For plumbers and installers, travel via a vehicle such as a van or a car is an absolute necessity. When you count travel between jobs, and journeys to pick up supplies from merchants, the miles can soon clock up, which is why the rising cost of fuel is a concern.

An increase in the cost of fuel also has an impact on the wider economy: consumers will have less money in their pockets to spend on non-essential work such as bathroom and kitchen refits, and rising transportation costs could hit the supply chain, pushing up the cost of parts and peripherals. For many small businesses, including plumbers and installers who operate as sole traders, there is a tough call to make between absorbing additional costs or passing them on to your customers.

With all of this in mind, plumbers and installers must find ways to mitigate the rising costs. Instead of going into panic mode, some simple yet practical changes will help to shave some money off the cost of business travel.

Consider using a fuel card

One of the best ways to save money off forecourt fuel prices is to sign up for a company fuel card. Fuel cards work a bit like a credit card. You sign up with a provider and use the card to fill up on the forecourt. The key difference between a fuel card and a credit card is that selecting the right card can unlock significant savings off the pump price. It’s also worth noting that company credit cards often attract hefty interest rates – making fuel cards a cheaper way of accessing credit and discounted fuel.

Your fuel card provider will provide regular invoicing for the fuel used, allowing you to keep tabs on spending, and budget for fuel costs. While this approach can’t actively reduce your mileage, it can help you to manage cash flow more effectively – weekly invoicing means you can invoice customers and receive payment for your work before paying for your fuel.  

One invoice also means less admin. No searching for lost fuel receipts, and a far easier submission to the lovely people at HMRC. Hurrah to that.

Simple vehicle checks

Keeping your van in good condition can make a big difference to fuel efficiency, as well as improving safety. Before travelling, check the condition of your tyres, brakes, steering, lights, indicators, and hazard warning lights. Tyre inflation and tread in particular can directly impact fuel consumption. The van safety check from the DVSA shows the extent of the checks that should be carried out. Results of the checks should be recorded, defects or faults must be reported, and any necessary repairs undertaken before the vehicle is driven.

Failing to comply with DVSA regulations may result in fines and penalties, which can significantly add to the cost of running your vehicle. According to data published by the DVSA, they successfully prosecuted and fined 569 businesses during the financial year 22/23.

Change your driving habits

Whether you use your trusty sat nav or Google maps, to get you from A to B, the likelihood is that you’re already using route planning software in your business. When you think of telematics systems, you probably think of big businesses. However, even sole traders and micro businesses can benefit from using a telematics tool – and the cost covers itself surprisingly quickly.

In addition to information using GPS locations and live traffic data to help you plan and optimise your route, telematics systems can also gather and analyse data about fuel consumption, RPM, and braking habits. Having this information at your fingertips can help you to avoid some of the things that make driving more costly – heavy braking, fast acceleration, and not changing up or down the gears smoothly can all cost you more in the long run.

It’s also worth considering other habits. On a hot day, if travelling over 50mph, opening the window is more fuel efficient than running the air con! Keeping a van full of unused tools and parts can also reduce your fuel efficiency – but careful planning is needed for this one!

Consider an electric vehicle

This isn’t a five-minute job like the other tips, and it does take more upfront investment. But, with lots of government support available – including grants, capital allowances, and reduced company car tax – it can't hurt to know your facts. 

Making the switch to an electric van will definitely help in your mission to avoid rising fuel costs. The cost of powering the vehicle, as well as ongoing maintenance charges, is lower than your average vehicle, too. In fact, data from the comparison site Book My Garage shows that maintenance bills for EVs are up to 43% lower than those for alternatively fuelled vehicles.