Fleets have many tools to choose from to track emissions. A small fleet just starting out can use very simple tools at no cost. These may not be the most accurate tracking methods and will require more labor hours than a more complex solution, but they are still effective ways to collect and report on emissions data.
Conversely, a large fleet with a dedicated sustainability budget can invest in more robust solutions, like telematics. These come with a price tag but reduce manual tasks and provide the most accurate data.
Fleets can track emissions for free, with the exception of employee hours spent on the task.
“You can start very simply: a clipboard and a pen to record miles driven and fuel consumed can be very effective if built into normal operations!” says Chase LeCroy, Lead Technical Program Manager, CALSTART. “The important thing is to ensure the data is being recorded in some capacity.”
Another free tool is the EPA’s simplified GHG emissions calculator. While useful, Venghaus notes free tools don’t always make for the easiest or most accurate method.
“Using a free tool will require personnel resources to manage the data collection, validation, entry, etc., and some fleets may prefer to go with a paid software that streamlines these processes and have representatives available to help,” says Tim Venghaus, Sustainability Solutions Engineer for PDI Technologies. “These tools may also provide the benefit of having calculations independently reviewed and certified and usually also provide reporting if companies need to submit their emissions to third-party reporting and ratings agencies.”
Because fuel cards track exactly how much gas a fleet purchases, the number of gallons purchased can be plugged in to calculate emissions.
“We have many small fleet customers that have used our fleet payment card programs as a simple way to get certified emissions data and an actionable option to neutralize some or all of those emissions through our custom carbon offset portfolios,” Venghaus says.
Data loggers record data related to engine operations, including mileage, which can be used to calculate emissions. These devices are often plug-and-play for ICE vehicles, and some ZEVs are configured to report this same data, too.
“Data loggers are a great way to passively record data at relatively low cost. There are multiple telematics providers that track your fleet’s mileage and can provide estimates on greenhouse gas savings through online dashboards,” LeCroy says. “Installing a data logger in a vehicle’s diagnostic port helps you begin to accurately track emissions, which is a crucial first step toward reducing them.”
Telematics and Fleet Management Software
Telematics devices are similar to data loggers but can record a much richer data set, like vehicle location, tire pressure, and much more. When paired with fleet management software, telematics can record and report on data for each vehicle easily and accurately.
“Telematics devices can read a vast range of vehicle diagnostics, including emissions, fuel level, GPS location, etc.,” says Jean Pilon-Bignell, public sector vice president for Geotab. “Fleet management software provides a centralized location for the telematics device data, allowing you to easily monitor, report on and gain insight into your fleet.”
Collecting information from the vehicle itself gives fleets the most accurate emissions data.
“Actual, historical driving data can differ greatly from what may be reported or considered obvious without measurement. The only way to really understand your fleet is to measure and report on this data over time,” Pilon-Bignell explained. “For instance, at the city of Seattle a vehicle reported to be driven 300 miles per day was measured to actually be driving only 200 miles per week. This immediately made it a candidate for EV replacement.”
LeCroy says regardless of which tool you use the important thing is to simply begin.
“Start collecting whatever data you can: vehicle miles traveled, gallons of diesel used, and other valuable information – even through handwritten logs, if necessary. Ideally, you can get a telematics provider set up as a relatively low-cost way to make this process much easier,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to take small steps. It is important that you get started today, even with simple measurements that you already have, such as understanding your emissions based on your fleet usage – miles driven and gallons of fuel used.”
Venghaus agrees that any emissions tracking effort is better than none. “It’s okay to start small and expand as you go. The most important thing is to just get started,” he says. “Sustainability is an iterative process, driven by learnings and data, so the sooner you can begin collecting and calculating emissions the better. Don’t delay because you are worried about being perfect. It is okay to use approximations if you are missing data as long as you are clear in your methodology.”