Roofing contractors like Kevin Shiner, president of Shiner Roofing, Fairfax, Va., aren't waiting for Detroit to come up with improved fuel efficiency in its cars and trucks. They're maximizing efficiencies throughout their organizations in order to get a better handle on rising vehicle costs right now.

Shiner uses a GPS system to track the 27 cars and trucks in his company's fleet. With it he can tell where the vehicles are at any given time and if they're being driven directly to the jobsite. Since implementing the now four-year-old system, Shiner says that “everyone is much more careful about where they go with the vehicles,” and he can cross-check gas receipts with vehicle movements, too.

Eliminate Unnecessary Trips Proper maintenance is fundamental, of course, not only for controlling costs but for safety, Shiner says. At Kearns Brothers in Dearborn, Mich., maintaining vehicles on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis is a long-term practice, says vice president of sales and marketing Gary Kearns. More recently Kearns Brothers has been trying to maximize efficient use of its 23 vehicles with better paperwork and preparation.

“Work orders are crisp and clear, neat, and to-the-point,” Kearns says. Crews document every job with digital photos, and material takeoffs are correct so the crew doesn't have to make any unnecessary trips.

“Everything is ready for them when they arrive on the job-site,” Gary Kearns says. “We cover a metro area where driving an hour and a half is not out of the question, so eliminating unnecessary trips has proven to be very advantageous.”

Vehicle Insurance Vehicle insurance is another rising cost. At Kearns Brothers, president and founder Mike Kearns reviews coverage every six months.

“Pricing is one issue, service is another, and follow-up and timelines are a third,” Gary Kearns says. The company has had the same insurance carrier for the past 10 years, but Gary thinks it's wise, once a year, to get additional quotes and compare them. “We take it to the marketplace and see what happens,” he says. “But you can only do so much.”

What you can do, advises Chris Homewood, product manager for auto insurer Drive Commercial Auto, is shop around. “Rates vary a lot from company to company because some use different rating criteria,” he explains. But be mindful of service, too. Homewood suggests using an independent agent who can gather quotes from a number of companies and can help you understand their service and claims management.

“You don't ever want to have to use your insurance,” he says. “But when you do, you want people there who will take care of you as quickly and as fairly as possible.”