Of the billions of tonnes of greenhouse cases that are emitted each year worldwide, a huge percentage of these come from transportation. Cars, vans, planes, trains and everything in between, every mode of transportation—even electric vehicles—contributes to the sector’s carbon footprint.
Driving your own car is one thing, however, if you manage a fleet of vehicles then the impact on the environment is even higher. And the larger the vehicles in your fleet, the more pollution it produces.
Although you cannot totally eliminate your fleet’s carbon footprint, there are many steps you can take to mitigate its size and the impact it has on the environment.
You don’t need to replace your entire fleet with brand new, top of the range electric vehicles to make a difference to its carbon footprint. There are plenty of simple things you can do to both reduce your carbon footprint and save money on fuel and maintenance costs at the same time.
How can you fix something that you don’t know is broken? The first step to achieving a lower carbon footprint is to monitor your fleet drivers’ activities and their habits.
In addition to letting you track the whereabouts of your vehicles, most fleet management systems will provide valuable data that helps you better understand your fleet’s emissions. You can also use powerful telematics systems that can be easily installed into vehicles that record information such as acceleration, speed, harsh braking, use of the wrong gear, and idling, amongst other things, to paint a picture of each fleet driver’s habits and overall performance.
All the above actions use more fuel than is necessary and not only does this cost you more money in fuel expenditure, but it also increases the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by your fleet.
Telematics systems can also be used to deliver real-time prompts to your fleet drivers on when their behaviour needs correcting. For example, an LED light can be fitted to the dashboard and flash whenever the driver does something that they shouldn’t.
Using live GPS tracking, fleet management systems can be used to provide drivers with optimum directions along a chosen route. These work in a similar way to satnavs, however, they also account for real-time traffic updates to find the most optimum routes for drivers. This makes sure that the shortest possible journey is taken which reduces your fleet’s fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
Effective route planning and real-time changes in response to real-time conditions also maximises your business vehicle usage, improving productivity and eliminating the need to add more vehicles to your fleet to meet increasing demand.
Other tools such as e-route from iCompario can be used to help your drivers locate the closest fuel station that accepts the fuel card that your fleet uses. This means that your drivers can get themselves straight to the nearest forecourt as quickly as possible, reducing the amount of time that is wasted by your drivers searching for one using a map. It also helps avoid long detours and congestion with live traffic updates.
Fleet vehicles require regular servicing and maintenance. An aging fleet can not only have a catastrophic impact on road safety and cost more in maintenance and repairs, but it is less fuel efficient, too. Older vehicles are known to burn up to 30% more fuel than their newer counterparts that are in better shape and have the latest in technology on board.
Many fleet managers think that it is better value for money to hold on to their vehicles for as long as possible and to not perform maintenance or upgrades unless it is absolutely necessary.
This is simply not the case.
Older vehicles are far less likely to be fitted with fuel-efficient features, making them more damaging to the environment. They are also far more likely to break down, costing your business money in unnecessary repairs that could have been avoided through periodic servicing, maintenance and upgrades. And guess what, fixing a broken-down vehicle is only a temporary solution—it can and will break down again.
Money that is invested into fixing your older vehicles could be better spent in upgrading them or procuring new ones altogether.
Other ways you can stay on top of vehicle maintenance including ensuring tyres are properly inflated—A 2013 study by the Energy Saving Trust claims that driving with tyres under-inflated by 25% will increase fuel consumption by approximately 2%—and regularly checking fluid and battery levels.
There are lots of things that can contribute to using more fuel than is necessary. Vehicle idling is one of these things.
Vehicle idling is where a vehicle’s engine is turned on and running but the vehicle itself isn’t running. It is an unconscious habit that many of us are guilty of and it contributes massively to greenhouse gases and is one of the main reasons why stop-start engines are now becoming more and more common. Idling is also one of the worst causes of fuel wastage, too. In a single hour, up to a litre of fuel can be wasted simply by idling, significantly contributing to CO2 emissions.
Another major cause of wasted fuel is aggressive acceleration and sudden, sharp braking. When combined with sharp braking, sudden acceleration can use up to one-third more fuel per mile than accelerating and braking done in good time. This increases proportionally with the size of a vehicle—bad news for fleets consisting of vans and HGVs.
Fortunately, idling, sharp braking, and harsh acceleration are quite easy to stamp out. When you install telematics systems, you can monitor your fleet drivers’ activities behind the wheel and identify people who may be ‘problem’ drivers.
By then following up on these findings with an education or training session, you can instil safe and responsible driving behaviour amongst your fleet drivers and encourage them to maintain safe and steady speeds, accelerate proportionately, and avoid vehicle idling. This will save you money on fuel costs and lower your fleet’s carbon footprint.
Another way to significantly lower your fleet’s carbon footprint is by reducing the number of journeys it makes. For a fleet manager, this is one of the bigger and more difficult operational challenges that they will face… but it is possible to do with careful planning
Many companies make journeys (e.g. deliveries) on a case-by-case, as-and-when basis. However, when you batch your journeys and condense them, it is possible to transport more over fewer journeys. While this is not possible for all businesses, it is certainly possible for those that regularly make deliveries.
For instance, a delivery could batch deliveries going to the same, or nearby, postcodes on a Monday and Tuesday together on the Monday to minimise the number of vehicles needed for delivery.
Although the above methods and strategies are useful for reducing a fleet’s environmental impact, none of them—and indeed nothing—can eliminate it entirely.
Whilst it is possible to switch your older fleet vehicles for current green alternatives and reduce your fleet’s carbon output to nothing, your business will still contribute to carbon emissions through recharging vehicles with electricity.
For businesses that are seriously concerned about their fleets’ environmental impact and want to make a real change, switching to electric vehicles is the way to go. For those that simply want to make a difference by improving fleet management and operational habits, or those that cannot switch to electric vehicles, following the above advice is the best thing you can do.
As we mentioned above, it is hard to fix something you don’t know is broken. By far the best way to get a full, unbiased, and current picture of your fleet is to use fleet management software and telematics systems.
These gather information about your fleet, its drivers, and their habits which you can then act on by developing new company policies, delivering training courses, and fixing vehicle faults, amongst other things.