Fuel Management

Low Cost or No-Cost Green Fleet Strategies

A variety of easy approaches can yield quantifiable results in greening a fleet, including avoiding unnecessary travel and using alternative-fuel vehicles. Tactics used by the states of West Virginia and Oklahoma are shared, including leveraging existing state natural resources.

June 2011, Government Fleet - Feature

by Barbara Bonansinga

AT A GLANCE
The States of West Virginia and Oklahoma are presented as examples for low- and no-cost ways to green a fleet. Suggestions include:
  • Pilot programs before making large-scale changes.
  • Match alternative-fuel use to the fleet.
  • Leverage state natural resources.
  • Integrate sustainability efforts with strategic objectives.

 

Cost-efficient, green, sustainable, and earth-friendly - do any of those words describe your fleet? Fleet managers are swimming in a sea of change, with the very core technologies of the industry changing rapidly. Internal combustion engines are still a mainstay of fleet, but to some degree are being replaced by varying types of powertrains that utilize fewer, different, or "less-scarce" resources.

Among the many reasons to conserve finite resources is cost, particularly due to ever-tightening budget constraints. Other reasons include: protecting the planet from harmful emissions, using local resources that also promote local economies, and reducing dependence on products when availability is finite or threatened. The recent conflict in the Middle East underscores the importance of becoming more energy independent. 

Some business and government entities have stepped up their planetary stewardship and conservation because they view it as the right thing to do. Why use up all of one resource if there is a limited supply available? 

The health benefits of some of the emerging transportation alternatives are attractive as well. Walking and biking, although not always feasible as components for business travel, provide obvious benefits for the health and well-being of citizens and employees. Employers may also look at how employees travel to and from work, incorporating that into the scope of a fleet's environmental policies. Healthier and happier employees can contribute to productivity and the all-important bottom line.

For purposes of this article, "green" is defined as conserving finite resources, economical, or free. No-cost/low-cost can mean a "green" project has no initial cost or that the initial outlay is easily recouped by the return on investment.

Avoid Unnecessary Travel

Policies may be one of the best examples of low- or no-cost methods if they do not require funding to implement. If fleet implements a policy to reduce trips to "Point A" from three times per week to twice weekly, there is no investment cost. As another example, if $300 is invested per vehicle to install GPS devices resulting in a $350 fuel savings due to reduced speeds, more efficient routing, and lower overall miles, that would be considered low cost as well. 

The first steps in fleet efficiency and greening go hand-in-hand: eliminating or reducing unnecessary travel miles. Let's call that "travel avoidance." This is not to say there is anything wrong with travel - in fact, it is the heart of our business.

However, if you can reduce the number of miles employees must travel in positive ways, travel costs decrease, as do the fuel consumption and emissions produced. Perhaps eliminating travel isn't feasible, but reducing the miles traveled is. Finally, when we've cut non-essential travel and reduced miles traveled with various types of efficiencies, the focus can shift to using the most efficient means available for the travel miles that remain. In seeking these types of efficiencies, fleets become green. 

Fleet professionals strive to get the most out of every dollar available for their budgets, fuel being a primary component. They are generally engaged in looking for ways to use less or make a gallon of fuel go farther.

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