Guidelines for Reducing a Fleet’s Carbon Footprint
Minimizing a fleet’s environmental impact can seem daunting and overwhelming for even the most veteran fleet manager. Many fleets have explored implementing sustainability initiatives, but often these efforts stall because fleet managers are unsure of where to begin or because “going green” seems too costly. Those challenges are compounded by the myriad of complex options available and, most of all, trying to determine the sustainable strategy that is right for their particular fleet.
It is important for fleets to take a step-by-step approach when evaluating the available options.
First, the foundation for developing an effective sustainability strategy rests on clearly-defined program objectives, such as reducing CO2 emissions or total cost of ownership through reduced fuel consumption. Next, it is important to consider elements of the fleet that cannot be impacted without affecting the fleet’s ability to support the company’s core mission. Examples include miles traveled per month/year or the fleet’s cargo space or payload requirements. It is critical that sustainability practices do not impede the effectiveness of a fleet’s day-to-day operations by compromising critical functionality.
Once a fleet has established program objectives and prioritized the operational needs of the fleet, a fleet manager can begin to identify green opportunities that may be suitable for the fleet, review industry best practices and develop potential strategies. Some larger fleets may consider conducting pilot programs to evaluate initial results and the impact on fleet operations before introducing larger, sweeping changes.
Although taking the first step toward reducing a fleet’s carbon footprint may seem intimidating, fleet managers should keep in mind that the decision to go green does not have to be all or nothing. While considering larger, more comprehensive initiatives, a fleet manager can implement simple, incremental changes that together will deliver a sizable impact on the fleet’s overall sustainability and carbon footprint.
Two main areas where fleet managers can implement straightforward, sustainable practices in their fleet are driver behavior and vehicle maintenance.
A fleet’s drivers can have the greatest influence on a fleet’s overall sustainability. Daily decisions that drivers make in regard to their behavior while behind the wheel directly impact a fleet’s fuel spend which, in turn, impacts the amount of CO2 emissions driven into the atmosphere. These are five simple messages that fleet managers can quickly and easily convey to drivers in order to steer their behavior in the right direction:
- Slow down — Fuel economy decreases by about 1.4 percent for each mile per hour over 50. Driving at 65 miles per hour rather than 55, for example, decreases fuel economy by approximately 14 percent.
- Avoid idling — Unnecessary idling wastes fuel. In fact, idling for as little as five minutes can waste up to 20 cents of fuel. Drivers should turn off their vehicles’ engines if stopping for more than 30 seconds, since restarting the engine will use less fuel than idling.
- Keep a log — Track fuel economy for future comparison. By monitoring gas mileage, along with stops and starts, urban vs. rural driving, and other factors along their route, drivers can see for themselves how their behavior and environment is impacting fuel efficiency.
- Lighten the load — It takes more fuel to move heavier objects, so remove all unnecessary items from the vehicle. On average, for each 100 pounds of needless weight, fuel efficiency is reduced by as much as two percent.
- Avoid rapid accelerations and braking — Half of the energy needed to power a car is consumed during acceleration. Drivers can improve fuel economy by as much as 10 percent by avoiding unnecessary braking. Using cruise control is one effective way to achieve fuel-efficient driving.
Fleet managers can help ensure these sustainable policies remain top-of-mind by regularly reminding drivers via newsletters, email announcements, corporate intranet messages or by implementing a recognition program that rewards green driving habits.
Keeping vehicles in good mechanical shape will also help fleets operate at optimal efficiency. Here are four simple strategies to help fleets get the most out of their vehicles:
- Properly inflate tires — The increased surface area of the rubber in soft tires meeting the road creates ongoing drag, which results in greater demand on the engine.
- Properly align tires — Improperly aligned tires cause friction and uneven wear. Inspect suspension and chassis parts for misalignment such as bent wheels, axles, bad shocks, or broken springs.
- Keep the engine tuned — Regularly check and refresh fluid levels, especially in colder regions where winter puts additional stress on engine parts. While high-quality synthetic motor oil blends may protect the engine better than conventional oil, they don’t eliminate the need for regular oil changes.
- Keep the engine air filter clean — A clogged filter strains performance. In some cars, the filter can be easily checked by the owner; or drivers may ask a technician to check it during regular tune-ups.
Together, these small steps will help ensure your vehicles remain at peak performance levels and will inevitably help to increase fuel efficiency and reduce a fleet’s carbon footprint.
These simple green fleet strategies may not deliver drastic changes overnight, but by implementing several of these initiatives in combination, they will help a fleet realize incremental fuel savings and reduce its carbon footprint. In conjunction with these, the fleet management team can develop and implement comprehensive, long-term sustainability initiative.