Despite supply chain disruptions, there’s much fleet operators can do to green their fleets.
In years gone by, greening a fleet often meant replacing older vehicles with newer, more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly options. In 2022, with the current supply chain disruptions, this approach is no longer as easy as it used to be.
That said, “there is still so much that can be done,” says Carlene McTague, Strategic Account Manager for Holman. “We can look at how a fleet is utilized—where it’s driven, when it’s driven, who it’s driven by, and how much it’s driven. That insight helps fleet operators understand how many vehicles, and the types of vehicles, they actually need to support their current business needs.”
McTague says COVID-19 has expedited the right-sizing process as a growing number of employees transition to long-term remote work scenarios. “Driver eligibility for a vehicle has been flipped upside-down during the pandemic,” she adds. “So, if your fleet has downsized and you have less employees on the road, that will have a dramatic impact on emissions.”
Another key area to consider, she says, is excessive idling, which can be managed with the help of telematics. “A comprehensive telematics program provides the visibility necessary to reduce idle times, optimize vehicle routes, and better understand the utilization of assets, allowing our clients to see significant savings,” she adds.
Telematics also allows fleet operators to better monitor and manage high-risk driver behaviour, including speeding, harsh braking, etc. “Managing this behaviour not only reduces fuel use, but also creates a safer work environment,” McTague notes.
In addition, not using a larger vehicle when a smaller, more efficient unit can do the job, will reduce emissions and save money, as will a carpool. “These are great ways to save, as well as reduce overall fleet emissions,” McTague says.
Back to basics
Charlotte Argue, Senior Manager of Fleet Electrification at Geotab agrees that a back to basics approach in the current environment can go a long way to greening a fleet.
“Take a look at whether some of your vehicles are under-utilized,” she says. “If so, removing some vehicles from the fleet and using one vehicle to do multiple jobs can save you money. And if you’ve identified which of your vehicles are most fuel-efficient, you can put those vehicles in the higher-use duty cycles.”
Argue recommends route optimization to limit unnecessary mileage. “The best way to reduce emissions is not to drive at all,” she explains, “and I can guarantee you, there are a lot of fleets out there that haven’t optimized their routing or their usage. So that’s a big, low-hanging fruit.”
Monitoring fuel usage
Eric Norkus, Account Executive with Foss National Leasing explains why monitoring fuel use can help fleets not only reduce emissions; but save money as well.
“A managed fuel program is critical,” Norkus says, adding that if some of your drivers are using a credit card to purchase fuel, while others are using a gas card from one company or another, and others still are using a reimbursement program, this can be difficult to manage.
“With a managed program, you can consolidate all your fuel information so that you can spot the outliers and determine who is using more fuel than they should,” he adds. “If two employees are driving the same vehicle, but one is using 15% more fuel, then you can use the data to start drilling down to see why. Is it driver behaviour? Could it be fuel theft? A program that’s managed, with exception reporting and reviewable data, is going to highlight where that misuse is. And not only are you going to reduce your carbon footprint, but you’re going to save money.”
Emily Graham, Director, Sustainability at Holman says that fleets should consider other alternative fuel solutions for some of their vehicles. “Propane, for example, is a terrific alternative fuel to help reduce emissions in some vehicles in the 3,000-6,000 GVWR range,” she explains. “Compressed natural gas offers a good ROI in Class 7-8 vehicles, and that’s where EVs won’t be readily available for some time. Hydrogen Fuel Cell is gaining in popularity in Class 8 tests, and there are some applications potentially coming sooner rather than later to the sedan market. Finally, renewable diesel is an option fleets could consider.”
Graham says fleet operators should assess the variety of alternative fuel solutions available and plan for the future. “You can start thinking of potential strategies for the various assets in your fleet, and begin applying appropriate solutions today, while waiting for the technology for larger units to catch up from an EV perspective,” she concludes. “Moreover, you need to start your sustainability plan today. You don’t want to start working on a transition plan when there’s going to be a sense of urgency in the future. By starting today you’ll be equipped with a roadmap to outline where the cost of capital might be for your business as you start going about the transition in the future.”