Fleet News

Reduce your carbon footprint

You can hardly open a newspaper nowadays without the words ‘carbon footprint’ leaping out. Day after day, the experts warn of doom and gloom ahead while Government officials urge us all to do our bit.

The media coverage is almost in overkill mode, with the threat that people will simply switch off and read the next story.

But there is a good reason for all the fuss. Leading environmental experts all agree that global warming is causing climate change that will affect everyone.

The time for talking is ended and the time for doing has started.

Research by Fleet Van suggests that while most big fleets have begun to look at their environmental responsibilities and take some kind of action, the smaller fleets by and large haven’t given it a second thought.

We can only put this down to sheer ignorance as invariably, greening up a van fleet will also save money.

It’s all about saving miles travelled and fuel used and with so many benefits on offer, it’s a no-brainer.

So if you run one of those fleets which has yet to concern itself with green issues, we have put together this feature which looks in depth at practical ways you can help to save the planet.

Obviously you don’t have to put all these measures into practice but even by implementing one or two of them, you’ll be able to hold your head high in the environmental stakes and put a surprising amount of extra cash in your company’s pocket.

At the end of each section we tell you how much each measure is likely to cost and how much you can expect to save.

Savings have been based on one vehicle returning 30 miles per gallon over a period of three years/60,000 miles.

Suits you, sir!

Environmental concerns should start even before you buy a van. Don’t just buy a Ford Transit because you always buy Ford Transits – consider whether something a little smaller might suit you just as well.

A Ford Transit Connect, for example, is slightly smaller and therefore has used up fewer of the earth’s valuable resources to make.

It will also cost you less. As it is smaller, it will be lighter too and will therefore use less fuel and emit smaller amounts of carbon dioxide.

At the other end of the story, when the time comes for this vehicle to be scrapped, there will be fewer and smaller bits and pieces to get rid of.

  •  Outlay: £0
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £1,500


Look at the price list of any new van and you’ll find a million and one extras that can be specified (at a cost of course).

So which ones should you choose for a greener fleet and which ones should you avoid?

For starters, while air-conditioning may be getting more and more common in vans, systems can add around 7% to fuel bills while they are switched on, so consider whether or not it might be better for drivers to just open a window.

After all, there aren’t many scorching hot days in Britain! (although consider panel above too).

Consider too, that any extra you choose has been manufactured, so will have cost a small amount in earth resources. Keeping those goodies to a minimum will save money as well.

  • Delete aircon – outlay £0
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £699

Fuel for thought

If we were talking cars here instead of vans, fuel economy advice would be simple.

Believe it or not – and here at Fleet Van we find it staggering – there is no legal obligation for van manufacturers to publish official miles per gallon figures.

From January 1 they have to test all vans empty and on a rolling road, but they don’t have to tell us, the great unwashed van buying public, what they are.

Crazy? Yes, we think so too.

Our advice is to ankle round to the nearest dealer, tell him you want to buy some vans and ask him what their fuel economy figures are.

If he won’t tell you, inform him that in that case you aren’t going to buy his vans and go somewhere else.

Many of the UK’s van manufacturers are still umming and arring about whether or not they are going to publish their fuel economy figures.

So with limited figures available, our projected saving below is based on buying a van which will return 37 miles per gallon as opposed to one which will return 30mpg.

  • Outlay: £0
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £1,892

See – we’ve saved you £4,099 per vehicle and we haven’t even started!

It’s a gas

Gaseous emissions come from inside and outside the van.

We can’t do much about the interior variety, apart from suggesting that you tell your drivers to lay off the baked beans.

Tell the truth we can’t do much about the vehicle variety either for the stunning facts in the section above relate to CO2 emissions too – the manufacturers have the figures but they may well not give them to you.

Once again, if you feel strongly about green issues, give your dealer an ultimatum – no CO2 figures means no sale.

Whoa there!

One of the best ways of ‘greening’ up your fleet is by using less fuel – and one of the easiest ways of using less fuel is by preventing your drivers from yahooing up and down the motorways at 100mph as they are wont to do at present.

The simple answer is to fit speed limiters to your vans (see case study on previous page).

