By Brian Matuszewski, Manager – Global Strategic Consulting, Sustainable Strategies, ARI
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein
Sustainability is a priority to many businesses and organizations these days, with good reason.
Companies are feeling increasing pressure from customers, governments and the general public to enact more sustainable practices. They are also becoming increasingly aware of and interested in their overall environmental footprint. This is driving companies to consider how they can make sustainable changes to their operations. Fleets quickly come under the microscope when this happens because they are such a visible source of greenhouse gases.
Advancements in vehicle technology, communications systems and management programs provide fleet managers with more opportunities than ever before to make improvements, allowing them to optimize fleet performance, reduce emissions, and improve their bottom line. With all that is available, however, a fleet manager can quickly become overwhelmed.
That’s why often the most important step you can take when you’d like to make your fleet more sustainable is to begin with a strategic plan. Taking the time to develop a methodology designed to configure clean, cost-effective solutions before you implement any changes can help you understand what is available to you, what technologies and methodologies will work best for your fleet, what you’ll need to deliver best-in-class results, and how to measure success.
The benefits of sustainability are several-fold. First, for many organizations, operating a fleet is the single largest contributor to a carbon footprint. Reducing overall fuel consumption and employing cleaner fuel alternatives can significantly improve the environmental impact of a fleet. Drivers also experience benefits when fleets implement more environmentally friendly fleets, benefits that include increased safety, reduction in vehicle noise, fewer odors, improved climate control, and less inhalation of toxic fumes that are typically emitted from conventionally-fueled vehicles. In some locations, drivers also have access to HOV lanes, boosting driver productivity. And, when rightly-configured, operating a sustainable fleet is better for a company’s bottom line, often producing cost savings in the areas of maintenance and fueling expenses as well as regulatory compliance.
So where to begin? Like most things these days, the road to success begins with looking at the data. Data is the most powerful tool fleet managers have to help develop and implement a sustainable fleet strategy. Meaningful data can guide you toward the most effective solution, help establish goals, and recognize when it is the best time to replace your vehicles. The data will help you establish a baseline to see where you stand and help you begin to decide where you want to go.
With the data in hand, the next step is to define your fleet’s specific objectives as well as realistic, measurable goals. Are you looking to reduce annual fuel costs? Are you looking for an improvement in fuel economy or a reduction in CO2 emissions? Are you looking to increase the number of clean technology vehicles in your fleet? By clearly defining what metrics are important to you and the business, you can create a framework upon which you can seek to foster continual improvement in your fleet’s operations.
You will want to consider incorporating these objectives in your fleet policy documentation. A vehicle policy provides your drivers with specific guidelines for the management and use of vehicles and other mobile assets. They’re designed to facilitate and encourage accountability, monitor usage and costs, provide internal control, and serve as a management tool for better decision-making. In order to ensure that the objectives and goals for your sustainability program are understood and followed by your drivers, it’s best to communicate them – and using your fleet policy documentation to do that is optimal.
Finally, strategically prioritize your efforts so that you are achieving the goals you set through your initial review of the data. For instance, if one of your objectives is to reduce overall emissions, prioritize your efforts accordingly. Consider the technologies and strategies that will help you achieve that goal.
Sustainable practices can greatly improve fleet operations and can have an impact on a company’s overall bottom line. And, they contribute to the long terms health of our planet. But implementing a series of changes simply for the sake of change is not likely to produce the results you would expect or desire. Instead, take the time to invest in some planning up front to ensure measurable results and long-term success.
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.