By Brian Matuszewski, Sustainable Strategies Manager, ARI
Fleets considered “world-class” often share one characteristic in common: a firm commitment to driving smarter and cleaner.
Smarter suggesting safer, more efficient and more cost-effective; while cleaner, suggesting a reduced impact on the environment. In other words, world-class fleets and sustainable fleets are two of the same.
That being said, no two world-class fleets look alike and the reasons that make them world-class are oftentimes unique and different. Take for example, a comparison between two hypothetical fleets – Fleet A and Fleet B. Fleet A has zero percent alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet. Fleet B has fifteen percent alternative fuel vehicles in its fleet. On that information alone, many would rush to say that Fleet B is obviously the “better” fleet. The reality, however, is that to evaluate a fleet’s performance properly one needs to look at things more holistically.
For instance, while Fleet A may not have alternative fuel vehicles because it has determined it simply does not make operational sense to do so at this time, it could be boosting its fleet’s performance in other ways such as optimizing routing, strategically managing the size of the fleet, and implementing and managing an effective driver policy. Fleet B on the other hand simply may have just had the right driving pattern in place that having alternative fuel vehicles simply made business sense.
Does this mean Fleet B is superior to Fleet A? Absolutely not. Using alternative fuel vehicles is just one way to configuring a world-class, sustainable fleet. If using alternative fuels doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. There’s an assortment of other ways fleets can drive best-in-class results.
Driving these improvements requires a strategic approach, however, and can happen at any stage of the fleet management lifecycle. Looking at these five areas help fleets drive world-class results:
1. Fleet utilization. Before rushing ahead to figure out which vehicles to select, it is important to make sure the fleet is the size it should be. Fleet inventories often grow over time to include vehicles that are highly specialized, rarely used, or simply unsuitable for current applications. By closely defining the purpose and utilization rate of each vehicle in the fleet, fleet managers can properly reduce the size of the fleet in a way that still allows the fleet to meet the business’ operating requirements. Creative mobility models such as the development of vehicle-sharing solutions are one way fleets are beginning to maximize their fleet’s utilization. By maximizing utilization, fleets can reduce their fleet costs significantly while also reducing the fleet’s carbon footprint.
2. Vehicle acquisition. While implementing cleaner-burning alternative fuel vehicles is great when possible, it doesn’t always make sense. That being the case, choosing vehicles that achieve high fuel economy is your next best thing. In fact, in many cases, developing an optimal replacement strategy that includes a transition to smaller, more efficient engines can be one of the most cost-effective and easiest-to-implement ways to optimize a fleet’s operation.
3. Telematics. Once a vehicle has been acquired, installing telematics provides additional opportunities for further efficiency opportunities. Telematics data integration can empower fleet managers, who can use their fleet data to determine how efficiently their fleet is operating and make adjustments as needed. Having telematics is one thing; managing telematics data effectively is another. If the decision to use telematics has been made, it is important to consider what one hopes to achieve with it, develop an appropriate policy, and develop a management system that promotes the improvement in the KPIs that are considered important to that fleet.
4. Regular maintenance. Properly maintaining vehicles is an easy, effective way to extend the life cycle of vehicles in the fleet, increase driver productivity and increase fuel economy. It’s important to know the maintenance requirements and schedules for all the vehicles and equipment in the fleet, and to build a network of reliable, cost-effective maintenance vendors if one is not doing the maintenance in-house. And, with the increasing adoption of predictive analytics, one can use data to improve the overall evaluation of the fleet, allowing fleet managers to take proactive measures based on insights gathered from the data.
5. Driver behavior. Some fleets can realize as much as a 10 percent reduction in emissions and fuel costs and a major boost in driver safety through a robust driver behavior program. Effective driver policies and management, together with telematics integration and the use of fuel-reduction technologies, can have a significant impact on a fleet’s performance. Safe driving techniques also often align with techniques that save on fuel, providing another incentive to institute and enforce a driver behavior program.
Taking a limited view of how to achieve your sustainable goals may lead you to miss opportunities that would improve both your environmental impact and the overall operation of your fleet. Strive for best-in-class practices instead. The likely result will be a better run fleet and a more sustainable fleet as well.
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.