It will cost around £300 per vehicle but it works a treat. Your drivers will curse and swear and possibly stick pins in wax effigies of you. But at the end of the day there is simply no argument – speeding is illegal and therefore speed limiters shouldn’t worry them.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that savings of up to 10% can be made on fuel.

  • Outlay: £300
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £1,000

Keep it clean

How many vans do you see loaded down to the gills with rubbish – roof racks stacked with gear, cabs filled with paper and chip wrappers and cargo areas groaning with old tools that haven’t seen the light of day for years.

All these items will affect the van’s fuel economy figure so should be kept to a minimum.

Ask yourself if a van really needs to carry a roof rack all the time, for example.

Taking it off when it isn’t need could, we reckon, save 1% on fuel bills.

  • Outlay: £0
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £100

Straight to the point

Continuing on the fuel saving line, one of the big fuel wasters is the fact that van drivers can often get lost looking for particular addresses.

The simple way of combating this is to fit some kind of telematics system, which in itself opens up a whole can of worms.

Most manufacturers will add a factory-fit unit but they tend to cost the thick end of £1,000 and don’t seem to do a lot more than the little gadgets such as Tom Tom and Road Angel which you can pick up at Halfords for about £150.

These units, too, can be transferred from one van to another unlike the OE units.

But if you want to shell out more cash, some of the more sophisticated telematics systems available will almost run your fleet for you – linking your vehicles up to your PC so that you can tell just about everything your drivers are doing.

It’s very much a question of: “How much do I need to know and how much am I prepared to pay?”

Personally, we’d go for the cheaper units and we’ve based our savings calculation on a driver having one and thus using 2% less fuel.

  • Outlay: £150
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £200

Is anyone in?

Research suggests that up to 60% of parcel deliveries fail because the recipient isn’t in when the driver calls.

That’s an awful lot of wasted fuel and a great deal of unnecessary pollution.

If parcel delivery is your business, set up a system whereby you phone the delivery addresses beforehand to make sure they will be in when you call.

Alternatively, you could simply adopt the tactics of a well-known courier firm (which shall remain nameless) which delivered an iron to one of our staff recently.

She wasn’t at home when they called, so the driver lobbed the parcel over her side gate and smashed the iron to pieces in the process. Whichever system you choose, we reckon cutting wasted journeys could save 2% in fuel.

  • Outlay: £10 (phone calls)
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £200

Check this out

It’s amazing how many drivers never bother to check their vans for items such as tyre pressures and oil levels.

Green fleet managers know how important it is to have properly-maintained vans so for starters, insist that your drivers carry out daily checks and threaten them with disciplinary action if they don’t.

Follow this up with a few of your own spot-checks in the early weeks until they get used to a daily routine.

They’ll grumble a bit but will soon get used to it.

We reckon 1% fuel savings should be attainable by adopting this simple strategy.

  • Outlay: £0 (but a bit of effort on your part)
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £100

Garage shy

Many vans, especially those used by smaller fleets, are not serviced regularly and it really is a false economy both in financial and environmental terms.

A badly-serviced van will be pumping out more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and will use more diesel, not to mention the extra wear and tear on the engine, which will end up needing expensive repairs. We estimate a 1% fuel saving here.

  • Outlay: £0 (servicing is a normal expense)
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £100


There is a lot of argument at the moment over biodiesel but there is no doubt about its green credentials.

Made from rapeseed oil and suchlike, it is pollution neutral so will give you lots of brownie points with the environmental do-gooders.

You may be less praised, however, by those who worry about third world starvation.

They believe – and they have a point – that hungry people should be growing themselves food to eat, not crops to feed rich people’s vehicles.

Also on the downside, there won’t be any cash savings.

Teach them well

Driver training is an emotive affair, as it does mean the operator shelling out a fair wad of cash, with no definite prospect of getting anything back in return.

But our vast experience has shown that training your drivers will make them safer and use less fuels – therefore they’ll help green up your fleet.

The Government’s excellent SAFED scheme is the one to go for as it concentrates not only on safety but on fuel-efficient driving too.

You’ll find details of what’s on offer at www.safed.org.uk

  • Outlay: £50 upwards
  • Possible saving per vehicle: £425

And finally...

That was the easy bit.

