Fleets were told they held the key to the success of Government policy through adopting alternative fuels, downsizing vehicles and using driver training to encourage fleet car users to drive in a more fuel-efficient way and avoid accidents, which also eat up resources. A toolbox of measures was needed by fleets to combat pollution, Zina Etheridge, policy adviser to the Vehicle, Environmental and Taxation Division of the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions told the conference in London.
She insisted that fleets must look at the whole environmental, running costs and tax picture to see what decisions they should be making about their vehicles. The Government has already stated that fleets should opt for the most fuel-efficient vehicles to have the best chance of cutting their drivers' tax liability. She gave the strongest indication yet of where gas-powered vehicles could be most effective, saying: 'In terms of local air quality, for depot-based fleets, gas fuels may offer an attractive alternative. The greatest environmental advantage will be gained from using fuels in place of diesel in urban areas, as they produce significant savings in oxides of nitrogen and particulates. Gas vehicles also tend to be significantly quieter than their diesel counterparts.'
But she admitted that the continuing development of particulate traps and NoX catalysts meant that diesel was not being ruled out as an option for the future. However, research which showed that only 20% of fleet managers knew their total fleet fuel consumption and could be wasting £450 million a year, showed there could be massive room for improvement immediately, without changes to fleets, especially important considering the Government's annual fuel duty escalator of 6% above inflation.