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Market Trends

The Melding of Driver Safety and Fleet Sustainability Initiatives

September 6, 2012, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

There are many similarities between eco-driving techniques and safe-driving techniques. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between safe driving and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It’s been proven: the safer the driver, the lower the GHG emissions.

“Paying attention is the absolute key to safe driving and eco-driving helps drivers remain focused when they are behind the wheel,” said Phil Moser, national sales manager for Advanced Driver Training Systems. “Driving economically requires the driver to be more aware of their driving actions and surroundings. For example, scanning ahead allows you to see a red light well in advance and you come off the gas pedal sooner. This reduces fuel use, saves wear on the brakes, and decreases the risk of being struck from behind because you are coming to a gradual stop versus an abrupt stop. By paying attention to the task of driving, you are not only safe, but also save fuel and reduce emissions.”

Changing Driver Behavior
A new fleet trend is to meld eco-driving and safe-driving techniques into one program, known as “eco-safe” driving. In many ways, safe driving and green driving are one and the same, with both focused on modifying driver behavior. Most company drivers average 20,000 miles per year and driver behavior is a major influence in both the probability of a preventable accident and fuel consumption.

How employees drive a company vehicle determines how safe they will be on the road. The same is true in terms of sustainability. How an employee drives a vehicle can improve (or decrease) fuel economy and decrease (or increase) emissions. In fact, up to 30 percent of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is impacted by driver behavior. The way an employee drives makes a significant difference in the volume of GHG emissions emitted by a company vehicle, regardless of vehicle size or engine displacement. For example, every unnecessary gallon of gasoline burned by a car creates 19.5 lbs. of CO2. The same is true for trucks — every unnecessary gallon of diesel burned creates 22.1 lbs. of CO2.

If you change driving behavior, you have a direct impact on the safety-consciousness of your drivers, the amount of fuel consumed, and the volume of emissions. For instance, changing driver behavior using an eco-safe driving program can result in a 5- to 30-percent reduction in annual fuel consumption and help reduce preventable accidents. The net result of making employees safer drivers is a reduction in GHG emissions. To illustrate, consider that the greatest amount of GHG emissions occurs during aggressive driving. Less than a minute of high-powered driving produces the same volume of GHG as a half hour of normal driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking can lower fuel economy by 33 percent in highway driving and 5 percent in urban driving. Some drivers mistakenly believe aggressive driving is necessary to maintain tight schedules. However, time studies show that fast starts and weaving in and out of traffic don’t save much time, waste fuel, and more quickly wear out components, such as brakes and tires. Anecdotally, you see this in day-to-day driving. Invariably, the car that is weaving between other cars with short bursts of acceleration winds up at the same stop light as you, negating any short-term gain. Eco-safe driving avoids jackrabbit starts, unnecessary changes in speed — which waste fuel — and uses cruise control during highway driving to improve fuel economy. Even small increases in mpg can yield substantial savings when extrapolated across the entire fleet.

A key principle of eco-safe driving is that by limiting acceleration and fast braking, a driver can increase fuel economy and minimize the potential of a preventable accident. Route planning is an important component of eco-safe driving. Stop-and-go driving burns fuel more quickly, increases emissions, and, from a safety perspective, increases the probability of being involved in a rear-end collision. By pre-planning trips to minimize stop-and-go driving, you can reduce emissions. It is important to remember the highest volume of emissions occurs when starting a cold engine. As a result, eco-safe driving encourages combining several short trips into one. Since a catalytic converter must be heated to a certain temperature to work, fewer emissions are produced during longer trips because the engine is warmed up.

Accomplishing Two Goals Simultaneously
The accident rate for corporate fleets averages around 20 percent, with some industries, such as pharmaceuticals, even higher. Driver distraction accounts for 25-30 percent of all fleet-related accidents. Eco-safe driving teaches drivers to avoid distractions and focus on driving. These driving habits likewise contribute to reduced fuel consumption and emissions. An eco-safe driving program allows a company to leverage constrained resources to simultaneously green its fleet and reduce its liability exposure by lowering the incident of preventable accidents.

Let me know what you think.

[email protected]


  1. 1. Allen Mitchell [ September 07, 2012 @ 05:12AM ]

    Mike, well said! I have long shared the same philosophy concerning safe and sustainable driving practices.

    However, I have found that it is very difficult to get management buy-in to dedicate the training time for sustainable or green driving. In my prior public sector position, I was even offered a significant amount of grant funding for up to 500 drivers and I could not get management to dedicate the time for staff to do this training.

    On the other hand, it is a common practice for organizations to offer mandatory driver safety training. Perhaps adding to the traditional material, some cirriculum for eco-driving would be a better way to accomplish both goals without creating push-back. It is worth a try in my opinion. Thanks.

  2. 2. Jim White [ September 10, 2012 @ 08:30AM ]

    Your Sept. 6th Market Trends column, “The Melding of Driver Safety and Fleet Sustainability Initiatives,” is spot on. SmartDrive customers’ collective experience clearly shows that aggressive driving maneuvers such as abrupt acceleration, hard braking and hard cornering are not only unsafe, they waste fuel.

    The company’s recently completed Work Truck Fleets Fuel Study documents this in detail. We studied more than 1,600 work truck vehicles and drivers across the United States and found that, with training, work truck fleets can reduce fuel consumption on average as much as 30%, simply by reducing hard driving maneuvers. That’s a savings of nearly $3,000 per vehicle per year in fuel costs and a dramatic reduction in hydrocarbon emissions.

    There is no doubt that safe driving = smooth driving = fuel savings and reduced emissions. Putting that into practice is another matter.

    Thanks for generating this discussion, Mike. We look forward to continuing it with you.

    Best wishes,
    Jim White
    SmartDrive Systems

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Mike Antich

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Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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