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Green driving: Aim for a light right foot

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Every vehicle and journey will be more fuel-efficient, and therefore more environmentally-friendly and safer, if driven sensitively.

However, drivers’ importance starts before they have even got into the vehicle.

It is usually the driver who decides if a journey is necessary, what route to take and how to schedule the activities which justify that journey.

They also often have a choice of vehicle.

This means the first challenge for all firms is to engage its drivers – whether main or grey fleet – and win the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign about minimising environmental impact.

Teesside-based North Star Housing found that changing attitudes toward use of cars use was challenging but won by clear and persistent communication, including briefings, presentations and Q&As for all staff led by senior management. As it was cutting its generous mileage allowances, staff buy-in was not a given.

However, an HR spokesperson says: “Staff now talk about cars in a way that we have not experienced in the past – CO2 emissions are the language and their understanding of the impact of vehicle use on the environment has increased significantly.”

Ian Featherstone, knowledge manager at Energy Saving Trust, cites the work of the Lake District National Parks Authority, which set up working groups to capture employees suggestions for carbon saving.

“Establish employee input and give them ownership of the project,” he says.

“We realised that low-carbon vehicles would not be the answer for us,” says Martin Curry, head of the authority’s property services.

“It is about values and behaviours. That’s the hearts and minds challenge, resting on strong leadership.”

A key component of any green travel campaign is to remove financial incentives for excessive mileage or large-engined vehicles.

Many fleets are now reducing mileage expenses to HMRC minimums and offering higher lump sums to employees choosing low-emission vehicles.

Ceuta Healthcare, which has an in-house fleet of 120 vehicles and a 24-strong grey fleet, started work with The Miles Consultancy in 2011.

Facilities manager Helen Bolton says it issued fuelcards to all drivers and charges them for private mileage based on actual cost.

She says it underlines the idea that if you are heavy footed, you pay for it.

Mike Rayner, operations director at Zenith Hygiene Group, also incentivises fuel-efficient and safe driving.

He uses the TomTom system across the 64-car fleet and 63 trucks to monitor driving behaviour, fuel usage, idling and carbon footprint.

Company policy says any driver at fault in an accident will be liable for the £1,000 excess; however, drivers with consistently good driving can have this lowered to £250. “This incentivises those who aren’t driving well to improve,” says Rayner.


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