Green fleet management can help you to cut harmful emissions, boost your reputation, and save yourself some serious cash. Here’s how you can go about it…
These days, most consumers know how to be eco-friendly. They know that reducing, reusing, and recycling is the way forward, that cutting down on meat and dairy could help save the world, and that they’d better not be caught sipping from a plastic straw.
But did you know that, as a business, you too have a responsibility to be kinder to the planet? In 2018, an immodest 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions did come from the country’s businesses, after all.
If you run a fleet of vehicles, the need to be green is especially urgent. Conventional vehicles emit carbon dioxide (CO2), particulate matter (PM), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or nitrogen oxides (NOx) – nasties that befoul local air quality and contribute to climate change.
That’s where green fleet management comes in. Green fleet management is all about consciously reducing the volume of these harmful emissions that comes from your company’s fleet. It’s an excellent way to do your bit for the environment – plus, it’ll bolster your business’ reputation while potentially saving you some serious money. But how do you do it?
Jump down to our FAQs to learn more about why green fleet management is a good idea. Otherwise, read on to find out how to cut your fleet’s emissions in six actionable steps…
Our 6 top tips for green fleet management are:
1. Boost your fuel economy
While vehicles do come with their own typical fuel consumption rates (measured in mpg, or miles per gallon), it is possible to improve and maximise your vehicles’ fuel economy – or, in other words, get your vehicles to burn as little fuel as possible (and so churn out as few emissions as possible) while getting their jobs done.
Let’s take a look at some of the small tweaks you can make to encourage a big difference in fuel consumption…
- Plan the most efficient routes for your drivers. Be aware that rough or hilly terrain, poor traffic conditions (avoid rush hour when possible!), and high speed limits can all increase fuel usage. Using a vehicle tracking system with a route planning function can make this a lot easier and faster, with features available that help you identify the most efficient routes immediately.
- Join a fuel card program. These enable you to set limits on how much fuel your drivers can buy – and therefore use – in a set time period.
- Encourage your drivers to ditch aggressive habits and stop idling (more on that later!).
- In-vehicle heating and air conditioning can drain fuel – encourage your drivers to use them only when they need to, and never commit the sin of blasting the air con and rolling down the windows at the same time!
- Similarly, opening windows and sunroofs all the way creates drag, which boosts fuel consumption. Ask your drivers to crack their windows, rather than opening them fully, when they can. Having said all that, don’t be draconian about things like heating and fresh air – your drivers need to be comfortable, after all!
- The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it needs to burn to forge onwards. Encourage your drivers to only travel with the tools/cargo/goods/personal items that they actually need – if you have the resource, you could even swap out heavy car parts for lighter aluminium versions.
- Keep your vehicles in stellar condition – which brings us to our next point…
2. Stay on top of vehicle servicing
A vehicle that’s in poor condition won’t run at its most efficient, and so will consume more fuel – and release more emissions – than a vehicle that’s in ideal shape.
In fact, we can bet you’d be surprised by the myriad ways in which a vehicle’s condition can affect your carbon footprint…
Air filters that haven’t been replaced in good time get clogged with dust and debris, causing your vehicle to burn more fuel. Fuel caps that have degraded over time allow oxygen into the tank, causing your vehicle to burn more fuel.
Fuel injectors that don’t get cleaned can become choked with carbon deposits, causing your vehicle to burn more fuel. Tires that aren’t inflated to the correct pressure suffer greater rolling resistance, causing your vehicle to – yep, you guessed it – burn more fuel. In fact, insight from the RAC suggests that keeping tires pumped to the correct pressure can improve fuel economy by 2%.
And these are just a few examples!
As you can see, keeping on top of your fleet’s maintenance is a must. Fortunately, there’s a relatively painless way to do this – and that’s with a vehicle tracking system.
Look for a system that you can use to schedule and record maintenance and repairs. Verizon Connect, for example, shows a list of scheduled services – including MOTs, oil changes, and tire changes – for each vehicle, as well as maintenance faults and historical maintenance records. It also stipulates how far each vehicle should travel before its next trip to a mechanic.
If you’d like some help in choosing the right vehicle tracking system for you, no worries – that’s what our experts are here for! Simply tell us about your fleet and what you’re looking for, and you’ll hear from vehicle tracking suppliers that can cater to your unique needs and provide personalised quotes for you to compare. Effortless!
3. Encourage clean driving
There are plenty of unpleasant driving behaviours out there that are more than just aggressive – they also burn more fuel than they should, leading to a higher volume of emissions (as well as higher fuel costs for whoever is forking out for it – in this case, you).
Wasteful habits include:
- Excessive idling – that is, leaving the engine running while the vehicle is stationary
- Driving in an inappropriate gear
- Braking harshly – tailgating is one of the biggest culprits here!
