Key environmental issues to incorporate into fleet policy

Key environmental issues to incorporate into fleet policy

A greener fleet

Environmental performance is becoming more and more important as customer demands increase. Implementation of environmental management systems leads to environmental demands on suppliers of both goods and services. Environmental aspects of transport systems are a complex mixture of different impacts across the entire lifecycle of the vehicle and every effective environmental management system will have transport as one of its key elements. This is an attempt to assist Fleet Managers, responsible for their company’s car fleet, to integrate environmental best practice into an overall fleet policy.

There may be implications for a number of human resource policies and other working practices that will need to be considered in strategic terms, and it may be relevant to check some items from the list. Each of the main areas to focus on when formulating a “green” fleet policy is discussed in turn below. These are then developed into a checklist of specific policy issues for checking against your existing policy.

We hope you find the content stimulating. If you would like to talk in more detail about any of the aspects covered, or if you would like some assistance relating the issues to your own company situation, please contact Volvo Car International Fleet Sales.

1. Supplier selection

Having a certified environmental management system (ISO 14001 and or EMAS registration) is a guarantee that the supplier has implemented a structured, long-term and comprehensive set of activities to reduce environmental impacts and increase awareness among its employees. Environmental policies and reports are used to present the company’s ambitions and results.

2. Product information

To understand the environmental impact of your fleet you will need to quantify the direct effects of the products you specify and use. This means that detailed product specifications are needed from vehicle manufacturers and should cover the total environmental impact (production, use and disposal, see also section 9).

3. Fuel policy

There is a wide range of fuels now available with variations from one country to another. The short-term competitors to diesel and petrol are compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and petrol-electric hybrids with fuel cells on the horizon. There is no perfect fuel as each has its advantages and disadvantages. The Fleet Manager must decide which fuel(s) best suit(s) the fleet requirements, taking into account fuel consumption, environmental performance (CO2, Nox, Sox, particulates and so on), fuel cost, refuelling infrastructure and residual values. To take advantage of the latest thinking and to avoid the risk of exposure to one approach, it is worth considering running a mixed fleet, in terms of the fuelsused. The very least a company should be able to initiate a fuel monitoring system linked to a fuel card system.
Fuel economy improvements have a positive environmental benefit as well as offering cost savings. Drivers of company cars should be trained and then given incentives to reduce fuel con-sumption.

4. Emissions

When using fossil fuels, emissions of the greenhouse gas, CO2, are directly proportional to fuel consumption. Emissions of carbon monoxide, CO, hydrocarbons, HC, and nitrogen oxides, Nox, are very much dependent on combustion efficiency and the performance of catalysers.
HC and Nox are important factors in the formation of ground-level ozone. The diesel engine has higher fuel efficiency but emits more Nox and particulates per kilometre than petrol engines.

5. Servicing and repair

Service, repair and maintenance cause environmental impact through the use of natural resources, waste and harmful workshop emissions. Access to workshops with high environmental standards is therefore vitally important, particularly where servicing and repair are outsourced. It is essential that vehicles are maintained to the highest standards, thereby ensuring optimum fuel efficiency and emissions.

6. Alternative travel plans

Car dependency is still growing and European governments are attempting to counter this with fiscal measures encouraging us to use our cars less. Alternative travel plans are easier where you have concentrations of staff and where real alternatives exist.

7. Measurement and continuous improvement

Environmental improvements can only be made if performance is measured and monitored. Typical measurements should be fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, toxic emissions and tyre use.
Targets for improvement should be set annually and monitored regularly (probably quarterly updates) with reports back to drivers and other interested parties.

8. Social considerations for the whole life of the car

Although car policies vary regarding the length of time that the typical company keeps a new car, most companies keep them for around three years. This clearly means that the car will have most of its life with second and subsequent owners. This raises an important issue about the steps taken to look after and use the car to your company's high standards. There is an implication that the seller of the vehicle should ensure that the car is handed over for sale at the highest realistic standard given the age and mileage of the vehicle.

Checklist of policy considerations

Policy issue

All suppliers have accredited environmental management systems or are working toward one within a reasonable time scale, (ISO 14001 or EMAS).
All suppliers are aware of your specific environmental requirements as a whole and especially how it affects them.
All suppliers publish an environmental policy that includes their improvement objectives and measurements.
The company's purchasing policy includes environmental considerations and preference is given to suppliers with the highest standard of environmental performance.
Each supplier should be able to demonstrate how they will meet your needs. It may be worthwhile to rank your needs for impact and to distinguish between the essential and desirable elements.
All suppliers should provide comprehensive environmental data and specifications for their products before they are considered for inclusion in any car choice.
You should determine the minimum acceptable environmental criteria that embrace all aspects, from materials used in manufacturing, production methods, use of the car and its longer-term disposal implications.
Preference is given to products with the highest environmental performance, preferably with third-party endorsement.
Ongoing assessment of alternative fuel options, including vehicle use and refuelling infrastructure.
Benefits of running a mixed fuel fleet: company image, cost of fuel, residual values
Driver training and awareness programmes.
Preference given to fuel-efficient vehicles
Human resources policies for incentives in general, so that an appropriate scheme may be devised.
Use this discussion to positively involve everyone in the transport debate for your company.
Consider age of fleet to ensure the latest and most effective emission technology available.
Consider a balance of vehicles used across the fleet for different needs and to minimise the impact of the latest research throwing positive environmental attempts into disarray.
System in place for feeding back “visual” evidence of emission problems – e.g. “black smoke” from diesels.
Driver training and awareness has a clear link here to the discussion on fuel use.
Environmental workshop standards in place (recycling, energy efficiency etc) – either your own or ensure the servicing dealership has an environmental policy and standards in place.
Regular emission testing supplementary to servicing.
Drivers to check tyre pressures regularly.  This may be an aspect of the incentive scheme mentioned earlier.  How could your tyre services provider help you with this?
Strict compliance with service schedule content and timings
System in place for drivers to report concerns / faults with the car.
Encourage car sharing
Company policy developed and communicated on rail and air travel.
Environmental awareness training for staff.
Staff facilities in the workplace that encourage cycling or walking.
Where appropriate introduce minibus schemes through liaison with local authorities.
Use video and or audio conferencing.
Challenge the need for so many away-from-work journeys.
Consider all elements within the proposed incentive scheme.
Measurements in place.
Targets set and monitored.
Results communicated.  (This may be the place to announce the results of driver incentives.) 
Agreed standards within your supplier agreements for the disposal of the vehicle, irrespec-tive of whether the vehicle was owned or leased by you.  That is what the buyer may expect from you as your cars' environmental performance at this point.
Provide advice to drivers on disposal of batteries, tyres etc.
Standards to be developed and incorporated within your company’s ISO or EMAS proce-dures.
Awareness of future development of congestion charging and low-emission zones