By Brian Matuszewski, Manager, Sustainable Strategies, ARI
The constant demand for fleets to adopt more sustainable, environmentally friendly vehicles is nothing new. In fact, it has only gotten – if anything – more pressing over the years. Lower gas prices have taken some of the urgency out of the discussion to consider alternative fuel vehicles, but questions around the long-term effects that traditionally fueled vehicles have on the atmosphere and environment remain.
The impact of vehicle emissions is significant: nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from vehicles and 83 percent of GHG emissions attributable to transportation come from light, medium and heavy duty trucks. A recent report from the University of Michigan suggests, however, that individuals who choose to adopt simple, well-known sustainable measures can have a big impact on the overall environment. In fact, the authors specifically considered measures people could take that would not require a major change in lifestyle.
Among their findings: by far, improving fuel economy is the number one action people can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Further, they found this one simple step was so significant, it would take several other actions combined simply to equal the effect of improving fuel economy would have. This means fleet managers are in an important and strategic position when it comes to reducing the impact vehicles are having on the environment. Improving the fuel economy across a fleet not only helps a company’s bottom line, it exponentially reduces the volume of GHG entering the atmosphere. Whether you are driven by environmental reasons or energy independence reasons, helping fleets operate more efficiently is something fleet managers should take tremendous pride in. They are on the front lines of making the world a better place for us all.
There are, of course, many ways to improve fuel economy. The University of Michigan report notes two that will be familiar to anyone who manages a fleet of drivers: eliminating aggressive driving (hard stops and rapid accelerations) and driving at high speeds or above the posted speed limit. Studies have found that aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. It has also been found that gas mileage decreases rapidly after 50 miles per hour (mph); according to the US Department of Energy, for every 5 mph you drive over the speed of 50 mph, it is like you are paying an additional $0.16 per gallon for gas. Conducting regular maintenance to ensure vehicles are running as efficiently as possible, removing any excess weight and ensuring your work trucks are spec’ed to the proper weight from the start, and avoiding excessive idling are all additional ways fleets can improve fuel efficiency.
Consideration should also be given to modernizing the fleet. Some fleet managers believe it is greener to only replace vehicles when they are “run into the ground” because there are emissions associated with producing new vehicles, but that’s simply not true. Producing a vehicle emits about 14% of the total emissions from driving the vehicle during its average lifetime (11.5 years). And, newer technologies on the more modern vehicles allow them to run more efficiently and with better fuel economy.
Taking steps to improve the environment may not always be something you have top-of-mind when you are dealing with the day-to-day operations of your fleet; but, if you are looking to make changes to improve your fleet’s fuel economy (and truthfully, with fuel always being one of the largest cost drivers for a fleet, who isn’t?) you’ll have a positive impact on our overall environment as well. That’s what I call a win-win.
About the author:
Brian joined ARI in early 2013 as Manager – Strategic Consulting, Sustainable Strategies. Previously, he spent time working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Resource Conservation & Recovery and as an analyst for a consulting firm in Mexico City, Mexico, where he conducted environmental policy research on sustainable development initiatives for governments and multinational corporations. Brian earned both his bachelor and master degrees from Cornell University.
Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.