We’ve shown you how, with a little care and planning, you can save a great deal of cash.

But your efforts will come to nought if you don’t get the drivers on your side and thinking about the environment too.

It won’t be easy as many of the UK’s van drivers belong to the sizeable minority of citizens who give a damn about nothing apart from themselves.

Try talking to them as a group first and getting a discussion going to gauge their general attitude.

If they generally seem in favour, explain that from now on Bloggs and Co is going to be an environmentally-aware company and suggest to the few who don’t like it that they may wish to offer their support anyway.

But don’t forget that the carrot normally works better than the stick. So how’s this for a few suggestions:

  • Monitor each driver’s fuel economy figures and award a small prize such as dinner for two at a local restaurant for the winner at the end of each month
  • Have a monthly ‘green’ meeting for all staff and leave a suggestion box in the office for drivers to offer advice. Those who come up with money-saving ideas should expect to be rewarded.
  • Get one smart van on your fleet such as the Ford Transit Sportvan we tested in the last issue. Each month, choose a driver who you think is the most environmentally aware (you can make up your own criteria and rules) and give them the smart van to drive for that month.
    And don’t give up too easily. A little effort on your part can go a long way.


British Gas has fitted Siemens engine and road speed limiters to its fleet of 1,000 Volkswagen Caddy SDI vans.

This adds to an existing fleet of other vehicles, already benefiting from the systems.

There are real operational gains in terms of better road safety and fuel economy through having a vehicle’s top speed limited, plus environmental benefits from reduced noise and exhaust emissions.

Colin Marriott, British Gas general manager fleet, said: “Fitting speed limiters ensures our fleet operates to the highest safety levels and that we continuously take advantage of the very latest vehicle technologies that reduce our impact on the environment.”

Bright Idea!Keep the windows closed

Steve Crawshaw, LCV manager at LeasePlan, has urged fleet managers to ensure vehicles are as aerodynamic as possible after studies from the Department for Transport showed that open windows can create significant drag which can increase fuel consumption by as much as 7%.

He said: “The subject matter might seem more at home in a Formula One cockpit, but the principles apply equally to vehicles of all types.

“With vans often highly customised and regularly making long trips up and down the motorway, fuel efficiency can be a big issue.

“By making sure vehicles are as streamlined as possible and that drivers are playing their part in reducing drag, van fleets can knock thousands of pounds off their annual fuel bill.”

Bright Idea!Racking is not all the same

Is all van racking the same?

The simple answer is no, according to Kevin Tillotson, general manager of Modul-System International.

“With no current legislation regarding vehicle racking, it’s amazing the diversity on offer,” he said. “The material used in the manufacture of racking is crucial if you want to keep an eye on your carbon footprint.

“Our products are made of high strength steel, aluminium and plastic. This gives superb strength while at the same time the total weight is about 20% lower compared with most systems on the market which are made of conventional mild steel.”

The result is twofold for the environment. You can either load more into your van without exceeding its weight limits and therefore make fewer journeys by carrying more and being more organised or alternatively save fuel by having a lighter vehicle.

Mr Tillotson added: “If you take a diesel van doing 30,000 miles per year at an average fuel consumption of 32 mpg and increase its load capacity by 20% you have the ability to reduce its journeys and mileage by 6,000 miles and that equates to a saving of 2.29 tonnes of carbon every year.”

Bright Idea!Treat your tyres well

Simply by taking more care of tyres, the country could cut its carbon footprint by 5.5 million tonnes, according to Tony Bowman, managing director of etyres.

He said: “We don’t need to invoke the Nanny State to achieve massive cuts in carbon emissions from motoring. They are there for the taking today if we can better educate the motorist in the choice and care of vehicle tyres.

“Driving a van doesn’t have to be incompatible with environmental sensitivity. The UK could easily reduce its carbon footprint by 5.5 million tonnes per year if drivers exercised more care.”

‘Cutting Motoring Waste’ – sponsored by etyres – sets out a simple checklist for drivers to follow. Simply ensuring every two or three weeks that tyre pressures are set at the correct level would save a staggering £1 billion a year because of the combined effect of higher rolling resistance on fuel consumption and shorter tyre life.


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