Greening Your Fleet: 5 Keys to Real Success

There are a lot of articles out there centered upon the “Green Fleet” philosophy. As a responsible fleet manager or business owner, you are probably already striving toward Green objectives, whether or not you label them as such. Being proactive and placing a high importance on your operating efficiency can really make a difference. And if your company is looking for some recognition for its efforts, or simply looking to run a more effective fleet, going Green could really pay off in the long run. So how do you start “Greening” your fleet today?

Set Attainable Goals and Map out Your Path to Success

A good manager always finds a way to measure improvement, because, at the end of the day, the numbers do not lie. If you put an objective in place, find the metrics that are going to be indicative of success or failure. For instance, if you want to reduce your overall fleet expenses, look at your key statistics for becoming more efficient and break your plan down into the steps that get you to the final goal. Find reasonable benchmarks that can help you and your employees build momentum toward a greener fleet. Here are some of the key ideas that should be on the list.

The Overarching Theme: Reducing Fuel Consumption

You knew this was coming, and are probably already doing your best to reduce the fuel consumption of your fleet. The problem, most will find, is figuring out how to make a notable and sustainable difference without replacing all of your vehicles or making your drivers miserable. With so many variables involved (terrain, load, route, etc) you can’t always get the entire picture with a MPG calculation from your fleet management system. What you can determine, however, are the general guidelines that will lead to an improved fuel efficiency.

Cut Down on Idle Time

This is a big one, and a number that we see as a big influencer in fuel consumption. One hour of idle time is roughly equal to 30 miles of driving. If your drivers are keeping their trucks running all day, either as an escape from summer heat or out of convenience, the added expense can really add up. Information from an onboard Vehicle Health Monitor or GPS Unit can make this statistic painfully obvious. But what can you do to implement a change? There are a few proven options that can help curb idle time without stirring an overwhelmingly negative reaction

Rather than hand down mandates on idling, you can reward drivers for running their vehicles less. With this system, it becomes a conscious decision for the employee, and more often than not, the reward is more of a motivator than the fear of consequences. Read more about ways to structure your incentive program.

For larger trucks, the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) could be an option for idle time reduction. These cooling units can help curb your fuel consumption without sacrificing driver comfort on long or overnight trips. Savings of up to 16% have been seen on trucks that have been outfitted with APUs.

Regular Maintenance

This should be a no brainer, but the importance can’t really be stressed enough. By virtue of being comprised of thousands of moving parts, a vehicle’s efficiency can really take a hit if you don’t keep everything in check. Simply getting regular oil changes (with the right oil for your car/truck) and replacing the air filter as needed can make a huge difference in fuel economy. The Green Fleet concept is all about being environmentally responsible, so it has just as much to do with what goes into your vehicles as what comes out. In addition to harming air quality, a vehicle that spews harmful pollutants is going to give your company a bad rap. Preventative maintenance will keep things on the straight and narrow. Just find an easy to use fleet management software and set your service schedules and reminders so you never miss one.

Spec’ing More Efficient Vehicles

If you are in the market for new vehicles, you are in the proverbial driver’s seat to make big strides in curbing in your fleet’s fuel bills. Vehicles are more fuel efficient than ever, and with tighter regulations coming down the pipeline, that trend should continue. It would be worth the time and effort (especially at a larger company) to modify your vehicle specs and include a minimum fuel economy rating for all new vehicles of various sizes.

The key here is knowing exactly what your operating requirements are. Take historical data and driver feedback to gather the miles driven annually, the power needed for different vehicles as well as the overall scope of work that the fleet performs. With this information, you’ll be able to calculate probable payback periods for implementing new options, which will probably be more expensive.

Since many work trucks are also outfitted with additional equipment, you have the opportunity to increase efficiency by recommending lighter or more aerodynamic add-ons. Do a little homework up front and you could save quite a bit going forward.

Alternative Energy Sources

When you talk about greener automobiles, alternative fuel options tend to be at the forefront of discussion. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Electric Vehicles (EVs) are becoming much more attainable than they have been in years past. If the tax incentives and infrastructure in your area are favorable, doing some research on your options might be a good idea for your fleet. If you are already equipped with annual mileage figures, calculating the ROI based on projected MPG ratings can be pretty easy. Just be sure to take into consideration the availability of your fuel source, refill time and overall range. If your fleet is widely dispersed and covering unpredictable routes, alternative fuels may not be an option for you yet.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

In addition to regular maintenance, being green has a lot to do with your vehicles rolling down the road as efficiently as possible. If you tires are set at the wrong pressures, then everything else you do to reduce fuel consumption can be negated. A visual inspection every day by your drivers is a good way to ensure that you are getting the most out of your tires. This is an easy win.

Most vehicle types now also have a tire option available that has a lower rolling resistance. In some cases, it is a redesigned tread pattern. For eighteen wheelers and other large trucks, tests have shown that the new single wide-base tire concept performs better than two side-by-side tires in certain cases.

Go forth and be green. With these keys, you can start seeing a difference tomorrow.

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