I am in regular contact with commercial fleet managers around the country, which allows me to stay current with the multitude of challenges, opportunities, and trends impacting our industry. Recently, while surveying commercial fleet managers about their buying inclinations for the 2019 model-year, I asked fleet managers to identify the greatest challenge facing their fleet operations.
Recognizing that I was surveying a broad cross-section of corporate America, I was not surprised to receive a diverse list of numerous challenges; however, three challenges were consistently high on the list for many fleet managers — improving driver safety, mitigating the high cost of fuel, and complying with corporate pressures to reduce fleet’s contribution to the company’s global carbon footprint. The good news is that all three of these challenges are interrelated and represent an excellent opportunity for fleet managers to demonstrate their value to senior management by synergistically addressing all three simultaneously.
Changing Driver Behavior
The biggest obstacle to fuel efficiency, fleet safety, and sustainability initiatives is often company drivers themselves. By training drivers to practice safe driving techniques, you will also contribute to reduced fuel consumption and decreased emissions. A safe driving program allows a company to leverage constrained resources and reduce liability exposure by lowering the incidence of preventable accidents.
One fleet best practice is to meld eco-driving and safe-driving techniques into a single program. In many ways, safe driving and eco-driving are one and the same, with both focused on modifying driver behavior. By making drivers safer and more fuel conscious, you will also decrease fuel consumption and the incident of preventable accidents.
Most company drivers average 20,000 miles per year and driver behavior is a major influence in both the incident of a preventable accident and fuel consumption. There’s a direct correlation between safe driving and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The safer the driver, the fewer preventable accidents, the greater the fuel efficiency and the lower the GHG emissions.
How employees drive a company vehicle determines how safe they will be on the road. The same is true in terms of sustainability. How an employee drives a vehicle can improve (or decrease) fuel economy and decrease (or increase) emissions. In fact, up to 30% of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is impacted by driver behavior. The way an employee drives makes a significant difference in the volume of GHG emissions emitted by a company vehicle, regardless of vehicle size or engine displacement. For example, every unnecessary gallon of gasoline burned by a car creates 19.5 lbs. of CO2. The same is true for trucks — every unnecessary gallon of diesel burned creates 22.1 lbs. of CO2.
If fuel efficiency potential 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 fuel economy.
If you change driving behavior, you have a direct impact on the safety-consciousness of your drivers, the amount of fuel consumed, and the volume of emissions. Changing driver behavior can result in a 5% to 30% reduction in annual fuel consumption and help reduce preventable accidents. The net result of making employees safer drivers is a reduction in GHG emissions.
To illustrate, consider that the greatest amount of GHG emissions occurs during aggressive driving. Less than a minute of high-powered driving produces the same volume of GHG as a half hour of normal driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking can lower fuel economy by 33% in highway driving and 5% in urban driving. Even small increases in mpg can yield substantial savings when extrapolated across the entire fleet.
By limiting acceleration and fast braking, a driver can increase fuel economy and minimize the potential of a preventable accident. Route planning is an important component of eco-safe driving. Stop-and-go driving burns fuel more quickly, increases emissions, and, from a safety perspective, increases the probability of being involved in a rear-end collision.
By pre-planning trips to minimize stop-and-go driving, you can reduce emissions. It is important to remember the highest volume of emissions occurs when starting a cold engine. Eco-safe driving encourages combining several short trips into one. 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.
Accomplishing Three Goals Simultaneously
Driver distraction accounts for 25-30% of all fleet-related accidents. Eco-safe driving teaches drivers to avoid distractions and focus on driving. These driving habits likewise contribute to reduced fuel consumption and emissions. An eco-safe driving program allows a company to leverage constrained resources to simultaneously green its fleet and reduce its liability exposure by lowering the incident of preventable accidents.
In addition, fleet managers are feeling pressure from other corporate departments to increase fleet driver safety. For instance, corporate risk management is becoming more influential in the types of vehicles added to fleet selectors. Some corporate risk management departments dictate that only models with NHTSA 5-Star ratings can be added to a fleet selector.
Another department with a growing influence on fleet safety is Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) because drivers are one of the largest sources of Workers’ Comp claims. Under OSHA regs, an employer must provide a workplace free from hazards and company vehicles are considered a workplace. Good ergonomics contributes to accident avoidance. Poor ergonomics reduces driver comfort, which increases fatigue, a key contributor to preventable accidents.
Let me know what you think.