Fleet News

Guest opinion: Go green? We could if we had the facts

Opinion: Trevor Gelken, editor Fleet Van magazine

AS editor of one of the UK’s leading van magazines, I feel it my duty to speak up on behalf of my readers – those hard-working LCV fleet managers who ply their trade to the best of their abilities, often unloved and unappreciated by their bosses.

If the job of the car fleet manager is tough, then the van fleet operator’s task is tougher still. Despite many valiant efforts to raise the level of professionalism in the LCV industry, it is still very much the poor relation of the fleet family.

In the past few months, on this very page, I have railed against the van manufacturers for failing to provide basic safety systems like driver airbags and ABS brakes as standard, and have even criticised my readers themselves for largely failing to grab the health and safety bull by the horns and make their drivers safer on the roads.

Now I have uncovered another little example of the way the LCV industry stands in the shadows – and this time it is the Government which stands accused.

Imagine if you will for a moment that I am a van fleet operator and I am about to buy a new fleet of vehicles.

I have listened to Tony Blair, George Bush and all the other political tub-thumpers about the importance of lessening the damage done to the environment by the motor vehicle and I want to make sure that my new vehicles are not only cost-effective but as green as possible too.

I have dismissed the idea of buying LPG-powered vans as there seem to be too many questions both about their green credentials and their residual values.

As petrol vans hardly exist any more, I am left with one choice – diesel.

There are two good measures of how much damage a vehicle does to the environment – its fuel economy figure and its CO2 emission figure.

Therefore I want to buy vans which have high economy and low emissions. Pretty simple, eh? But when I start ploughing through the various magazine listings and internet tables I start to become a tad baffled. These figures don’t exist.

Even my magazine – Fleet Van – which is the only one on the market to carry pence-per-mile running costs figures, doesn’t include fuel economy and CO2 details. The Government doesn’t require manufacturers to publish them, so most don’t.

Now I could suggest that the manufacturers do the honourable thing and reveal these figures to the general vehicle-buying public but why should they if they don’t have to? To be fair some van makers do this, but the majority don’t and I can’t say I blame them.

One excuse is that miles-per-gallon figures are largely meaningless as vans may run empty, half full or full and there is no ‘average’ that could be taken.

My reply to this is that surely it wouldn’t be beyond the bounds of possibility to provide three sets of figures and divide the total in thirds for a ball-park figure.

At least that way the fleet buyer would be able to compare each van in each sector and come up with a list of the best and worst performers.

The same applies for CO2 emissions. Just shove a device up the exhaust pipe and read off the total on a dial when the van is unladen, half laden and fully laden, then divide by three.

We hear so much these days about environmental responsibility and damage done by road vehicles that it seems unbelievable that the Government would not require these simple statistics to be published by law.

Surely it would not take much legislation – and even Her Majesty’s Opposition couldn’t object. Without these figures Britain’s van fleet operators are missing a chance to fly their green fleet colours and do their bit to help create a cleaner world.

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