Like all successful fleet policies, developing an effective green fleet policy requires planning, analysis, communication, implementation, and evaluation. A critical understanding is that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to greening a fleet is not the best fit for most. A green fleet policy is as individual as the company fleet, customized to corporate needs, functions, and culture.
Five years ago, Chuck Kukal built a green fleet policy for Infinity Insurance Company. Kukal, fleet operations supervisor for the Birmingham, Ala.-based company, created a workable and effective policy to green the company’s fleet in five basic steps.
Integrating with Corporate Goals
The Infinity Insurance fleet totals 427 vehicles, primarily Jeep Compass models provided to the company’s adjustors, business development and marketing personnel, and special investigative units.
Kukal emphasized the fleet’s green policy “must be seen in the light of its overall Corporate Green Initiatives.” The green fleet policy does not stand alone, but is an important factor in a corporate culture of environmental responsibility and sustainability established in 2006 and backed by top executive support and endorsement.
Infinity’s Corporate Green Initiatives include a comprehensive recycling program in which employees recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum cans, cell phones, and toner cartridges at all company locations.
Electricity-consuming lighting is diminished with reduced lighting wattages and motion switches in Infinity offices. Many company processes are now paperless, and its new 35,000-square-foot call center in McAllen, Texas, with 236 employees, is fully LEED certified.
“We actively partner with vendors in our purchasing department who offer recycled products and also have corporate goals that incorporate environmentally friendly initiatives,” noted Kukal.
Within this overall corporate commitment to sustainability, Kukal took the following steps to develop a green fleet policy.
1. Create a Green Fleet Mission Statement
Develop a fleet mission statement that recognizes the need to implement policy and action toward achieving corporate green goals and initiatives.
The Infinity Insurance fleet mission statement declares, “Recognizing its global responsibility, Infinity Insurance Company is always seeking better ways of conserving our natural resources and improving our environment by reducing the greenhouse gasses of our fleet.”
The statement continues, “Our priority has been to provide a vehicle that will not only accomplish our corporate goals, but also provide a vehicle that gets better miles per gallon.”
2. Develop Tactics to Achieve Goals
To achieve policy-stated goals, identify and implement a broad array of tactics, such as:
● Review the vehicle selector to carefully match vehicle model and size to function.
● Choose an EPA SmartWay-certified vehicle.
● Whenever possible, select four-cylinder versus six-cylinder vehicles.
● Research fuel type, considering alternative fuels, such as propane, natural gas, or biodiesel.
● Determine the feasibility of utilizing pool cars.
● Investigate the value of telematics to reduce fuel consumption and idle time, and improve driver behavior. Infinity Insurance employs Donlen’s GreenDriver program to train employees in smart driving skills.
● Recognize and reward drivers with accident-free records and those who have completed driver training programs.
● Consider carbon offsets. Infinity Insurance has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund and CarbonFund.org to purchase offset credits in renewable and energy-saving projects to render its fleet climate-neutral.
Calculate fleet greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With a baseline measure, emissions can be managed. Attainable GHG-reduction goals and effective strategies can be determined and implemented.
Deploy all available resources to publicize, internally and externally, the green fleet policy, its goals, and implementation. Use the corporate website and Intranet, blog announcements, newsletters, and community activities to heighten awareness and spread the word. For example, the back of each Infinity Insurance Jeep Compass displays a “Climate Neutral” sticker.
Whenever appropriate in these materials, highlight all green initiative partnerships.
5. Record Progress and Evaluate
Benchmarking progress also helps achieve green fleet policy goals. Keep statistics and data on GHG reductions, improved mpgs, recycling amounts, and green initiative results. Tracking progress can pinpoint areas that need refining or updating.
Keeping Efforts Transparent
Kukal noted, “Transparency is the ‘buzzword,’ and everyone from stakeholders, investors, the EPA, and vendors want to know what you are doing in your company and with your fleet to be green.”
The Infinity Insurance green fleet policy has produced significant results. Since 2006, fleet mpg has increased from 16 to more than 23, Kukal reported. GHG are reduced from 5,223 metric tons to 2,223 due to lower fuel use and better fuel mileage. Fuel consumption has dropped by 115,033 gallons, saving $225,000.
With new local, state, and federal government guidelines and regulations likely, “Now is the time to get our ‘ducks in a row’ by planning for what is ahead,” Kukal said.[PAGEBREAK]
SIDEBAR: SmartWay Offers Valuable Resources
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) SmartWay Transport Partnership program is a valuable resource for green fleet policy development. The SmartWay brand identifies products and services that reduce transportation-related emissions. The program’s website —www.www.epa.gov/smartway — offers a variety of useful tools and information, including the Green Vehicle Guide to compare vehicle emissions and fuel economy. The site provides details on specific steps to reduce emissions, fuel use, and improves a fleet’s overall mpg.
Tony Maietta, an EPA environmental protection specialist, suggested several green fleet policy guidelines, particularly with truck fleets.
“A successful green fleet policy comprehensively covers vehicles, fuel, and driver habits. A green fleet will utilize the newest, cleanest, on-road diesel vehicles,” said Maietta.
He noted that with EPA’s emission standards for 2007 and 2010 model-years, today’s trucks are the cleanest on the road.
Older vehicles can be retrofitted with pollution reduction devices such as diesel oxidation catalysts and particulate matter filters that help minimize pollution while maximizing the vehicle life, said Maietta.
In addition, idle reduction devices such as auxiliary power units, direct-fired heaters, and battery air conditioning systems allow a driver to shut off the main engine while enjoying creature comforts during rest or queuing periods. Cab and trailer aerodynamics and low-rolling resistance tires can improve fuel economy on long hauls, saving fuel costs and emissions. Fleet-wide and location-based idle policies can be instituted to avoid needless and expensive fuel consumption, added Maietta.
He recommended fleet managers choose a path that improves their fleet’s environmental footprint and reduces unnecessary fuel use, but also makes sense for the company. “Each company has unique needs and operations, so some approaches may not work as well as others. For example, a company whose trucks perform primarily long-haul activities may benefit more from idle reduction devices as their drivers rest each night,” said Maietta.
Through the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership, the agency has gained valuable insight into how fleets across the country are improving their environmental footprint using recommended techniques, Maietta pointed out. “We have tools that allow a fleet manager to get a baseline of their current operations and then can provide emissions and fuel savings calculations to show the benefit of taking specific actions on your fleet.”