- Accelerating unnecessarily – for example, rushing along roads with speed bumps, or speeding up to reach traffic lights
- Using the clutch and accelerator instead of the handbrake when waiting at traffic lights or in queues
- Driving close to, or even over the speed limit
- Not using cruise control when you should
Communicate with your drivers to make sure they understand that they should avoid these habits – doing so will keep them safe, preserve your business’ reputation, and cut fuel costs, as well as reduce the fleet’s carbon footprint. But you can actually go one better, with a vehicle tracking system that monitors your drivers’ behaviour.
We realise this sounds a bit… 1984. But don’t worry – we’re not asking you to bug your vehicles with hidden mics and cameras. Rather, your tracking system will generate reports on the quality of your drivers’ behaviour on the road, recording how often each driver does something inadvisable (such as sharp braking or harsh acceleration).
Samsara, for example, creates easy-to-understand graphs that analyse your fleet’s ‘harsh events’, displaying trends over time so that you can measure the impact of your improvement strategies. You can even use Samsara’s driver coaching mode to better help individual drivers to make progress.
This gives you the power to talk to the drivers who need a reminder about ideal conduct, or even set up relevant training for them. Some vehicle tracking systems, such as Quartix, score and rank drivers based on how safely and economically they drive. Nothing like a bit of healthy competition to keep a team motivated!
Better managing driver behaviour will help you to keep a handle on your fleet’s reputation, fuel usage, safety credentials, and eco-friendliness, without turning into Big Brother.
4. Cut back on business travel
If you’re managing a fleet of company cars or a grey fleet, one obvious way to reduce its environmental impact is to cut back on how often your employees need to use the vehicles.
After all, estimates from Energy Saving Trust and BVRLA state that employees who use these vehicles drive over 12 billion miles every year – releasing 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, and costing their employers roughly £5.5 billion. Ouch.
So, what can be done? Let’s take a look at a couple of key ideas:
Introduce remote working
If it’s possible for your employees to work from home rather than drive in to HQ, let them. The fact that software and files can be stored in the cloud and accessed from anywhere – whether via smartphone, computer or tablet – means that employees needn’t be tethered to one desk.
As long as you trust them to be productive away from the office – without, as they say, taking the Mick – then you’re golden!
Always seek an alternative
Encourage your employees to consider all alternatives to business travel before getting in that car. Can they hop onto the train or bus – or even cycle or walk – rather than drive to that client booking? Can they use tele or video conferencing, such as Skype or Google Hangouts, to join that meeting without having to drive there?
We’d advise drawing up a flow chart to help your employees make the right call. Energy Saving Trust provides this example for cutting back on grey fleet use:
5. Use the cleanest petrol/diesel models you can
This won’t be a viable option for everyone – but if you are able to start replacing the vehicles in your fleet with cleaner, greener models, you can make an absolutely massive difference to your emissions output.
But how can you know which vehicles emit a lower volume of harmful gases? Well, generally, the environmental credentials of petrol and diesel models are determined by three factors:
- Their fuel economy performance: The number of miles a vehicle can travel on a single gallon of fuel (in other words, miles per gallon, or mpg). The greater the number, the better! According to Motoring Research, the Peugeot 208 1.6 BlueHDi tops the table for fuel economy in cars, with an impressive 94.2mpg. The Toyota Prius Hybrid follows closely with 94.1mpg.
- Their CO2 rating: The amount of CO2 produced for each kilometre a vehicle travels (measured in grams per kilometre, or g/km). As you can guess, the lower this figure is, the better. Hybrid vehicles – those that use a combination of an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine – tend to have much lower CO2 ratings than their fully petrol/diesel counterparts. Watch out, though – hybrids have a reputation for being expensive to get your hands on.
- Their Euro standard: This rating system establishes the volume of PM and NOx a vehicle emits. The higher the standard given, the lower the emissions, with ‘Euro 6’ the cleanest possible rating. Sound familiar? It will if you’re based in central London – drivers that enter the city’s ULEZ need to pay charges if their petrol vehicle isn’t Euro 4 standard (or better), or if their diesel vehicle isn’t rated Euro 6.
How to find a certain vehicle’s fuel economy performance and CO2 rating
Simple – the government’s car fuel and CO2 emissions database enables you to search for vehicles by manufacturer, model, registration year, and more. You’ll see VCA (Vehicle Certification Agency) data on CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, standard tax rates, and even the noise level produced by the car when it’s moving. You can find the database here.
If you run a fleet of vans, you’ll want to start from the VCA’s van-specific database, which also hosts a range of data for particular models – including CO2 emissions measurements and fuel consumption scores.
