Fleet News

BP Environmental Star Award: green success gets custom-ised rating

OPERATING the largest hybrid fleet in the country has won HM Customs and Excise (HMCE) the latest Fleet News Environmental Star Award, sponsored by BP.

It comes as an almost valedictory accolade for the multiple-Fleet News Award winner, and current UK Fleet of the Year, which is set to merge with the Inland Revenue in the next few months.

The award recognises outstanding efforts among the fleet to reduce its impact on the climate and the list of its achievements is extensive.

The group’s head of strategic development for transport, John Webb, has had a significant influence on the environmental impact of the fleet.

Webb is in control of the largest hybrid fleet in the UK and has been progressively steering away from petrol variants on the fleet choice list.

He said: ‘Since taking over the fleet in 2002, there has been a significant switch from petrol to diesel and alternatively fuelled vehicles.

‘This, combined with a big push in 2002/03 to get older, less fuel-efficient vehicles off the fleet, has led to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

‘For example, by replacing 80 saloon cars with Toyota Prius or Honda Civic IMA, we will reduce the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by 520 tonnes over three years/ 60,000 miles.’

The fleet of almost 2,400 vehicles includes cars, motorbikes, vans, HGVs, trailers and plant, including 110 petrol/electric hybrids and 67 petrol/liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) bi-fuel models.

The vehicles are outright purchased, but the selection process begins way before models are chosen and the transaction completed.

Webb said: ‘It is a ‘cradle to grave’ process, which starts with the business case for new vehicles. This will specify that a replacement must be alternatively fuelled unless there is a business reason not to do so.

‘Next in the pecking order are Euro IV diesels. Obviously the nature of our work means that this does not always meet the business need for some of our law enforcement activities, but we ensure that this process is followed.’

There is a clear, green strategy at HMCE which is transparent in both policies and costs. Webb explained how the fleet has achieved such a high green status. He said: ‘We first develop and publish a realistic fleet development strategy and plan, which underpins our policies.

‘Secondly, by shifting procurement policies away from just concentrating on ‘up front’ discounts to ‘wholelife costs’, we have gripped running costs and ensured that by making vehicles fit for purpose, fuel costs are managed more efficiently.

‘Thirdly, by continuing to trial the use of new technology in real business situations.

‘We have the largest hybrid fleet in the UK now, and we have experience that all fleet managers can use to form procurement decisions.

‘Finally, we have also committed ourselves to external scrutiny and sought support from TransportEnergy under its Motorvate programme. Motorvate members commit to achieving a 12% reduction in fuel use and 3% reduction in mileage over a three-year period.’

Road transport vehicle carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced by at least 10% at HMCE, through a combination of reducing total business vehicle mileage, improving the average fuel efficiency of vehicles and reducing total fuel consumed.

This has been achieved with co-operation from drivers, backed by a thorough internal communications system.

Webb explained: ‘Our sustainable development plans are published on the departmental intranet and we have issued a range of publicity material through management briefings, our in-house magazine Portcullis, and recently distributed several thousand Green Driving Top Tips cards to drivers.’

However, company car drivers have not always been receptive to new green measures put forward by Webb. Initial concerns from drivers focussed on whether the green vehicle alternatives being proposed would match up to their petrol counterparts.

Webb said: ‘Driver resistance to take on hybrids or bi-fuels has been overcome by careful placing of the products to meet business needs. When the word gets round what a good drive they actually are, this stimulates demand elsewhere.’

Another hurdle in Webb’s strive for a greener fleet has been funding. Unlike other company car fleets, HMCE is unable to claim Powershift grants because it is part of central Government.

Powershift helps fleets to buy green fuel cars and vans, but Webb sees the CO2 reductions and fuel cost savings as benefits in their own right.

He said: ‘Funding is always an issue. The corporate social responsibility and the benefits to the environment are a major factor in any cost benefit analysis when procuring vehicles. My management has always backed this policy and as a result we have seen a reduction in CO2 emissions and significant per unit reductions in fuel costs. Government should be seen to take a lead on environmental issues and we have done this with the fleet.’

Webb says that companies cannot afford to miss out on introducing environmental measures on their fleet.

He said: ‘Any fleet that seeks to reduce fuel consumption to reduce costs is making a significant contribution to the environment. Any business manager who tries to efficiently schedule meetings and reduce business travel overhead time is also making a contribution. This is really all about good management. A green fleet is a cheap fleet to run.’

Looking to the future, Webb is geared up to continue the environmental drive despite major upheavals within HMCE.

He said: ‘In spring 2005 we merge with the Inland Revenue to become HM Revenue and Customs. However, our contribution to meeting sustainable development targets will continue to be robust in all areas. From a personal perspective I think we all need to critically challenge the need for business travel by car.’

HCME face file

The fleet operates on a four year/80,000 mile (petrol), 100,000-mile (diesel) replacement cycle.

Fuel split:

Diesel – 1,192
Petrol – 1,015
Petrol/Electric hybrid - 110
Petrol/LPG bi-fuel - 67
Electric – 6

Fuel cards used:

BP supercharge in the UK
BP plus in Europe

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