and develop so that we can, hands-on-our-hearts, tick all the boxes when a client sends out a list of requirements they need for their fleet.

Author: Donovan Garisch, Export Support  – GEOTAB AFRICA

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