How to work out a vehicle’s Euro standard
Generally, the Euro standard of a vehicle will depend on when it was first registered:
|Date first registered||Euro standard|
|31 December 1992||Euro 1|
|1 January 1997||Euro 2|
|1 January 2001||Euro 3|
|1 January 2006||Euro 4|
|1 January 2011||Euro 5|
|1 September 2015||Euro 6|
Of course, this is just a guide – you can always get in touch with a vehicle’s manufacturer if you’d like a completely accurate answer.
6. Use alternative fuel vehicles
If you’d like to go one step further, you could consider bringing in some clean, lean, alternatively-fuelled machines. Considering the fact that new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK by 2040 – or maybe even 2035 – you’re actually a little behind the curve if you haven’t started thinking about zero-emission vehicles.
The good news is, you’ve got more options than you probably think…
1. Plug-in vehicles
Yep, we’re talking electric vehicles (EVs). In the UK especially, EVs are really the most popular reduced-emission vehicles around, and their prevalence is only set to continue growing. In fact, the government has recently pledged to invest £70m in building 3,000 more rapid charge points by 2024.
And while they may have a reputation for being a bit pricey, EVs aren’t actually as expensive as you’d think. According to LeasePlan’s Car Cost Index, price differences between EVs and petrol/diesel vehicles across Europe have fallen dramatically over recent years – and the UK is now the second-cheapest country on the continent in which to own an EV.
If you’re looking for alternative vehicle options, our advice is to check out plug-ins first and foremost. As we’ve said, they’re getting plenty of investment; prices are dropping, and the infrastructure is growing. Right now, it looks as though EVs are here to stay – and they’re certainly the safest bet if you want the security of knowing that you’re moving with the crowd.
So what are your options? At the moment, plug-in vehicles come in three key iterations:
- Pure-electric vehicles (Pure-EV): These are entirely battery-powered, and can be charged through mains electricity.
- Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHV): These are powered primarily by battery, but also contain a conventional engine which kicks the vehicle into hybrid mode once the battery has run down.
- Extended-range electric vehicles (E-REV): These are powered by a battery, with an internal combustion engine-powered generator onboard.
- With fewer parts, they’re usually cheaper to run and maintain than conventional vehicles
- Government grants of up to £3,500 per car and £8,000 per van are available to businesses that buy EVs
- The UK’s charging infrastructure is currently limited – your drivers might struggle to find charge points outside of cities and towns (although the infrastructure is constantly growing)
2. LPG vehicles
LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is much cleaner than petrol, and around half the price. Despite this, however, it’s still very much a minority fuel in the UK, contributing to just 0.2% of road fuel use.
Sadly, LPG is simply not getting the same level of attention from vehicle manufacturers and the government that EVs are currently attracting. At the moment, there are no new LPG vehicles for sale in the UK, and government tax incentives for driving LPG vehicles are much less generous than those for plug-in owners.
That doesn’t mean that LPG isn’t a viable option for your fleet, though. While lots of filling stations don’t stock it, a few larger chains do – including Shell, BP, Esso, and some Sainsbury’s and Morrisons stations.
And while you can’t buy shiny new LPG vehicles right now, it is possible to:
- Buy used LPG models
- Convert your conventional vehicles into LPG vehicles (though this can cost a hefty £2,000 per vehicle)
Though LPG may be unpopular in this country, it’s by no means untried and untested – especially on the global stage. Hong Kong’s taxi fleet, to name one example, converted to LPG 15 years ago. Keep up, UK!
- LPG vehicles emit significantly less MOx and PM than diesel vehicles do, and less CO2 than petrol vehicles do
- LPG is cheaper than petrol and diesel
- LPG vehicles tend to be less fuel efficient than conventional vehicles, doing fewer miles per gallon
- New LPG vehicles and LPG itself are not very readily available
- LPG vehicles emit more CO2 than diesel vehicles do
Made from renewable organic materials, biofuel comes in three varieties: biodiesel, bioethanol, and biogas. When it comes to powering your vehicles, your two options will be:
- Bioethanol – derived from corn and sugarcane. It’s estimated that bioethanol could cut your emissions output by 50%.
- Biodiesel – made using animal fats and vegetable oils. Estimates say biodiesel could reduce your emissions by as much as 85%.
As it stands, these biofuels are seen as more of an interim solution to tide us over until we transition fully to EVs. Like LPG, they’re getting nowhere near as much investment as electricity, but that’s not to say they aren’t viable for fleets for the time being. Just look at local bus services, some of which have introduced biofuel-powered routes.
In terms of availability, though, blended fuels – petrol and diesel that have been mixed with a certain percentage of biofuel to lessen their environmental impact – are much more readily available than pure biofuels.
