As a small business owner, your vehicle fleet – no matter what its size – is likely to be just one of many responsibilities battling for your attention and investment. However, effective fleet management can be a source of much-needed additional profit, helping to offset the large financial outlay.
Besides the money-saving benefits, minimising energy use across your business fleet will mean your organisation will be regarded as more environmentally and socially responsible by customers and partners. Here's how.
Make the e-switch
Believe it or not, by 2040 you won’t be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car or van in the UK if the Government sticks to its schedule. It is hoped this change in policy will cut air pollution and reduce carbon emissions. It represents a seismic change for personal and business vehicle owners. While EV sales surged in August 2018 by 88.7 percent compared to the previous year, EV still only represents less than one percent of all new vehicles sold.
One major barrier stopping more organisations from going fully electric or expanding the use of EVs and hybrids within their fleet is the fact that public charging infrastructure is lagging behind, wasting valuable time when it comes to refuelling on the road. However, it was recently announced that Highways England plans to install 50 new electric vehicle charging points near Britain’s motorways and main roads, spending £2.8 million on the project.
While the UK’s green infrastructure is being expanded, businesses introducing electric or hybrid vehicles into their fleets should consider providing staff with details of where they can find charging points on popular routes.
Drive behaviour change
Advising employees on fuel-efficient driving techniques can help alleviate some of the pressure on your budget, cutting energy costs and carbon emissions. It can also reduce your vehicle maintenance bills and increase the length of time between services, as a smooth driving style with less sharp acceleration and braking means less wear and tear on components such as clutches, tyres and brakes.
Educating drivers on fuel-efficient driving techniques and how small changes can make a big difference is the best way to encourage positive behaviour change and continuous improvement. Here are a few examples of eco-driving techniques which can reduce fuel costs:
- Anticipating traffic flow to avoid unnecessary and excessive braking and accelerating is one of the most important techniques, particularly in urban driving. Drivers should look down the stream of traffic, not just focus on the vehicle in front, to smoothly reduce or increase speed.
- Modern vehicles are equipped to remain in gear while travelling downhill without the need for acceleration, meaning momentum is driving the engine instead of fuel.
- Keeping engine RPM low, below 2,000-2,500, will burn less fuel, as will skipping gears during acceleration.
- Initiating cruise control on stretches of road with a steady flow of traffic and speed limit can also keep fuel consumption low.
- Removing any unnecessary weight from vehicles, be it business equipment or personal possessions, will help too.
- Use air conditioning sparingly as the compressor which drives a/c systems is powered by the vehicle engine.
Both new and established drivers should be given training on eco-driving techniques and provided with reminder information every six months or so. It's also worth providing incentives to cut fuel consumption through competitive league tables and offering additional training if they need it.
In addition, consider reaching out to organisations such as The Energy Saving Trust, who offer subsidized eco-driving training to companies delivered by DVSA-registered fleet trainers. There are also many online fuel-efficient driving courses that may be more suitable to your business needs.
Cut down on unnecessary trips
Business travel often makes up over half of an organisation’s carbon footprint. As such, it’s good practice to limit business travel as much as possible without negatively impacting your customer or partner relationships.
If travel is unavoidable and your business depends on it daily, it’s worth considering how multiple journeys or deliveries can be planned for the same day to lower the total number of journeys made and miles travelled by your fleet.
It’s also important to plan to avoid additional charges, such as entering a low emission or congestion charge zone, if your vehicles do not meet the necessary standards for entry to be free or you have inflexible travel times.
Consider whether meetings could be held virtually by using video conferencing apps which are often free or low cost when compared to travel expenses.
Plan for fuel stops
To many drivers’ dismay and frustration, the price of fuel can greatly depend on where you stop. Prices are highest at motorway and A road service stations because they have a captive audience. In fact, prices can be inflated by as much as a third compared to service stations on smaller roads and at supermarkets.
Encourage drivers to stop for fuel before the red light comes on to allow for diversions to find a cheaper place to fill up. You could also issue drivers with a list of fuel prices in your local area or along popular routes which is regularly updated.
Utilize in-car technologies
Telematics are an efficient way of keeping track of driver behaviour, on and off the road, helping to make fleet management easier. All-in-one solutions are available whereby businesses can keep their teams connected on the road, give them access to real-time traffic alerts and log fuel-related information such as number of litres, type of fuel and times or locations.
The data reports created by telematics can help you build an accurate picture of driver behaviour and whether employees are following their eco-driving training. If they aren’t, you have the evidence to give useful feedback and encourage positive behaviour change.
About the Author
Tom Preston is the Managing Director of Hippo Leasing, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of new and used leased vehicles and a broker member of the BVRLA. Out of work Tom can be found rallying in his Skoda Fabia R5 on various tarmac and forest events nationwide.