Improved fleet management, productivity, and sustainability - it's all linked

Two years of a pandemic have heaped change and disruption on Fleet Managers. For many it’s been a struggle just to meet operational expectations or to pivot to the ‘new normal’ without adding any extra challenges. In this environment, it’s not surprising that transitioning to more environmentally sustainable operations may have been shifted to the not-so-urgent tray.

If lowering your fleet’s emissions sounds like a good idea to you, but you have more pressing issues we have good news: you are probably already helping the planet simply by ensuring your fleet operates as efficiently as possible.

In this article we’re going to illustrate how business goals and environmental gains are tightly linked. You will see that good fleet management is delivering benefits in a variety of areas, and we’re going to start by talking about productivity.

Improving productivity is the key

Productivity is the fleet’s ability to meet operational requirements as measured against the inputs necessary to do that. Those inputs are varied, but the ones most in focus for Fleet Managers are the assets (vehicles), and the cost of running those assets: manpower, servicing, fuel, etc.

Smartrak reports

Achieving productivity gains is dependent on improving the management and utilisation of the fleet; essentially, you are trying to eliminate waste and achieve more with existing or fewer resources. Inevitably, these improvements to operations also have a beneficial effect on emissions reduction. This can be seen in two ways: the immediate consequences and secondary consequences.

The immediate consequences of improved fleet management can be seen in reduced fuel use by managing factors such as harsh driving, speeding, and excessive idling. Using tracking, geofences and reports on vehicle trips can also lead to more efficient journey and task management, which could result in the fleet’s total milage being reduced. Naturally, the reduced fuel use generated by these initiatives results in an emissions drop.

The savings gained by reductions in fuel use, lower service costs due to reductions in harsh driving and possibly lower insurance costs lead to the secondary consequence of improved fleet management. Through savings in operational expenditure, money is made available to reinvest in the fleet. One outcome of this could be the purchase of more fuel-efficient vehicles or EVs, resulting in even more savings and fewer emissions.

The productive road to sustainability

The link between productivity and sustainability is clearly understood internationally. The diagram below was produced by the US government to illustrate Core Sustainable Fleet Principles as a part of the government’s Federal Energy Management Program.

The two blue segments in the car are key elements in improved fleet management and utilisation, and the darker green one is absolutely linked to productivity. The fourth may seem initially to only have a sustainability focus, but if driving an EV brings down operating costs it’s also linked to productivity. Buying less fuel to meet fleet operational requirements improves productivity.

Locally, we can see evidence of the correlation between lowered operating costs and emissions reduction in the industry leading transition to EVs carried out by Meridian Energy. Nick Robillard of Meridian states: “We’ve managed to remain cost neutral on the initial capital cost (adopting EVs) while lowering our operating costs.”

The lesson here, is that every litre of fuel you save simultaneously reduces your operating costs and your carbon footprint.

Is your fleet already on an emissions reduction journey?

Many Smartrak customers are already reducing emissions as a consequence of better managing their fleets and the more they push for improved productivity, the greener their fleets become. The diagram below illustrates a solution adoption journey for a customer that starts out with bringing fleet vehicles into a shared pool.

Stage One: Pooling the vehicles means those sitting idle can be either utilised for tasks or retired. Demonstrated fleet reductions of at least 10% are proven in real-world deployments, which simultaneously reduces costs and emissions.

Stage Two: Vehicles are now being tracked when they leave the carpark. Fleet Managers know exactly how long crews are at a job site, can offer customers a more responsive service, and manage resources to achieve more with less. The resulting uptick in efficiency and reduction in waste benefits the bottom line and the planet.

Stage Three: Driver behaviour - monitoring speeding, harsh driving and excessive idling reduces fuel costs, brings down insurance premiums, improves safety, and reduces emissions.

Improved fleet management through layed technology

Turning the climate crisis to advantage

Reduced emissions as a consequence of better fleet management are to be celebrated. But is there a chance to actively enroll the conversation around global warming into a future fleet strategy, benefitting productivity and the planet?

The pressure to move towards more sustainable transport options is growing, with efforts to persuade or legislate evident in three key areas:

Government mandates

In NZ, government departments and local government entities have been given clear expectations around the adoption of EVs and their reporting requirements regarding GHG emissions. There is a grace period, but that will be much shorter than the lifespan of most fleet vehicles

Penalties and incentives

In NZ, the ‘Ute Tax’ is creating soft pressure to steer purchasers away from high emissions vehicles to low and zero-emission alternatives.

In Australia, all governments have brought incentives in to promote low emission vehicles.

Public expectation

Shareholders and the public are aware of the need to reduce emissions. In this environment, fleets will be seen as obvious targets for improvement.

The green fleet options for Fleet Managers

Fleet Managers can either wait until the pressure to adopt a lower emissions profile necessitates change. Or they can set the strategy ahead of enforced change and build a future fleet that responds appropriately to operational requirements.

Fortunately, a best-practice approach to building an emissions reduction strategy is available.

  1. Measure current emissions
  2. Establish a start-point
  3. Identify high emissions vehicles
  4. Use data to identify vehicles for EV transition
  5. Set goals
  6. Write a business plan

This six-step process is largely dependent on having access to accurate emissions reporting, which is why Smartrak has led the industry in developing an easily adopted emissions reporting solution that will automatically measure the emissions produced by individual vehicles and the whole fleet. This provides the data for cogent decision making and will accurately identify the emissions reductions produced*.

This structured approach to adopting more sustainable fleet policies delivers three key benefits that ensure Fleet Manger’s stay in the driving seat of fleet operations.

  1. Provides confidence to stakeholders that a strategy is in place
  2. Encourages pro-active investment in the future fleet
  3. Ensures that decision making is driven by operational requirements

Key takeaway

The attention that’s being given to lowering emissions is the change-generator you are using to accomplish improved fleet management goals. So go big and bring on the EVs. If emissions reduction is a result of having a great fleet strategy the C-Suite and the green lobby will be equally impressed.

*Smartrak Emissions Reporting is currently only available to NZ customers, but development is progressing

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