A cornerstone of any fleet’s environmental policy is to select cars and vans that emit fewer CO2 emissions, thereby returning greater fuel efficiency.
A Fleet News survey (see page 48) reveals that vehicle choice is the main approach taken by almost nine out of 10 fleets.
However, driver training arguably offers fleets a far greater opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions and lop thousands of pounds off their fuel bill.
Depending on the type of training and driving style of the employee, fleets can achieve up to 20% improved fuel consumption, lower co2 emissions and an improved safety record.
The key is adopting smoother driving styles and techniques.
Simon Elstow, IAM Drive & Survive head of training, explains: “Companies no doubt consider green credentials when buying new company cars, but they may not realise how much more efficiently their employees could be driving them.”
The purpose of eco driver training is to change the behaviour of the driver. The practical lessons involve teaching drivers greater awareness and anticipation, keeping revs down and making fuel-effective gear changes.
These small changes to driving style can collectively make a big difference to overall fuel efficiency.
“Ecolution, our fuel-saving driver training course, has improved the fuel consumption of one company’s fleet by nearly 30%, a huge saving in terms of fuel bills,” Elstow adds.
“Efficient driving also means reduced wear and tear on the car and a better resale value, and less frequent car replacement which is an eco-burden in itself.”
Employees at South Cambridgeshire District Council achieved an average 18% reduction in fuel consumption after they sent employees on Smarter Driver Training with the Energy Saving Trust.
Cerise Bradford, performance manager at South Cambridgeshire District Council, says: “Drivers were nervous about the course and sceptical as to the claims made about fuel savings averaging 15%.
“But they took the instructors’ advice on board and the feedback was superb, with drivers saying they learned a lot, particularly about looking further along the road to anticipate what’s ahead.”
The challenge facing fleets is how to make sure the training is implemented into the driver’s normal working life.
A robust plan ensuring that high standards are maintained for the long term should be enforced.
“By applying basic principals, significant savings can be made. If you apply the techniques we instruct, they really do work,” says Steve Johnson at AA DriveTech.
“You have to keep communicating to employees. Incentives for saving fuel are a good way to keep them actively applying eco driving techniques,” he adds.
Among the techniques taught, drivers are advised to keep at least a two-car- length distance from the car in front.
In practice, this should also help reduce the risk of accidents as the recommended distance allows drivers more time to anticipate the road ahead.
A fundamental aspect of eco driver training is using common sense and developing an enhanced awareness of the road. Adopting eco driving skills has been proven to make drivers safer.
RoSPA’s Driver and Fleet Solutions department trains drivers as part of the Government’s Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED) for Vans programme.
The RoSPA eco driving course looks at fuel-efficient driving techniques, making a positive difference to the
environment and using good commercial sense.
RoSPA chief driving examiner Bob Smalley explains: “Driving becomes a lot more interesting when drivers are creating more of a flow, anticipating the road around them.
“The experience of eco driver training gives you a checklist in your mind to work through while driving.”
Cost savings can be a good source of motivation to sustain momentum once the training is completed.