Fleet sustainability – planning for the future

The pressure on businesses to reduce emissions is growing.

Mandatory Carbon Reporting is already in place for quoted companies in the UK, who are obliged to measure and report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but firms of all sizes should be giving serious consideration to the issue.

Although regulation remains thin on the ground, public perception appears to be sharpening around this issue and companies would be well advised to take action to strengthen their commitment to environmental responsibility.

There are a number of major landmarks looming on the horizon too.

Recently, the government announced that it would end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

This will clearly have a huge effect on the future of the company vehicle fleet, so businesses would be well advised to start thinking about what improvements can be made now that will put them in a position to efficiently manage the transition.

There is also the issue of customer expectations to consider.

The Cone/Ebiquity Global CSR Study, which surveyed 9,709 consumers worldwide, found 84 per cent of consumer try to purchase products or services that are socially or environmentally responsible.

Furthermore, 80 per cent would be willing to buy a product from an unknown brand if it had strong social and environmental commitments and 90 per cent are more likely to trust such firms.

Fleet’s role in effecting change

When putting together a plan to become more sustainable, businesses wouldn’t go far wrong by starting with their vehicles.

Transport accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and the UK is one of 17 EU countries breaching annual targets for nitrogen dioxide, which has been exacerbated by the highly-publicised failure of the European testing regime for vehicle emissions.

But this is also an area where there is potential for substantial gains to be made relatively quickly and it starts by getting a feel for the extent of the problem.

Many organisations may believe they are not significant polluters, without considering the cumulative effect of journeys undertaken by company vehicles and employee vehicles for business purposes.

An average passenger vehicle emits 4.7 tons of CO2 per year and researchers at Stanford University have estimated that each ton of CO2 has a social cost of around £170, which quickly adds up if you are running a multi-vehicle fleet. Based on these rough figures, a 100-vehicle fleet would have a social cost of £79,900 over the course of a year but, in many cases, this is likely to be considerably higher as commercial vehicles tend to be less fuel efficient.

It is possible to calculate the specific carbon footprint of your vehicles by multiplying the actual quantity of fuel consumed by the kilogrammes of CO2 emitted per litre of fuel combusted.

A sustainability plan that pays for itself

Alternatively, telematics systems can provide accurate figures for the amount of fuel consumed and emissions created, while also enabling the identification of root causes.

Fuel consumption (mpg) is one of the key performance indicators when it comes to vehicle emissions and telematics allows managers to explore the correlation between this and driver behaviour.

Factors such as idling time, speeding and harsh steering or braking all have an effect on fuel consumption so the key to reducing emissions may differ depending on the nature of a business and its employees.

The solution to an idling issue can be very different to a problem related to poor driving style. For example, it may be a simple case of encouraging drivers to turn off the engine while waiting at appointments or at traffic lights – idling for just 10 seconds wastes more fuel that restarting your engine.

Driver behaviour issues can be more complicated to address but access to the appropriate data makes it possible to achieve significant improvements. By analysing trends related to speed, harsh driving style or gear shifting it is possible to quickly identify if there is an overriding issue across the entire fleet. It is then important to ask whether this is related to organisational culture or pressures of the job and provide suitable leadership, guidance and support to all employees.

If it is found problems are most acute among small groups of drivers or individuals, one-to-one briefings and targeted training may be more appropriate.

Modern driver terminals even provide predictive advice out on the road to help them adopt a more efficient driving style by easing off the gas on the approach to junctions, roundabouts and sliproads.

Equally, improved navigation and routing can enable drivers to avoid traffic and routes that are typically busy, helping to make daily schedules more efficient and reduce the overall mileage travelled.

Not only do all these measures help to contribute to greater environmental sustainability but they also help to cut cost by reducing the amount of fuel used by a fleet. This means a scheme to reduce emissions could potentially pay for itself at the same time as equipping your organisation for the changes ahead.

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Driver management