How sustainability managers can work with fleet managers on shared goals to ‘green’ an automotive fleet
Road transportation is a major contributor of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the U.S, road transportation accounts for over 21 percent of human activity related GHG emissions.
Municipal and city fleets are finding themselves under pressure from legislation to reduce their greenhouse gas and particle emissions to improve city air quality. This responsibility normally sits with both the sustainability and fleet managers, and so it is crucial that the two roles can work together to drive these reductions.
Responsibilities of a Sustainability Manager
Sustainability managers ensure that their organization works towards finding economically efficient ways to stay green. As the fleet is generally the second largest cost center after personnel, and has the largest environmental impact, it is a vital area for the sustainability manager to focus on.
Within municipal and city fleets, the sustainability manager will be looking to reduce overall operating costs, energy consumption, and emissions of GHGs, other noxious gases and air contaminating particles.
Responsibilities of a Fleet Manager
The fleet manager is tasked with reducing the overall operating costs of the fleet, while extending its capability. Their role is to increase vehicle availability and safety, ensure compliance with government regulations, and minimize maintenance and accident costs. They are also generally responsible for driver management.
How to Work Together Successfully with the Fleet Manager
While there is plenty of crossover in the objectives of these two roles, a sustainability manager can sometimes find some resistance from the fleet manager if they do not see the ‘sustainability’ goals as being aligned with their own responsibilities.
Therefore, if a sustainability manager is to work successfully with a fleet manager, it’s important for them to consider the following points.
Speak the Fleet Managers language
As a sustainability manager, one of your goals might be to reduce fleet GHG emissions. The fleet manager may be less concerned about reducing emissions, but have their own goal to reduce fuel consumption, in order to minimize fuel expenditure. These two objectives are obviously aligned, but adopting the fleet manager’s terminology of fuel consumption and costs can help to ensure their engagement in the project.
Be goals, not process driven
For example, you may start with the broad goal to reduce fleet fuel consumption by 10% within 3 years, and then go on to identify the required processes and technologies. The objective shouldn’t be “We want to put telematics in all our vehicles by 2018”. Instead, this is the process that will help you to achieve your goal.
Be realistic with sustainability goals
Goals must be aligned to your operation’s real world scenario, taking into account the age of your fleet, vehicle usage patterns, and complexity of the fleet and the services undertaken.
Failure to consider the complexity of the fleet and maintain sufficient cover for breakdowns and servicing may impact overall productivity and quality of service, which will negatively affect the fleet manager’s performance targets.
Involve the drivers in finding solutions
One of the key concerns for a fleet manager is that their drivers accept the changes in working practices that the new policies require.
By involving driver representatives in the original decision making process and showing the workforce what value the new initiatives will provide them, drivers can become engaged in the program from the outset. This collaboration is imperative to the success of your policies.
Structure your fleet sustainability plan into a range of time frames
These should be comprised of:
- ‘Quick wins’ that gain early support from the fleet manager, drivers, and the C suite.
- Short term (1-2 years), high priority actions which will provide the greatest cost to savings ratios.
- Long term (2-5 years), more complicated or expensive improvements. The longer timeframe allows for you to benefit from rapidly advancing technologies.
Benchmark, monitor progress and celebrate wins
Before undertaking any new initiative, ensure that you have solid benchmark data of past performance. The longer the benchmark period, the more accurate your comparison will be. Generally six months to a year will allow for shorter-term fluctuations in data to be normalized.
If for example, one of your green metrics is to reduce diesel usage, then you can compare your diesel purchase volumes from the previous year against the first twelve months after launching your green initiative.
Ongoing monitoring of data is vital to continuing improvement. This data is also invaluable to the fleet manager for them to show their managers that they have hit their own targets.
Key strategies to green your fleet
Broadly speaking, there are three areas where sustainability managers can work with fleet managers to green their fleet, in order to achieve their number one goal of reducing GHG and other emissions:
- Minimize transport demand – review and optimize current route structures and schedules to reduce the number of miles driven. This can result not just in reducing emissions, fuel and mileage costs, but can even reduce the required number of vehicles in the fleet.
- Efficient vehicle use – ensure that existing vehicles are using the least amount of fuel. This includes monitoring drivers for overloading vehicles, excessive idling, and aggressive driving. This can then lead to the provision of eco-driver training.
- Cleaner fuels and technology – with existing vehicles, ensure that the smallest and most efficient vehicle is working each job. When renovating the fleet, explore low emission vehicles such as EVs or hybrids. You may also consider the suitability of sustainably produced biofuels.
How technology can make a fleet more sustainable
Fleet Telematics gives sustainability and fleet managers access to detailed vehicle usage reports, which can be used to inform many green initiatives.
GPS tracking on all vehicles in the fleet allows for detailed analysis of route structures and schedules. These data can then be used to optimize the routes to reduce fleet mileage, directly reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
Idling reports can be compared between drivers and routes to identify who would benefit most from eco-driver training. Ascertaining time periods where idling is higher in a particular area allows for route rescheduling to avoid these problem times. Both of these measures will reduce fleet idling time, reducing fuel consumption and city-based particle emissions.
Tracking of engine torque & RPM, used together with fuel consumption data indicates if vehicles are being stressed by aggressive driving styles. For the fleet manager, this allows for preventative resolution, rather than costly repairs related to worn brake pads and clutches. As aggressive driving has also been linked to a greater accident risk, reducing this behavior has the additional benefit for the fleet manager of reducing accident related costs.
For the sustainability manager, aggressive driving is a key protagonist in high fuel consumption. Identifying which drivers are responsible can allow for the provision of eco-training training, improving vehicle efficiency.
To ensure the ongoing success of your fleet sustainability initiatives, it’s vital to engage and work effectively with the fleet manager. Although they may be resistant to the concept of implementing ‘green’ initiatives to begin with, by identifying your shared goals and framing the benefits that these changes will bring to the fleet manager and their drivers, you can turn them into a strong ally.
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How sustainability managers can work with fleet managers on shared goals to ‘green’ an automotive fleet.