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  • How to lower your fleet's carbon footprint


    With the World Meteorological Organisation reporting that environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions have reached their highest levels, the message to businesses is loud and clear: lower your carbon footprint now, before it's too late.

    It's a warning that's been long-heeded by climate change scientists and world politicians, and now consumers are joining in the fight, using their spending power to support companies demonstrating greater green credentials. In fact, latest figures reveal a growing trend towards consumers aligning with environmentally conscious organisations adopting low carbon initiatives.

    What this means for the fleet sector

    With vehicle CO2 emissions contributing almost a quarter of the harmful gasses doing detrimental damage to the earth's fragile ecosystem, fleet operators are under increasing pressure to lower their fleet's carbon footprint.

    But, when your business model is built around vehicle journeys, how can you successfully sustain your operation and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time?

    The answer is actually quite simple. There are many carbon-friendly initiatives fleet managers can easily and non-invasively implement, without negatively affecting business operations. In fact, for the most part, these environmentally green strategies also lower annual operating costs - actually saving businesses money in the long-term.

    So, in becoming more environmentally aware, not only are you helping the planet and appealing to a wider demographic of consumers, you're also cutting your fleet's yearly overheads too.

    Another detrimental impact of older fleet cars and undesirable driving behaviour is a rise in your annual fleet insurance premiums. To find out how implementing the following measures can help lower your fleet insurance costs, as well as your carbon footprint, give us all call or take a look at our fleet insurance page.

    How do I find out my fleet's carbon footprint?

    The first step in tackling your fleet's environmental impact involves finding out the severity of the situation, and to do this you'll need to know how your carbon footprint is calculated.

    When calculating your fleet's carbon footprint, there are two approaches you can take:

    1.    You can manually work out a rough estimate by multiplying each vehicle's monthly fuel consumption by the amount of CO2 we know is emitted per litre of diesel (2.68kg). This very simple formula will at best allow you to arrive at a ballpark estimate of your fleet's average CO2 output per year.

    2.    For a more accurate calculation, you can invest in telematics data capture technology, which will help you arrive at a more realistic record of your fleet's annual or monthly carbon output. These types of devices (of which there are many on the market) help you track your fleet vehicle's journeys, along with revealing insights about driver behaviour such as, idling, sharp acceleration, and sudden breaking.

    Combining this data will give you a more precise and accurate figure of your fleet's carbon emissions, but the exact level of accuracy depends entirely on the types of data you collect.

    No matter which of the two above methods you decide to implement, calculating your fleet's carbon footprint is an important first step in addressing your organisation's harmful emissions output. Only when you're aware of the carbon footprint your actions leave behind, can you make the behavioural and operational changes needed to combat and lower your fleet's impact on the planet.

    Easy fixes for carbon footprint reduction

    So now you're aware, or at the very least have a better idea, of your fleet's environmental footprint, the important work begins; putting measures in place to reduce your CO2 emissions.

    The good news is there are ways to bring about positive change, quickly and inexpensively, simply by addressing driving behaviour within your fleet - a highly effective solution that doesn't cost a thing to implement.  

    1.    Stamp out instances of vehicle idling
    Idling is when a vehicle's engine is turned on and running but the vehicle itself isn’t moving. It's an unconscious habit that tends to happen a lot while driving, usually while waiting for a red light to turn green, but also when a vehicle is sitting in traffic, or pulled over with the engine still actively engaged.

    What often surprises fleet managers is the amount of fuel that idling consumes. Idling is actually among the worst wastages of fuel per annum, using up to a litre per hour of idling on average, and significantly contributing to a fleet's overall CO2 emissions. One of the fastest ways to cut down on your carbon footprint is by encouraging fleet drivers to turn their engine off, rather than leave it idling. Not only will this small change in driver behaviour radically reduce your fleet's CO2 output, it will also save you from refuelling your vehicles as often, saving you money too. In fact, it's more economical to turn the engine off altogether than leave it idling for 10 seconds or longer.

    2.    Avoid aggressive acceleration and sudden sharp breaking
    In a similar vein to idling, sharp acceleration and heavy breaking also has a detrimental bearing on the amount of fuel your vehicle consumes and the CO2 emissions it generates. In fact, some estimates suggest that sudden acceleration combined with sharp breaking uses up to a third more fuel per mile than accelerating and breaking in good time. This figure only increases proportionately in relation to the size of the vehicle, and any respective load it's carrying.

    Just as educating your drivers to switch off their engines, rather than keep them idling, helps to curb fuel consumption and noxious CO2 gases entering the atmosphere, instilling safe and responsible driving behaviour among your fleet's operators will also reduce your carbon footprint accordingly. Encourage your drivers to maintain a steady speed, within the legal limit, and leave appropriate acceleration and breaking distances while in charge of fleet vehicles. This again will save you money, and lower your fleet's carbon footprint.  

    3.    Make less journeys and use green travel alternatives
    Another significant way to lower your carbon footprint is by reducing the amount of vehicle journeys you take. For a fleet manager this is one of the bigger operational challenges. But it is possible to do with a little consideration, careful planning, and ingenuity.

    Say, for example, that your fleet is responsible for parcel deliveries or courier runs. For non-urgent deliveries there's an opportunity to batch loads going to the same, or nearby, postcodes together in order to minimise the number of vehicles responsible for delivering those goods to their destination. You can also consider using bicycle couriers for short, local deliveries, or electric vehicles, which are a greener alternative to fuel-guzzling car or vans.

    Some forward-thinking taxi fleets have even started utilising the batch method to lower the number of passenger journeys they make. Offering customers willing to share a ride with a stranger travelling in the same direction, a reduced tariff for car-pooling. The fact is with such a high proportion of CO2 emissions being caused by road vehicles, even just making one less journey per day can significantly help to reduce a fleet's carbon footprint.

    4.    Ensure your fleet vehicles are serviced and renewed regularly
    An aging fleet can have catastrophic influences on road safety and also cost more in maintenance and repairs, not to mention older vehicles are known to burn up to 30% more fuel than their newer counterparts. Meaning the older cars within your fleet generate almost a third of your entire fleet's carbon footprint combined.

    Some fleet managers think there's value to be had in holding on to a vehicle for as long as possible, rather than investing regularly into new upgrades, but this way of thinking is a complete fallacy. Not only are older vehicles on the road less likely to be fitted with fuel-efficient features, making them more environmentally damaging, they're also more likely to breakdown, costing you money in repairs and maintenance that could be better utilised investing into newer, greener, fleet vehicles.

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