Reduce The Fleet Carbon Footprint Through A Structured Framework And Practical Steps

Governments and businesses are putting an increased effort into reducing their impact on the environment. Hence, reducing fleet carbon footprint can significantly contribute to this objective. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is high on executives’ agendas from a public relations perspective, making their organisation attractive from a commercial perspective. In addition, employees from generation Y are looking for ethical businesses to work for such. Therefore, a positive action on environmental credentials can help attract better talent.

Legislation impacts at both a European and Global level to ensure countries reduce their environmental impact. Strict emission limits are in place for new vehicles, with heavy penalties for those failing to meet targets. As a result, many manufacturers are looking to introduce environmentally friendly products to the market.

Tesla led the way on electric vehicles, but their mass-market adoption is not far away, with mainstream manufacturers and established players following suit. In addition, some are introducing Hydrogen as another cleaner alternative fuel. However, it is still a few years away from mass-market adoption.

Transport is a critical component towards a more sustainable future. For example, many cities in the UK are introducing clean air zones to address local concerns regarding air quality.

Organisations looking to reduce fleet carbon footprint can use our strategic framework focusing on the vehicle, driver and journey.

The Vehicle

Environmental policies should have a fundamental focus on the vehicles which are used for travel.  This includes any company-operated vehicles and those private vehicles employees use for business travel, commonly known as the grey fleet.

A vehicle emits 10% of its whole-life CO2 during its production. In addition, 5% of its CO2 emissions are during its recycling at its end of life.

Therefore 85% of its CO2 emissions are while the vehicle is “in-life”.

The selection of vehicles with a highly efficient operating cycle is key to managing emissions down. Ensure the correct utilisation of vehicles by considering the following:

Policy Capping

Introduce a maximum CO2 cap. This is a relatively blunt instrument but is easy to understand and implement.  Whilst this will not be an issue for “job need” drivers, it could pose some problems for drivers who receive a company car due to their status.  Whilst there are many more low emissions models available, drivers still like the high driving position of SUVs.  That said, there is an increasing number of hybrid and electric models which fit into this category.

Whole Life Cost or Total Cost of Ownership

Use whole life cost as the basis for vehicle selection.  As taxation increases with CO2, this encourages employees into more environmentally-friendly vehicles. Setting vehicle policy according to whole life cost principles naturally migrates drivers to selecting efficient vehicles. Also, individuals do not feel the business mandates their vehicles.  This avoids the need for a specific cap on emissions, which some drivers see as unfavourable.

Alternative Fuels

Use alternative fuels where it is appropriate and practical to do so. For example, electric or hybrid vehicles operate best in urban environments and reduce your fleet carbon footprint. For more on electric vehicles, see our separate blog here.

However, clean diesel can still be the right choice for many for regular motorway travel and commercial vehicles.  Clean air zones will also impact vehicle selection in cities where it is in operation.  For more information, go to: https://www.bvrla.co.uk/industry-campaigns/air-quality/clean-air-zones.html.

Vehicle Rightsizing

Select vehicles which are fit for use, do not oversize, over-specify or overload.  This is especially relevant for commercial vehicles, where oversized vehicles will increase emissions and additional running costs.  Similarly, vehicles that are too small could face overloading issues or put extra strain on the engine.

Operational Cycles

Consider the usual operating conditions for the vehicle. For example, hybrid or electric vehicle technology is most effective in urban environments. On the other hand, diesel-fuelled vehicles are more efficient on motorways and A-roads. Also, consider fuelling/charging concerning the vehicle’s operational need within the fleet.

The public electric charging network is still in its infancy, with no universal charging points or payment standards. Where organisations plan to use internal charging, ensure there is enough downtime for the vehicle to charge between uses.

Service and Maintenance

Carry out routine maintenance to ensure the vehicle operates to its optimum capability.  Under-inflated tyres, for example, can significantly increase fuel consumption and inflict damage on the tyres.

The Driver

Driver engagement in environmental efficiency is crucial to consistent reductions in emissions. Maintaining vehicles correctly maximises efficiency.  Drivers should be incentivised to drive vehicles in an environmentally efficient way. Practical steps organisations can use to encourage the culture of environmental responsibility include:

Financial

High emission vehicles will impact employees in terms of tax, fuel and depreciation. Highlight this when selecting a vehicle as part of company car policy documentation and on any ordering system deployed by your fleet management provider. Fuel reimbursement methods and rates should also be set at a breakeven cost so employees don’t complete unnecessary trips.

Training

Employees should have the skills to use their vehicles effectively. This is especially important for commercial vehicles or where you deploy new technologies where drivers potentially require different skills to driving a traditional car.

Eco-driving is also commonly available and is proven to reduce drivers’ fuel consumption covering any cost involved. However, do not consider training a one-off exercise; re-train drivers if bad habits return.

Measurement

“What gets measured gets done”. Create specific environmental performance targets for the fleet.

Targets should be regularly reported and reviewed by senior managers and line management. For example, driver targets could include measurements around the number of trips, fuel economy, reductions in mileage or avoiding driving at certain times of day in heavily congested areas.

Communications

Share environmental performance with drivers. Issue newsletters and driver league tables for environmental performance. This helps embed the culture of environmental management within the organisation.

A board member should be assigned accountability for the organisations drive to reduce emissions.  Many large businesses now need to report anyway as part of their ESOS obligations.

The Journey

Driving the vehicle causes an environmental impact. Measures to reduce mileage and improve the journey can make a significant impact. The best solution is not to make the journey in the first place, but there are practical measures that can minimise environmental impact:

Travel Alternatives

Can a meeting be done using a conference call or video conference instead of the need to travel? Technologies such as Teams and Zoom can negate the need for travel. These technologies have become more broadly accepted as a communications channel, especially when set against the environmental context.

The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged some organisations to look at their infrastructure. Homeworking has been proven to work for many businesses and is a trend we could see embedded in corporate culture once we return to the new “normal”.

Public Transport

Increasing the use of public transport such as trains, trams and buses can reduce carbon emissions and allow employees to be more productive. A range of Apps  make this easier for employees to plan and execute. As these services develop, the mobility as a service (MaaS) offerings will become more widely adopted, and multi-mode transport will become more of a viable option as part of a new ecosystem.

Businesses should start planning how they will integrate this into their overall travel planning and payment arrangements.  This may include providing people with a mobility budget and allowing them more freedom to choose transport modes.

Meeting Planning

Where meetings are necessary, planning meetings away from busy rush hour periods can significantly increase fuel economy on journeys. In addition, planning multiple meetings in a similar geographical location can reduce the overall business mileage.  Consider sharing vehicles for meeting attendance or putting on a bus or similar transport as an alternative solution to everyone driving.

Commuting

Many employees will commute to their office daily, which is an often-overlooked travel category. Remote working where practical is the obvious solution for some companies but is not always possible for all.  Where commuting is necessary, new services have emerged to tackle the issue.  Zeelo, Liftshare and ViaVan are some organisations with practical solutions to help manage this population of drivers.  With the expansion of workplace parking levies, transport alternatives will continue to gain traction as the market evolves.

Please find more useful information on the Energy Savings Trust website.

EVP Solutions have extensive experience advising our clients on practically reducing the impact of their fleet operations on the environment.

If you want to know more about how you can practically reduce your fleet carbon footprint, please contact us.

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