Green Operations

Driving Fleet Emissions Down

October 2009, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Karen Healey

Historically, car and truck fleets have been areas of quick wins in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as most companies replace a portion of their fleets every year, offering an opportunity to downsize or change to more environmentally friendly vehicles. Changing the vehicle mix has been the fastest and most cost-effective way to achieve fleet environmental goals.

However, with the tightening economy, companies are considering holding on to their vehicles longer. The good news is organizations still can do much to improve their existing fleets' fuel economy.

Just to be clear - we are not talking about fuel additives or magnets or other types of snake oil. Instead, we mean good old driver behavior - training drivers to operate their vehicles in the most fuel-efficient manner possible.  

A recent Wall Street Journal article stated, "Drivers commonly improve their fuel economy upwards of 20 percent after deploying a handful of eco-driving techniques." This claim was further supported by a study done a few years ago by the PBS program "Motor Week," which showed driving behavior can have a 20-percent impact on a driver's fuel economy on average (in varied driving conditions). That's huge - both environmentally and financially!

Human behavior can be tough to change, and you may not get all your drivers to adopt fuel-efficient driving practices. But even small gains can make a significant difference. So, how do you motivate drivers to adopt environmentally friendly driving practices and start achieving these positive results? Any or all of the following three approaches are recommended.

1. Train Drivers on Vehicle Operation & Maintenance

Many companies are training drivers how to operate and maintain their vehicles to maximize fuel efficiency. This training can be delivered in several forms - at sales meetings, online, tips in a driver newsletter, etc.
To make the training as effective as possible, there are few keys to remember. First, the training's core messages should be repeated. Human beings rarely adopt a new behavior after hearing about it for the first time. Second, companies must ensure they do not set contradictory goals for drivers. For example, if you ask drivers to do regularly scheduled maintenance to keep their vehicles running at peak efficiency and also announce a goal of reducing vehicle maintenance costs, you are sending a mixed message to drivers.

Early results from PHH clients at the beginning stages of instituting green driving training programs reveal they have already improved fuel efficiency by up 4 percent overall, with individual drivers improving their efficiency by as much as 17 percent.

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