Duty of care was raised as a concern by many, as was the forthcoming smoking ban and the changes to mobile phone legislation.
But the topic everyone mentioned was the environment. More than ever, fleets are going green and want to be seen to be going green.
And with some judicious timing, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) has just relaunched its green fleet award programme, Motorvate, which works as a kind of environmental accreditation scheme.
The scheme has existed for several years but never really took off. Opinion is split on whether it failed to be marketed properly, was the wrong type of scheme or was merely a few years ahead of the market.
But the time is certainly ripe for it now.
The EST’s transport advice programme manager, Alex Goodwin, admits mistakes were made, which is why Motorvate has had a complete overhaul.
‘We decided some time ago that we needed to give the whole scheme a bit more pop. The old one had been somewhat neglected,’ he says. ‘A while back, we weren’t quite sure if it was the right thing for the market and in its old form, it wasn’t. Now we’re prepared to put our name behind it confidently.’
Where the old Motorvate scheme was an inspection and award-only scheme, the new programme is much more inclusive.
The reinvigoration of the Motorvate scheme adds to the fleet services offered by the EST. It has just completed its 100th Green Fleet Review, a scheme that offers companies free advice on how to save money and emissions. Motorvate works on the next step.
While firms are more and more receptive to green issues, they also want people to know about the effort they have put in.
Being kind to the environment is good PR, so an accreditation scheme could be a considerable incentive to firms wanting to look good in their clients’ eyes.
Motorvate is funded largely by the DfT (there is a one-off £500 administration fee). The highlight of the scheme is an annual Oscars-style bash where awards are handed out to fleets making the most progress in reducing their carbon footprints.
It is clear that while the scheme represents a positive step, the EST has a long way to go in raising its profile – an obvious problem with the first iteration.
Calls by Fleet News to more than 40 fleet managers found only one had heard of Motorvate – Larry Bannon, of the National Blood Service, who is full of praise for it.
‘The NBS was one of the early implementers of the Motorvate scheme and we ultimately exceeded our own expectations by becoming the first UK public sector organisation to achieve a five-star rating,’ Mr Bannon says.
‘I found that the targets set in the scheme really focused the mind on how to go about meeting, or exceeding them. It prompted us look at vehicle operation as a whole, rather than just the issue of what was coming out of the exhaust tailpipe.
‘It meant changing the way we did things in regard to vehicle specifications, replacement programmes and maintenance regimes and alternative fuels as well as fuel monitoring, route planning, consolidation of deliveries and driver training.
Overall, the scheme allowed us to take advantage of an independent review, to confirm that the benefits of the initiatives were bearing the desired outcomes -–overall reduction in CO2 emissions and operational mileage.’
Goodwin says the EST feels that those opting for the Green Review will be the prime candidates for Motorvate, and as a result it has a similar feel. Specialist fleet consultancy is offered to help design initiatives towards carbon reduction, while audits will monitor improvements.
A networking structure will put fleets of similar types together to share information and best practice, while the annual awards ceremony will hand out gold, silver or bronze awards to those saving emissions of 5%, 10% or 15% year-on-year. The awards can also be used as evidence in support of ISO 140001 and BITC Environmental Index accreditation.
‘Running an efficient vehicle fleet can bring benefits such as fuel and insurance savings, reduced road risk and community and customer recognition,’ Goodwin says. ‘Organisations that join Motorvate can expect to see these benefits enhanced, leading to greater efficiency and productivity.’
A scheme that recognises and rewards green progress can only be a good thing. But for the all-new Motorvate programme, creating awareness within fleets is vital if the EST’s hopes of a greener industry are to be fulfilled and mistakes of the past avoided.
First step: get your Green Fleet Review
changing to a greener fleet doesn’t happen overnight – it takes work, and can be a daunting task. Where to start? What to look for? If only there was a way of getting an expert in to run you through the best way to do it.
Good news – there is such a service and, what’s more, it’s completely free. Thanks to funding from the Department for Transport, the EST can offer fleets of 50 or more vehicles the free services of an independent fleet consultant for up to five days.
Officially the Green Fleet Review is funded and designed to reduce emissions but, according to the EST’s Alex Goodwin, it invariably leads to sizeable financial savings as well.
‘If people followed the recommendations we would expect them to cut their CO2 emissions by an average of about 15%, and a fleet with 100 cars and 100 grey fleet vehicles could save £90,000 a year. That’s the best-case scenario, but it’s not unrealistic.’
Fleets interested in a review are visited by key account managers from the EST, who match up the firm with one of the 13 independent fleet consultants involved in the scheme.
The fleet managers sit down with the consultant to collate data on areas of fleet operation from vehicle allocation, alternative fuels and fuel economy to mileage reimbursement policy.
‘Quite often, mileage reimbursement is very generous,’ Mr Goodwin says. ‘We see cases of people driving around the block because they’re earning money for every mile they do. It’s never an easy thing to do if you’re talking about reducing the pence-per-mile so we work to try to come up with the right way of communicating it.’
Other areas tackled include driver education and the latest technology – such as telematics – available to fleets.
Health and safety is a big issue for fleet managers and Mr Goodwin says it goes hand in hand with the environmental agenda.
Grey fleets – staff using their own cars on business – are also addressed: ‘It’s more cost effective to use daily rental or something else like that,’ Mr Goodwin says.
The turnaround time from initial consultation is around a month. After gathering data, the consultant puts together a report on a fleet’s carbon footprint and delivers a set of prioritised recommendations for reducing emissions and improving efficiency.
Organisations that have already undergone a green review include Center Parcs, Carlsberg, EDF, Tesco and several police forces.