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Sustainability: A Proven Way to Reduce Fleet Operating Costs

September 9, 2014, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

There is a cost efficiency component to green fleet initiatives that not only helps meet sustainability goals, but also reduces operating costs by decreasing fuel consumption.

There is s a symbiotic relationship with fleet sustainability and cost control. For example, if you want to green your fleet, there should be a relentless focus on managing vehicle utilization by identifying underutilized vehicles and equipment. Optimal fleet utilization will lower fleet costs, which, in turn, will lead to a greener fleet.

Here’s another example: Managing overall fleet size, by avoiding unplanned “fleet creep,” should be one of your top priorities, because that’s where a fleet’s biggest emissions reductions arise. The decrease in overall fuel consumption will automatically result in an overall decrease in fleet emissions. This, in turn, will result in lower operating costs due to decreased fuel consumption and also lower depreciation costs because of the fewer units in operation.

When the average unit age of the fleet is high, it will thwart even the best-intended green fleet initiatives.

A regularly scheduled vehicle replacement program is an integral part of a green fleet program, regardless of whether you buy an alternative-fuel vehicle or not. The act of replacing older vehicle technology with today’s powertrain technology automatically lowers emission and increases fuel economy; not to mention improving maintenance reliability, reducing downtime, and overall driver morale. With current advances in average fuel economy and decreased emissions, a regular replacement cycle will continually update your fleet, resulting in the operation of fewer inefficient vehicles, which, in turn, will lower operating costs.

A Symbiotic Relationship
There is a direct correlation with the amount of fuel consumed to the amount of fleet emissions. There are a number of ways to reduce fuel consumption. During the selector development process, draw a line in the sand appropriate for your fleet application, and adopt a minimum fuel-economy requirement for a vehicle to be added to a selector.

If your fleet application will allow it, downsize vehicle size where practical. Spec the smallest displacement engine and smallest vehicle class that can fulfill the fleet application. Many sales fleets have already transitioned all of their sedans to four-cylinder engines. Other companies have similarly made great strides in altering fleet composition by removing SUVs and utilizing more fuel-efficient crossovers.

Remember, the larger the vehicle, the greater the emissions; the more vehicles there are in a fleet, the greater the cumulative emissions. In every fleet operation, you will find employees driving larger-than-needed vehicles to fulfill the fleet application.

A smaller, more aerodynamic vehicle can offer better fuel economy by creating less rolling wind resistance. But, many fleet drivers become comfortable with certain vehicle types, despite the fact that it may be overkill for the intended fleet application.

Modifying Behavior to Reduce Emissions & Fuel
If fuel efficiency is constrained by equipment requirements, the alternate strategy to achieving corporate sustainability objectives is modifying driver behavior. This represents the greatest opportunity for fleet managers to green their fleets. The way an employee drives determines the volume of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions produced by a company vehicle. Even if a vehicle’s EPA fuel economy is rated high, aggressive and inefficient driving can substantially degrade a vehicle’s optimal fuel economy.

Modify driver behavior through ongoing eco-driving training. Most company drivers average 20,000 miles per year and employee behavior has a major influence on fuel consumption. The way employees drive company assigned vehicles can improve (or decrease) fuel economy and decrease (or increase) emissions.

Another way to modify driver behavior is to 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.

'Killing Two Birds with One Stone'
Sustainability initiatives, such as reducing fuel consumption, maximizing fleet utilization, rightsizing to eliminate “fleet creep,” and downsizing to smaller vehicles when appropriate are also the same strategies to reduce operating costs. It is a strategy that fulfills the proverb of “killing two birds with one stone.”

Let me know what you think.

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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.

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