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Bristol council aims to be environmental leader

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A string of major carbon footprint-reducing fleet initiatives are being introduced by Bristol City Council with the aim of encouraging other public and private sector organisations to follow its lead.

The council, which runs a fleet of 480 vans and 60 cars, is planning to convert 100 light commercial vehicles to run on a 25% biodiesel mix from January 2015. It will convert one of its fuel bunkers to biodiesel with a new management reporting infrastructure also introduced.

The authority’s intitiatives tie in with the European Commission’s decision to name Bristol as its European Green Capital for 2015 in recognition of its work to reduce CO2 and congestion and improve the environment.

Bristol City Council fleet manager Nick Gingell said: “All the initiatives are designed to reduce emissions from our fleet and, therefore, our carbon footprint, which is an important goal of Bristol 2015.

“As the local authority, it is important that we take a lead in reducing our carbon footprint. We hope other public sector organisations and businesses in the Bristol area will follow.”

The council has worked closely with the Environment Agency, which is already using a 25% sustainable biodiesel mix in some vehicles, to develop its plans. It is also hoping to introduce electric and hybrid vehicles to its fleet next year.

Gingell is also carrying out a feasibility study into telematics.

These initiatives build on a series of fleet carbon reduction measures already implemented by the council.

Under its latest light duty vehicle framework, for example, cars and car-derived vans must have CO2 emissions of up to 120g/km.

This is below the European Green Public Procurement Criteria stipulation that cars must emit less than 130g/km of CO2 and vans less than 170g/km.

The authority usually goes below its own stipulated level and asks for cars with emissions of 100g/km or below.

It has also introduced Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s Car Share programme, which is similar to a pool car scheme. It has enabled the council to reduce both its own pool car fleet and the number of employees driving their own cars on work-related journeys.

The council currently operates an all-diesel van fleet, while all its cars are petrol-powered. It also has a handful of LPG vehicles.

The initial biodiesel pilot scheme will see the authority measure vehicle performance in terms of fuel and maintenance costs compared with diesel vans before it makes any decision as to whether to introduce the fuel more widely.

“We see the pure benefit from utilising biodiesel as being reduced emissions, but that must be balanced against any additional costs,” said Gingell.

“If successful in terms of the key performance indicators and feedback, we hope to expand the pilot as well as making our fuel tanks available to other interested parties.”

Council has also started to prepare for electric vehicles by installing recharging points. Gingell said: “It is a major driving factor for me to introduce electric cars and vans to the fleet.

“I will be very disappointed if in the next 12 months we do not have a significant electric vehicle presence.” 

The Car Share programme also forms a key part of the council’s commitment to reducing congestion and emissions.

Employees are encouraged to use alternative forms of commuter and inter-office travel, such as the Car Share initiative. A salary sacrifice scheme to purchase bicycles and a corporate reduced price bus tickets scheme are also part of the staff benefits package (Fleet News, April 9, 2014).

Council monitoring revealed that 2,720 employees used their own vehicles to travel 2.5 million business miles at a cost of £1.1 million during 2013/14.

Gingell said: “We want to move away from mileage reimbursement where employees use their own cars for business trips. It’s expensive, time-consuming to administer and causes both traffic and parking congestion around our offices and the city. Plus we have no control over the CO2 emissions of those cars.

“As well as encouraging employees to use other forms of transport, we’re investing in technology that enables staff to do more of their work without the need to travel at all.”

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