Written by 9:54 am Feature, Service Operations

Green intentions? The end game of fleet sustainability examined

Business motivations for running a green fleet can be many. Environmental ethics are laudable but the business case is clear and financial triggers can be equally compelling. Giles Margerison, Tom Tom Telematics’ Director UK & Ireland, explains how service companies can introduce an environmental strategy and considers its effect on day-to-day operations.

Environmental issues are being taken increasingly seriously by today’s world of business.

In some cases, sustainability has found its way onto service company agendas as a result of industry quotas and legislative demands, some firms simply want to become more environmentally-friendly from an ethical standpoint, others see it going hand-in-hand with business reputation and cost-savings.

Moral motivations may have taken a backseat during the recent economic downturn when, for many, business survival became the key objective. But as a leading motoring journalist recently pointed out – motives are not really the point, it’s the end result that counts.

Indeed those still to be convinced by moral arguments can ill-afford to ignore the fact that an environmental policy will invariably prove to also be a financially beneficial one – and this truth is particularly applicable for companies operating vehicle fleets.

In short, a green fleet policy means greater efficiency. This translates to lower fuel consumption, which in turn equals reduced costs and green house gas emissions. The business case for its introduction is therefore unequivocal.

The automotive industry is taking considerable strides to produce cleaner and greener vehicles, but slashing CO2 emissions need not be dependent upon upgrading to fleet vehicles with superior mpg efficiency. Instead, by focusing on how vehicles are used, immediate green results can be delivered no matter the size, nature and make-up of a fleet.

Implementation of smart job allocation and scheduling is a perfect place to start, helping reduce overall mileage and carbon footprint. Dispatching the most appropriate mobile workers to jobs requires accurate management information. This will range from assessing the urgency and priority of jobs to the location of employees and traffic flow en route.

Advanced telematics systems, which combine tracking, navigation and live traffic information, enable managers to make key decisions by monitoring vehicle locations, movements and driver performance. Jobs can then be allocated to the most appropriate field operative based on who will arrive quickest. The optimal route may not necessarily be the shortest but will be the one which minimises fuel usage, idling and time spent on the road.

Historic road-use data can also be analysed to avoid wasted mileage, while drivers are able to avoid congestion by using live traffic information provided by navigation devices. Coupled with smart routing, factoring in not only congestion but also traffic lights, roundabouts and other obstacles, this can mean journey time savings of up to 15 per cent – and a marked reduction in emissions.

Green efficiencies through improved driving performance

The driver is the biggest factor in fuel savings accounting for around 30 per cent of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a vehicle, and measurement of mpg underpins the potential savings in this area. Other crucial areas for measurement include vehicle idling, speeding and incidences of poor driving style, such as harsh steering or braking.

Telematics technology can draw upon all of this information, creating simple reports for organisations to profile individual drivers or entire fleets while empowering drivers themselves to improve by feeding performance data to them in real time, via in-vehicle terminals. And as research and development in this space continues apace, the performance areas that could be improved upon for greener, safer driving will develop, offering even greater opportunities for driver training and continual improvement.

Companies such as utilities giant Scotia Gas Networks (SGN) have demonstrated the fuel saving possibilities for this technology. SGN reduced incidences of negative driver behaviour (speeding, harsh steering, braking or acceleration) from 1,600 a day to less than 400 after implementing such technology across its 2,000+ vehicle fleet. The move resulted in an increase in average driver efficiency of 2.1 mpg.

For Zenith Hygiene Group, an incentivised scheme for the improvement of driver behaviour using TomTom Telematics’ technology saw its average vehicle mpg over the course of a year soar from 26 to 43. A study undertaken by global sustainability consultancy Environmental Resources Management (ERM), and commissioned by Vodafone, found that across its fleet this equated to almost 600 tonnes of CO2.

Such examples demonstrate how telematics data enables service companies to be fully accountable for their green policies, providing proof that requirements are being met. Moreover, managing mileage and driving behaviour not only protects the environment, it also protects drivers and companies’ all important bottom line.

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