The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Market Trends

No Silver Bullet to Fleet Emission Reductions

November 8, 2012, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

Vehicle fleets are key contributors to a company’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but they do offer a way to make quick emissions reductions. Since most companies replace approximately one-third of their fleet vehicles each year, they can structure selectors to favor more fuel-efficient models; however, there is a limit to this strategy. A fleet can only downsize so much before beginning to impact the fleet mission. The bottom line is that you can’t change the fundamental requirements of your business. A company still needs to move employees and cargo in a cost-efficient manner, which necessitates a minimum equipment requirement, even if it is not perceived to be the “greenest” option. As a result, achieving broad-based reductions requires a multi-faceted approach. There is no single silver bullet to fleet emissions reduction — it requires a multi-pronged approach.

* Spec the smallest displacement engine and smallest class of vehicle that can fulfill the fleet application. Your focus should be on optimizing vehicle selection by acquiring the smallest vehicle capable of fulfilling the fleet application, powered by the smallest displacement engine. Many sales fleets have already transitioned all of their sedans to four-cylinder engines. Other companies have made great strides in altering fleet composition by removing SUVs and utilizing more fuel-efficient crossovers.

* Subscribe to a fuel management program. Aggressively monitor the metrics to identify exceptions to fleet policy and act upon them. Level III data is enhanced transaction detail that helps fleet managers identify not just the “where” and the “when” behind a purchase, but also the “who,” “what,” and “how.” It’s a tool that can help fleets run more smoothly and cost-efficiently by pinpointing problem areas before they spin out of control.

* Implement anti-idling initiatives. Until the advent of telematics devices, unnecessary idling was not perceived to be a major problem for fleets. But, once engine data was captured by fleets on a large-scale basis via telematics, it quickly became apparent that idling represented a significant “hidden” problem. The amount of unnecessary idling varies by fleet, but some fleets have recorded idling as much as 35 percent of the time.

* Implement Pilot Projects to Validate Fleet Use of Vehicles Powered by Non-Petroleum-Based Fuels. The best way to validate the viability of alternative-fuel vehicles to meet your fleet application is to conduct a pilot program. There are many fleet applications in which an alt-fuel vehicle can meet your business needs, while simultaneously lowering emissions and helping to reduce your traditional fuel spend.

* Modify driver behavior through ongoing eco-driving training. If fuel efficiency is constrained by equipment requirements, the “last mile” to achieving corporate sustainability objectives is modifying driver behavior. This represents the greatest opportunity for fleet managers to green their fleets. Most company drivers average 20,000 miles per year and employee behavior has a major influence on fuel consumption. To be a truly green fleet, you need to change your drivers’ mindsets to make them “greener” drivers. The way employees drive company-assigned vehicles can improve (or decrease) fuel economy and decrease (or increase) emissions. In fact, according to EPA data, up to 30 percent of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is impacted by driver behavior. The way an employee drives makes a big difference in the volume of GHG emissions emitted by a company vehicle. For example, every unnecessary gallon of gasoline burned creates 19.5 lbs. of CO2. Similarly, every unnecessary gallon of diesel burned creates 22.1 lbs. of CO2.

* Test telematics options to determine applicability and efficacy to your fleet operation. There are many great options in the marketplace; test them out. Provide drivers the tools to identify the refueling locations with the lowest prices, regardless of where they are located. These tools exist; take advantage of them.

* Eliminate unnecessary weight from work vehicles. Drivers must pre-plan their work day by carrying only the tools needed for the job. Often, work vehicles are rolling warehouses, which needlessly reduces fuel economy by hauling unnecessary weight. There’s a direct correlation between vehicle weight, fuel consumption, and GHG emissions. Every pound of extra weight requires an engine to work harder, increasing fuel consumption and, as a consequence, increasing tailpipe emissions. Reducing fuel consumption, by default, decreases emissions. From an ROI perspective, an extra 100 lbs. in vehicle weight can reduce mpg up to 2 percent. In addition, every pound deleted from curb weight is converted into revenue-generating payload.