E10, a petrol alternative that contains 90% unleaded petrol and 10% ethanol (compared to the standard 5%), is getting the most interest thanks to the success it’s had in Germany, France, and Finland. There are plans to roll it out in the UK over the next couple of years, though whether it’ll catch on in a big way remains to be seen.
- Biofuels and blended fuels (like E10) release fewer carbon emissions than fossil fuels – in fact, ethanol absorbs CO2, partially offsetting emissions
- They provide a use for organic products that would otherwise go to waste
- waste All new cars sold in the UK are now E10-compatible
- E10 is potentially not as fuel efficient as unleaded petrol, powering fewer miles per gallon
- It’s estimated that just under 10% of petrol vehicles currently in the UK won’t be able to run on E10
Hydrogen fuel is very much in the early stages of adoption. As of November 2019, there are only 17 – yes, 17 – hydrogen fuel pumps across the whole of the UK. But, considering that the only substance it emits is water, it’d be remiss of us not to flag it as an alternative fuel with all sorts of potential.
It’s not just the fuelling infrastructure that’s the problem, either. Vehicle manufacturers are really lagging on this one, too. A very small handful of players – namely Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai – are currently showing impetus and releasing hydrogen cars, while other giants admit that their first hydrogen models won’t be surfacing before we’re well into the 2020s.
Having said that, interest in hydrogen fuel is slowly building. In October 2019, European governments pledged over €50bn to hydrogen research and infrastructure development, while California – the only US state to boast any hydrogen stations – has introduced a $2,500 incentive for any resident who buys a new hydrogen car.
In short, we don’t think hydrogen is a viable fuel for UK fleets right now – but it’s definitely one to keep your eye on.
- Hydrogen fuel is super clean – the only thing it emits is water
- Hydrogen fuel has incredibly limited availability in the UK – though research and development is starting to ramp up
FAQ: What are the benefits of green fleet management?
We’ve talked about the how, but what about the why? These are the benefits you can reap from green fleet management…
✓ Save some money
As we’ve explored, one of the most effective ways to run a greener fleet is to cut the amount of fuel your vehicles guzzle. It goes without saying that, if you’re using less fuel, then you’re also spending less money on fuel. The environment faces less of an onslaught, and you manage to keep a few notes in your pocket. It’s the definition of a win-win!
Running alternative fuel vehicles can save you some cash, too. With fewer moving parts, electric vehicles are far cheaper to run and maintain than conventional ones. Meanwhile, LPG is half the price of petrol.
Managing a fleet that releases fewer emissions can also come with tax benefits, including:
- Reduced class 1A National Insurance contributions
- Reduced vehicle excise duty
- Reduced corporation tax
- Employee benefit through reduced benefit-in-kind tax
✓ Boost your reputation
You’ve adopted green fleet management, your emissions have gone down… so why not shout about it?
Today’s consumers are ever more conscious of their environmental impact, and buying from businesses that match these sensibilities is becoming a priority. A 2018 survey from Futerra, for example, found that a huge 88% of UK and US consumers want businesses to help them be more eco-friendly.
Make it clear to potential and current customers/clients that you’ve made strides to go green, and your reputation can only shine as a result.
As well as helping you to attract and keep customers, going green can also help you to attract talent – that is, new employees.
In a recent US survey, nearly half of all respondents said that they would accept a smaller salary in order to work with a company that was environmentally sensitive. Meanwhile, 70% said they’d be more inclined to stay, long-term, with a company that had a good sustainability plan. That speaks for itself!
It makes sense, too: more and more employees are looking to contribute their skills, experience, and time to a business that cares about the same issues that they do. Working for an environmentally sensitive company is one of the ways in which the everyday person can feel as though they’re helping to combat climate change.
✓ Improve air quality and help slow down climate change
If we’re to learn anything from King’s College London’s shocking PM (particulate matter) research, which found that five people die each week in Bristol as a result of air pollution, it’s that we need to take air quality seriously.
The study highlights the fact that particulates and nitrogen dioxide – which are mainly found in conventional vehicular emissions – can cause a range of life-threatening health conditions, including asthma, lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
We also need to take the climate crisis seriously – especially those of us who oversee fleets of vehicles. In 2018, an eye-watering 27% of the UK’s carbon emissions came from the transport sector. With this in mind, there’s simply no excuse good enough to keep chugging on with a big fat carbon footprint.
Implementing large-scale change can be tough. But by starting with little steps (for example, communicating with your drivers about good and bad driving habits) and building up to serious improvements (installing a vehicle tracking system) until you’re ready to make widespread changes (swapping out your old bangers for cleaner, perhaps electric vehicles), you’ll find that green fleet management is easier than you think.