But most fleets are only tapping into a fraction of their potential to help the environment, according to construction and support services company Carillion.
Angus Heward, business development director at Carillion Fleet Management, which operates the Carillion fleet of more than 6,000 vehicles, said: ‘We equate the issues surrounding fleet management and creating a fleet sustainability model to an iceberg.
‘Obvious issues such as use of alternative fuels and using smaller vehicles to reduce commodity costs represent the part of the iceberg that appears above the water but there is a much larger part sitting below the surface.’
Carillion has taken its environmental approach to a deeper level by looking at how the company uses transport.
As a result, the firm has reduced mileage, accidents and CO2 emissions while at the same time saving thousands of pounds.
The initiatives have won Carillion a Fleet News Environmental Star Award.
Heward, whose organisation manages 11,000 vehicles for a range of companies, said: ‘By driving ‘smarter miles’ it is possible to reduce costs while helping the environment.
‘Our key tool is the Sustainability Strategy, modelled on Carillion plc’s fleet, developed to reduce environmental impact while delivering cost benefits in excess of £2.2 million.’
Carillion has created its sustainability model using fleet data captured within Tranman, its fleet management software from RAC Software Solutions, to analyse and forecast savings. It has enabled the group to complete electronic billing and invoicing and has reduced Carillion's need for paper and telephone use.
Carillion has also addressed its fuel policy – diesels are common on the choice list, staff are encouraged to be responsible when journey planning and managers constantly question the need for staff to travel.
Video conferencing is encouraged and one video meeting alone during production of this article reduced the need for a six-hour round trip.
Heward said: ‘While fuel costs are an important factor in the cost make-up of a fleet they have nowhere near the same impact as miles driven. A 5p-per-litre difference in the price of fuel would save about 1.5% on the life cycle cost of a typical 100-vehicle fleet but a 10% reduction in the miles driven for the same fleet would see the life cycle cost plummet by as much as 8%.’
Carillion has been looking at the impact of its own fleet operations in order to develop ‘best practice’ across the rest of the business and several initiatives have been trialled.
Heward said: ‘We held a ‘sustainability week’ where we had two Toyota Prius models in each of our office locations for a day so staff could try them. As a result of this, we took additional orders for the Prius and now have five more on order in addition to the five already on the fleet.’
The Prius is not the only environmentally-friendly vehicle to grace choice lists as Carillion also has 45 liquefied petroleum gas vehicles on the fleet, including Volvo S40s and Vauxhall Astras. Additional initiatives being considered include a new scheme through Halfords, where staff are given incentives for biking to work.
Heward said: ‘We also hold workshops and campaigns to show staff how they can have an impact on the business. These ideas are transferable and deliverable to virtually any business operating a vehicle fleet.’
Carillion has managed to reduce its reliance on daily rental vehicles by 25%, slash CO2 output by 17.2%, reduce corporate mileage by 7% or 1.3 million miles annually and cut accidents by 18%.
Heward added: ‘The strategy shows how fleets can be made more sustainable by reducing accidents, reducing vehicle mileage, increasing staff retention, increasing productivity, and reducing emissions. This has the financial benefit of reducing administration and maintenance costs, corporation tax, fuel spend and wholelife operating costs.’