Green Operations

How to Build a Successful Green Fleet

July 2011, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Cindy Brauer - Also by this author

At a Glance:

To build a successful green fleet, fleet managers should:
● Get buy-in from all management and staff levels and communicate information frequently.
● Anticipate obstacles, including driver resistance.
● Incorporate best practices, such as sustainable changes and creating long-term and objective goals.







Implementing a green fleet initiative is no easy feat. According to three industry professionals, a successful plan to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions — with a respectable return on investment (ROI) — requires a long-term vision, incremental change, top management support, openness to all options, and flexibility to manage challenges.

Mathers, Schreiber, and Bibbo
Mathers, Schreiber, and Bibbo

 Get Buy-In & Communicate

Top management backing is critical to developing and executing a fuel-efficient and eco-responsible fleet.
“In most cases, this is a top-to-bottom effort with some specific goals and targets,” said Phil Schreiber, North America fleet manager for Otis Elevator Company. “A culture must be developed to view and recognize the benefits of implementing a green fleet. The benefits must be tangible, not only feel-good benefits.”

Donna Bibbo, manager of fleet and travel for Princeton, N.J.-based Novo Nordisk Inc., echoed the need for executive buy-in and support. She added another essential component in green fleet planning — keeping the message alive.
“Communication, communication, communication,” Bibbo said. “You need to keep this [issue] in the minds of the drivers constantly. They slip back into old habits really easily.”

Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environment Defense Fund (EDF) Corporate Partnership program, recommended coordinating with other internal corporate groups.

“It’s important the procurement and environmental strategy teams align,” Mathers explained. In initial EDF green fleet efforts, these two teams commonly met for the first time “when they were sitting down with us,” he recalled.
As companies create more detailed environmental goals, those internal connections are made. “This is a problem mostly for companies just starting to create an environmental strategy that goes beyond compliance,” Mathers noted.

Anticipate Obstacles

Even carefully developed plans can encounter obstacles when implemented, Bibbo noted. “Understand the challenges and be ready to either address them or accept that they will impede your progress,” she suggested.
Driver resistance has been a significant obstacle for Novo Nordisk’s green fleet initiative. Seeking to accommodate work/life balance issues, the company vehicle selector offers large SUV/minivan choices, although at a higher personal use charge. “They say that they want to do the right thing, but they just can’t resist that larger SUV if it’s offered,” Bibbo said. The higher personal use fee initially reduced driver selections of more gas-guzzling models, “but now, they just accept it as a way of life and pay the difference, so I need to come up with some new deterrents,” Bibbo said.

Increased mileage reporting during times of higher fuel prices also hinders her green fleet efforts. “When the price of fuel goes up, so does the number of [reported] miles driven in the company car since the company is paying for the gas,” Bibbo said.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and manufacturer vehicle efficiency numbers present a challenge to selecting the most fuel-efficient model in each class. Often these figures do not match company drivers’ real-world fuel efficiency and are “in fact, highly overstated for some vehicles,” Bibbo found.

Schreiber lamented the time lag between OEM technology introductions and their market availability. Additionally, he noted, ROI on some alternative-fuel conversions is very slow.

Other challenges he’s found include green-fleet inhibiting government rules and regulations, and inadequate or nonexistent alternative-energy infrastructure.

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