How to go green with fleet beyond choosing greener models

Switching company cars for greener models is not the only way that organisations can reduce the carbon footprint of their fleet, as driver training and a review of private fuel can also help, says Nick Golding

The desire to adopt a more environmentally-friendly approach to company cars by reducing CO2 emissions has shot to the top of many fleet managers’ agendas. Those who think the only way to achieve this is by buying a fleet of so-called green cars, such as hybrids, to replace gas guzzlers however, could be missing a trick.

Basic measures can be taken to help cut the amount of CO2 produced by company cars, which need not cost the earth. Jim Salkeld, chairman at Toomey Opticar, explains: “The most important thing that an employer can do is review its fleet policy and, if it offers private fuel for drivers, look for alternatives.”

Offering drivers competitive rates on private fuel, for example, effectively acts as an incentive for some staff to drive extra miles. By cutting this out, employees’ private mileage is likely to drop, so reducing CO2 emissions.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has set suggested advisory fuel rates (AFR) that employers could switch to when compensating drivers for private miles. These include levels of 10p per mile for drivers of cars with 1.4 litre engines.

Stuart Menzies, sales director at Grosvenor Contracts Leasing, says: “The fleet can even change its user-chooser policy, and although this may not be to the liking of all drivers, it will slowly reduce emissions.”

Some employers may prefer to take this stronger approach and alter their policies so that only cars that emit below a certain level of grams of CO2 per kilometre can be driven, even though this will limit the effect of the organisation’s user-chooser policy. There is also much to be said for educating staff about the effect that the type of vehicles they choose to drive has on the environment and to incentivise them to change cars. Yorkshire Building Society plans to adopt such an approach by offering financial incentives to employees who drive cars that emit 110 grams of CO2 per kilometre or less. Caroline Gibson, travel co-ordinator, explains: “We haven’t done this as soon as we would have liked to, but by the next quarter we hope to be encouraging drivers into low-emission cars with financial incentives.”

Furthermore, education around driver behaviour can pay dividends. Many drivers do not realise that keeping their tyre pressure at a certain level can reduce the amount of work the car has to undertake, which will, in turn, cut the amount of fuel used, says Menzies. “[Keeping] tyres pumped to the recommended pressure can improve fuel economy by between 3% and 10%. All employers need to do is give drivers a tyre pressure gauge. It is cheap and easy,” he adds.

Yorkshire Building Society instructs its company car drivers to report that they have checked their tyre pressure each month so ensuring that tyres are also maintained. “Drivers must declare each month that they have checked their tyres, not just for green reasons but for health and safety reasons as well,” says Gibson,Encouraging company car drivers to keep their windows closed when driving along motorways at high speeds is another quick win for fleet managers looking to keep CO2 emissions down, as the wind causes resistance on the car and uses up unnecessary levels of fuel. “It is better to have your air conditioning on full blast, and windows closed when driving at high speed because of the drag caused,” explains Menzies.

But there is no better way to educate drivers than through a driver training programme. Although these traditionally teach employees how to remain safe while driving, some programmes now also include tips on fuel economy and lowering CO2 levels. Driving erratically and breaking too hard, for example, are just two ways that drivers can waste fuel when on the road without realising that they are doing so.

Today’s driver training programmes are not particularly expensive, especially with the rise of online seminars, which some providers even offer as free add-ons. “There are all sorts of packages available, [which] range in cost, from £40 a driver to £300 a driver,” says Menzies.

So for fleet managers keen to operate a greener fleet, there is no need to jump on the hybrid bandwagon immediately. Instead, taking small steps to educate drivers and removing any incentives to waste fuel, can help to cut emissions.

If you read nothing else read this…

  • Employers can take a number of steps to make their fleet greener besides replacing cars with hybrid models.
  • Ensuring drivers keep their windows closed when driving at high speeds, means they will experience less drag and will use less fuel to power the car.
  • Educating drivers that tyres below the recommended pressure level can increase CO2 emissions through wasted fuel, is a quick way to cut the amount that is used.
  • Online driver training is relatively inexpensive, and can help teach staff how to drive in a way that is economic on fuel, for example, by not breaking or accelerating excessively.