How fleet managers can create a culture of sustainability

 In Fleet Sustainability

Sustainability has become a buzzword in Fleet Management in recent years. But what does it really mean, and why is it now considered to be so important?

The 3 pillars of sustainability

Creating a sustainable fleet is much more than about seeking environmentally friendly, or ‘green’ practices. In fact, that’s just one of the three fundamentals of sustainability, which are economic, environmental and social, or more easily remembered as people, planet & profits.

Sustainable fleet management practices entwine these three elements to ensure the long-term viability of your fleet operations while reducing the impact on the environment and the people you employ and service on a daily basis.

Setting the objectives to make your fleet sustainable

With these three pillars of sustainability in mind, the overall objectives of a sustainable fleet plan become clear:

People:

  • Make the fleet safer and cleaner so that employees and the general public are put at the least possible risk from operations
  • Reduce airborne emissions of noxious gases and particles that have been proven to cause respiratory diseases and premature deaths
  • Support the continued development of your drivers, so that they can reach their full potential and grow with your operation

Planet:

  • Reduce fuel consumption to decrease your fleet’s demand for fossil fuels
  • Improve vehicle and routing efficiency in order to emit fewer Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
  • Decrease traffic demand in inner city locations, reducing wasteful practices and rightsizing vehicles to their duty cycles

Profit

  • Reduce fuel, maintenance, accident, insurance and other operating expenditures
  • Reduce the overall fleet budget, rightsizing all vehicles in the operation

Profit is the glue that holds the sustainability improvements together. If strategies to reduce the environmental or social impact of your fleet don’t also make sound financial sense, then they will generally not be maintained. And since sustainability is about creating enduring positive change, then financial viability is fundamental to success.

Strategies for fleet sustainability

Now that the sustainability objectives have been established, Fleet Managers must consider the specific mechanisms that will help them to achieve their goals in the most financially efficient manner.

For detailed, practical guidance on how to implement a plan for your fleet, check out our guides to reducing transport demand, and improving vehicle and driver efficiency.

Fleet Managers can benefit from some of the greatest savings by investing in:

Telematics and fleet management software

Fleet Management software provides fleet managers with access to real-time data on their entire operations, giving them the power to make the most effective decisions.

Utilizing the data from this management software, significant savings can be made across fleet operations:

  • GPS mapping enables dispatch to improve routing efficiency by viewing crossovers between routes, traffic hotspots, and outlying jobs.
  • Data on excessive idling, harsh cornering, braking and acceleration provides managers with the ability to improve driver efficiency by directing training at the specific areas that need most attention for each driver in turn.
  • Comparing vehicle efficiency within similar specifications and duty cycles highlights the vehicles that are in need of preventative maintenance or would be the most suitable candidates for replacement.
  • Service schedules, odometer readings, and diagnostic trouble codes can be centrally managed so that preventative maintenance schedules are upheld and the health of the fleet can be optimized.

FleetCarma’s fleet management software is suitable for all vehicle types, including electric. This puts fleet managers in the driving seat to optimize efficiency and control spend. For electric vehicles, it provides valuable information on battery state of health (SOH) to help you differentiate between operational issues that may be reducing range, versus a fading battery.

Electric Vehicles

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are a popular option for fleet managers who are working to reduce their fuel expenditure while reducing vehicle emissions in order to meet their environmental goals. Of all the new vehicle technologies available, EVs offer fleet managers the greatest opportunity to improve urban air quality, as they create zero roadside emissions from the tailpipe.

Not only that, but EVs also have a lower carbon footprint, are cheaper to operate, require less maintenance, and are safer to drive.

However, it is important to right size any electric vehicle to their required duty cycle, and to be confident that you know exactly which vehicles would make the best candidates for replacement. In order to do this, you need access to the data that will make the case for you…

FleetCarma EVSA

The Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment from FleetCarma provides the conclusive data you need to plan your electric vehicle acquisitions and ensure that each purchase will generate the fastest savings and greatest environmental efficiencies.

With an EVSA, fleet managers can see the environmental and financial case for transitioning to electric, based on real duty cycles, taken from vehicle side. The final independent report provides a roadmap for when and where to switch to EVs that allows you to forecast the effects of your purchasing decisions before you make them.

 The EVSA enables you to:

  • Support budgetary decisions by accurately forecasting ROI
  • Forecast fleet wide savings
  • Understand the total cost of ownership per vehicle
  • Evaluate multi-year procurement plans, tailored to your fleet
  • Calculate the reduction of GHGs based on possible fleet compositions

Industry examples of sustainable fleets

Carlsberg UK

The beer manufacturer and distributer Carlsberg UK runs 300 vehicles, all over 7.5 tons. A green fleet review identified the potential for improvement in vehicle choice, mileage management and driver performance. Utilizing a telematics system, Carlsberg monitored driver performance and created a league table to incentivize efficient driving. Staff training and engagement is now central to their fuel efficiency strategy.

In total, these strategies saved the company hundreds of thousands in fuel costs, and reduced CO2 emissions by several thousand tons. In addition, they also saw their indicator of average accident costs per vehicle fall from 68% to 51%.

City of Seattle

With an annual fuel budget $8 million, the City of Seattle had a pressing need to improve fleet efficiency. Their 2014 green fleet plan established the overarching goal to reduce GHG emissions by 42 percent by 2020, compared to 2013 levels. Within the plan was a target to transition 100 percent of publicly owned vehicles to biofuel or electric by 2018.

To achieve this, the city broke the plan down into 7 action points:

  • Create vehicle selection standard
  • Install EV infrastructure
  • Expand biofuel use
  • Improve department efficiency
  • Champion fuel reduction alternatives
  • Push the vehicle market
  • Tell their story

The City of Seattle’s green fleet plan is currently on target to meet their GHG emission reduction goal, which will equate to their fleet using 1 million gallons less petroleum every year.

How to build a sustainable fleet culture

While the fleet manager may have the ultimate responsibility to drive the sustainable fleet plan forward, institutional changes cannot be made effectively in a silo. Instead, for the initiative to be a success, the entire organization must be involved.

This generally starts by defining what sustainability means to your company and establishing the overarching goals that you want to achieve, the timeframes for doing so, and the initial budget that can be made available to it.

All levels of the organization must be involved; from drivers and auxiliary staff, to the operations management team, all the way up to the C-Suite.

Since drivers are the people who will be most directly affected by any new changes, their engagement is crucial to ensure that the agreed strategies are completed and followed out correctly. And because they are operating the vehicles and completing the routes every day, drivers may often have some of the best ideas for efficiency savings.

Upper management also need to be closely involved in the sustainability initiative, as the budgets ultimately need to be supported and signed off by them. By engaging them in setting the sustainability objectives, ownership is increased, making it easier to ensure their buy-in throughout all stages of the project.

And don’t just look for involvement from within your company. There are opportunities to partner with similar firms or municipalities to share successes and failures, to pool data, or to secure volume discounts that you might be unable to secure alone.

Throughout the process, try to remain positive and open – share your successes among the company, but don’t hide your failures away as they often present the best opportunity to learn what will work better next time! By being open to new ideas, and involving the entire organization, you will find it easier to create a culture of sustainability that will endure and succeed for years to come.

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