Pressure to cut transport energy emissions will only increase
Vehicle emissions make headline news, with Volkswagen pleading guilty to criminal charges in the US and agreeing to pay fines of $4.3 billion (£3.5 billion) as a result of committing vehicle emissions measurement fraud.
The company may end up paying more than $20 billion in the US alone. It still doesn’t know how much it will pay in Europe or elsewhere.
Pressure to cut transport emissions will continue to grow as a result of the Paris agreement.
The need to stop climate change will mean governments continue to use policy, regulation and the tax system to improve air quality and cut emissions, especially in large cities and metropolitan areas.
London’s congestion charge zone has been in place for nearly 14 years, raising over £2.6 billion and reducing traffic volumes by 10%.
The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, wants to cut the number of cars in the capital by half.
Six city-wide clean air zones are due to be in force by 2020 in the UK in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham, Derby and London but could be extended to another 10 cities.
The tax system in the UK already favours low emission vehicles. Tax rates are based on engine size, fuel type and carbon emissions.
The lower the emissions, the lower the rate of income tax paid by the owner or driver.
Fleet managers are in a unique position to cut costs by improving the energy efficiency of their fleet, avoiding both external charges such as taxes and congestion charging and lowering operating costs of their cars, vans and heavy goods vehicles.
Start with an audit
Many organisations still don’t have a good record of the number of vehicles they have and how they are being used.
Some of the information should be in recent ESOS audits although the data may be getting stale a year on from the compliance deadline.
You need to collect data that lets you understand how your transport energy emissions are distributed among:
- company owned or leased cars,
- cars where the drivers receive a cash allowance to operate a car,
- grey fleet cars, where drivers receive mileage payments for using their cars for business use.
- Heavy goods vehicles
The data you need will include vehicle details, fuel receipts and mileage logs.
If you don’t have a system to collect this information already, the data is likely to be patchy and require cleansing before being analysed.
Understand how you use transport in your organisation
How do vehicles help you carry out your company business?
Do you have a large number of staff commuting to work in central offices?
Do you have a large number of small deliveries, or a small number of large deliveries?
Do you operate a just-in-time system or a milk round?
Understanding this requires analysing the transport data you have in your organisation and have collected during the audit.
You may see patterns in how mileage is racked up. You may see where the opportunities are in reducing or eliminating mileage.
You may also start to see where the barriers are in your organisation.
Departments may not want you messing about with their journey planning and vehicle purchases.
Individuals may be concerned about how your data will affect their own positions.
In many organizations vehicles are a seen as a symbol of status, with increasing vehicle allowances as people progress upwards in the organization.
The key thing is being able to see where the opportunities might be for changes in fleet composition and usage that could lead to cost savings for the organization.
You will not be able to get leadership buy in without being able to show the cost savings that are available from increasing fleet energy efficiency.
Get the leadership team to set and commit to targets
The leaders in the organization need to see cutting transport emissions and costs as a strategic imperative, setting and committing to targets.
Marks and Spencer, for example, has a goal to improve its own efficiency by 50% by 2020.
It set a challenging target in 2007 of improving fuel efficiency in the UK and Ireland by 35% by 2015.
It nearly got there, reporting a 33% reduction in 2014/15, but where would it be without a target to aim for?
Once you have targets in place, the very next step is to set up a robust monitoring and verification system, including telematics and tracking.
Without an easy to use data collection system that can be updated quickly an energy efficiency campaign can lose momentum and start to slow down.
You need to communicate and keep people informed
Transport policy in companies can be a very sensitive issue.
The top people in the organization often have the biggest and least efficient vehicles.
Asking them to support you in reducing fleet emissions is going to be a personal issue for some of them and the people that report to them.
But cutting transport emissions is good business for the organization and will cut costs in taxes, congestion charges and expenses.
The impact needs to be managed fairly so people can see the need and reasons for changes in policy.
Fleet energy managers need to be good marketers, communicating and informing the people in their organization of how the work they are doing will impact and improve conditions for colleagues, suppliers and customers.
Get on with implementation
Make it easy for people to decide when and how to travel by putting a travel hierarchy decision tree in place. Could you do any of the following:
- Make it easier to work remotely and from home?
- Cut the payments you make that incentivise people to drive instead of sharing cars or using public transport?
- Make pool cars available?
- Improve route planning and schedule trips for when congestion is light as idling is a major source of emissions.
- Encourage audio and video conferencing instead of travelling to meetings?
Major changes such as buying a transport monitoring system or investing in telematics will need you to pull together a business case.
Are you making sure that all the costs of transport are covered in these cases and not just the operating and fuel costs?
A full business case may include a life cycle analysis that means low emission vehicles become a more sustainable option for your business.
As you go forward, buying the right vehicles and using them more efficiently will help you transform your fleet and reduce emissions, eliminating unnecessary mileage, making the most of public transport and conferencing solutions, and cutting costs for your business.
The pressure to improve transport energy emissions will be a particular challenge for fleet managers who need to think about the carbon impact of their operations in addition to fleet purchases and journey planning.
Improved data and analytics will help make the case, guided by a clear strategy from the leadership team, with fleet managers in a position to make real and lasting cost savings for their organizations.