Transitioning to a “green fleet” is a serious commitment. The most crucial element to a successful transition is to develop a plan, or more specifically, a green fleet policy. This will be the blueprint as to how you intend to green your fleet. Without establishing a plan and the policies to implement it, there will be no uniform focus to meet sustainability goals or a consistent framework to maintain compliance with these goals in terms of asset acquisition, fuel consumption, and vehicle operations and maintenance.
A well thought-out green fleet policy is one of the most important first steps to effectively greening your fleet. This document will identify the goals your organization hopes to accomplish, and lay out the budget and metrics required to meet these desired goals. A green fleet policy helps corporations and political subdivisions maintain their commitments to sustainability. At most large corporations and political entities, the vehicle fleet is one of the top five largest contributors of CO2 and NOx emissions and a significant source of greenhouse gases. To be successful in reducing these emissions, you need a plan.
Getting Everyone on the Same Page
Implementing a fleet sustainability program is not a one-person endeavor, it is a group endeavor. A green fleet policy will ensure that all stakeholders have the same vision and are headed in the same direction to achieve that vision. A green fleet policy document is an important way to ensure all key stakeholders are aligned with all fleet sustainability goals.
Another way of looking at a green fleet policy is to view it as game plan: It identifies sustainability priorities, establishes goals, and creates the metrics to measure performance toward achieving these goals. An effective green fleet policy provides a clear direction for all user groups and stipulates standardized practices.
To initiate a green fleet policy implementation, an organization should designate a team of individuals, comprised of key stakeholders, to oversee policy compliance and monitor progress toward achieving targeted goals. A green fleet policy establishes a procedure to review and evaluate all vehicle acquisitions for policy compliance, as well as determining exemptions based on an inability of existing green vehicle options to fulfill a fleet application. In addition, the implementation team will be tasked to review annual fuel usage data to measure progress towards reducing fuel consumption.
A green fleet policy is also used as a benchmarking tool. For instance, the green fleet policy should specify a baseline against which emissions reduction targets that are reviewed and measured. Once a baseline measurement is established, typically, three-year and five-year target goals are established to reduce emissions below this baseline. Updates on progress to meet these target goals are reported annually or at more-frequent intervals, if so desired.
Green Fleet Policy Objectives
A green fleet policy sets guidelines to reduce overall fleet emissions. There is also a cost efficiency component to a green fleet policy. The implementation of the policy will not only help meet sustainability goals, but will also reduce operating costs by reducing fuel consumption. For instance, two of the immediate results of a green fleet policy are the elimination of older, non-compliant vehicles with more fuel-efficient models and to rightsize vehicles based on fleet application, which results in reductions in both fuel spend and vehicle depreciation.
The typical objectives to include in a green fleet policy are:
- Acquisition of new vehicles that provide the best available net reduction in vehicle fleet emissions, after calculating total lifecycle economics.
- Optimization of overall fleet size by eliminating underutilized vehicles.
- Training of drivers in eco-driving best practices, such as knowing the proper way to accelerate and brake, using synchronized traffic lights to a driver's advantage, driving at the optimum highway speed, and understanding when to use air conditioning.
- Establishment of the mechanism to monitor, benchmark, and report on fleet emissions reduction.
- If you operate an in-house maintenance facility, specify that recycled coolants and re-refined oils, will be used when cost effective and when such usage will not void a manufacturer’s warranty.
A Living Document
A green fleet policy is not a static document. Rather, it should be viewed as a living document that is reviewed annually. As changes occur within your company, revise your procedures to reflect these changes. Likewise, eliminate outdated policies. Also, as part of your annual green fleet policy review, survey all stakeholders and affected departments for their input and feedback. It is important to encourage amendment of the policy, as necessary, to more effectively achieve its goals. One function of the green fleet policy implementation team will be to conduct an annual review of the policy’s emissions standards. The team should be empowered to update policies as improved technologies become available. Another important factor is to remember that there will not be 100-percent compliance. There will be exemptions needed to fulfill a fleet application and the policy should spell out the parameters for these exemptions.
As with all major endeavors, it is impossible to accomplish a goal without a plan. Likewise, it is impossible to have all stakeholders work toward a common goal without a document to provide the framework and guidance to achieve the targeted goals.
This quote sums up it all: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
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Related Event: Learn from other fleets when it comes to your sustainability planning at the 2014 Green Fleet Conference & Expo on Oct. 29-30 in Schaumburg, Ill.