Driving with my father is frustrating in so many ways because he's a hypermiler. He obsesses over his mileage, constantly checking the instantaneously calculated average mpg, grumpy when it falls below 50. He likes to coast down our street, roll through stop signs in our neighborhood, and find routes to and from work so he can go downhill both ways. However, his obsession pales in comparison to most other hypermilers who find ridiculous but effective ways to get over 100 mpg. Clearly the price of gas is having an impact on consumers' behavior.
Over the past six months, the price of a barrel of crude oil has increased by about 50%, reaching $140 last week. Drivers are cutting back on miles to reduce their gas consumption, decreasing total mileage by 22 billion miles between November and April compared to that period a year earlier. Consumers who can't cut back on their driving are opting for more fuel-efficient cars instead of their gas-guzzlers. In May, the Ford F150, the top-selling car for over 15 years, became the fifth top-selling car, beat out for the top four spots by cars that get over 20 mpg.
Hypermiling is an extreme way to spend less on gas. There are plenty of other ways to soften the blow of higher gas prices. Credit unions are coming up with creative strategies to help both members and employees reduce their total gas purchases. By subsidizing public transportation, when available, or rewarding carpooling, credit unions can have a huge impact on the amount of money employees are spending on commuting. Other credit unions are discounting rates for eco-friendly loans for bicycles and highly fuel-efficient cars, creating an incentive for members to cut back on gas consumption.
Even simple strategies can have an impact. Encouraging members to use online bill pay or eStatements reduces the amount of mail USPS has to deliver (and it saves you money in postage!). Providing information to your employees and members about car maintenance tips, like making sure tires are inflated, can help increase their average mpg.
Credit unions have a huge opportunity to help out their employees and members by giving them a financial edge in today's tough market. Updating your education, lending, marketing, and HR programs will keep your members and employees informed and proactive about keeping the environment green and spending less at the pump.
If you are interested in learning more about how credit unions can reduce the impact of gas prices on members and employees, on July 9th, join me for a live discussion about strategies that are working so far.