* Don’t rely on drivers to determine the best routes. It is a fleet manager’s responsibility to take the lead on route optimization for delivery and sales fleets. By pre-planning trips to minimize stop-and-go driving, you can reduce emissions. It is important to remember the highest emissions volume occurs when starting a cold engine. Consider combining several short trips into one longer trip. Since a catalytic converter must be heated to a certain temperature to work, fewer emissions are produced during longer trips because the engine is warmed up.

* Ensure tires are properly inflated. This is the easiest, most cost-effective (and most neglected) way to boost fuel economy.

* Adopt minimum fuel economy requirements. Make this a prerequisite before adding a vehicle to your selector.

* Make sure employees adhere to corporate fuel policies during the personal use of company vehicles.

If you’re serious about wanting to reduce your corporate fuel spend and decrease GHG emissions, don’t take a rifle-shot approach. What you need is a shotgun — a big-gauge shotgun.

Let me know what you think.


  1. 1. Alan Bates [ November 13, 2012 @ 04:42PM ]

    Great article, and lot of food for thought. I couldn't agree more that this is going to take a shotgun approach. Regarding anti-idling, one helpful tool that drivers can use now for free is Shorepower Truck Stop Electrification. Through January 2013, most Shorepower sites will be free to use. This is a good way to get familiar with plugging in and saving fuel, wear and tear.

  2. 2. Steve Kibler [ December 05, 2012 @ 07:53AM ]

    Nov. 13th; I can't believe I almost missed this article! Great thoughts Mike and so timely to my needs. We are working on a strategy to educate our operators in a way they feel like stakeholders instead of employees. Convenience appears to drive most bad habits when it comes to unnecessary idling, wasting fuel, hauling too much, wrong-sizing vehicles, etc. Our belief is we probably can't achieve 100% behavior improvements but if we can achieve 80% through repeated messages, that's time well spent.

  3. 3. John Clements [ January 30, 2013 @ 03:49PM ]

    As always an excellent article with great insights. I think many times Fleet Managers feel completely overwhelmed knowing they should be doing something to “green” their fleet, but thinking it is an all or nothing proposition. As you pointed out, a green fleet program can take many forms. And, any green fleet program definitely needs to be customized to the needs of each organization especially when it comes to refueling infrastructure, vehicle availability and particularly cost. The focus of your article points to many things that can be done with your existing vehicles which was great. I have often said, just the fact a given fleet has a vehicle replacement program is part of “greening” program whether you buy an AFV or not. My point is the mere act of replacing a 7 to 9 year old vehicle with today’s technology automatically lowers emissions, increases fuel economy and improves reliability, safety and other factors. Additionally, the process of replacing a vehicle(s) should begin with all parties considering what do we really need when it comes to the replacement vehicle OR do we need the vehicle period! Just because a specific driver has always had a pickup truck doesn’t mean they still need one today. Also, adding to your suggestions we just purchased a new fleet wide GPS/AVL system. During the procurement process we added an option for our customers to choose an in-vehicle navigation unit. Our thought was, how can you ask a driver to be efficient and take the most efficient route if you don’t give them the tools to do that? One final thought is on the many occasions when we have published fuel saving advice for our drivers, we always challenge our drivers to save at least 2 gallons of fuel per week using the suggestions we (and your article) provide. It seems, like most of us, drivers react to a challenge rather than just providing a bunch of suggestions that are probably ignored anyway. Keep up the good work.

Comment On This Story

Email: (Email will not be displayed.)  

Comment: (Maximum 10000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that comments may be moderated.

Fleet Incentives

Determine the actual cost of owning and running a vehicle in your fleet. Compare vehicles by class and model.

Sponsored by

an association of 12 vehicle manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Cars North America

Read more

Author Bio

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and entered the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

» More

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher