Trevor Collett | Jun 2, 2016

Refuelling a vehicle with the incorrect fuel-type could arguably be considered a ‘simple mistake’, but according to Australian businesses, it’s an expensive one.

A survey by Australian fleet managers Fleetcare has found the problem of ‘misfueling’ has struck almost half (49 percent) of all fleet managers questioned.

As more diesel-powered vehicles find their way into company fleets, it seems their drivers find the habit of reaching for the unleaded petrol nozzle at the servo a hard one to break.

Fleetcare said diesel-powered cars being subjected to a full tank of petrol was more common than the reverse, and the cost of rectifying the problem averages $1330.

Included in the average cost is transport for the suddenly-stricken driver, towing the vehicle, associated repairs and a hire car for two days while the vehicle is off the road. Not included in the data are items such as lost productivity.

VFACTS sales data suggests Australians stepping out of their private cars and into fleet vehicles are more likely to be accustomed to refuelling with unleaded petrol.

In the private passenger car market for April, just 562 sales were powered by diesel while 19,372 had petrol engines.

The gap narrows slightly when considering non-private passenger cars, with sales figures of 1163 and 14,789 respectively.

Further restriction in the sales-gap between petrol and diesel engines can be seen in the SUV market for both private and non-private buyers, but the petrol engine is still king.

Only when commercial vehicles are considered does the pendulum swing dramatically towards diesel engines.

As a hangover from the days of leaded petrol, unleaded nozzles are narrower than diesel nozzles, meaning an unleaded nozzle fits easily into the filler-neck for a diesel-powered vehicle. It is usually much harder to fit a diesel nozzle into an unleaded filler-neck.

Fleetcare says there is a simple solution to this problem, however, and has called on carmakers to fit a ‘misfueling prevention cap’ worth around $100 to all diesel models.

“In cases where companies have a high mix of diesel vehicles, the chance of misfueling is like a game of Russian roulette,” Fleetcare CEO, Nigel Malcolm, said.

“Most of the time you’re going to be alright, but it only takes a momentary oversight on the part of an employee or one of their family members, and when things go wrong, they can go very, very wrong.”

Fleetcare’s survey found that while 49 percent of fleet managers surveyed had been forced to deal with misfueling, 42 percent were also aware of the prevention cap.

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