10 factors to consider when looking to reduce your carbon footprint & make savings on your fleet outgoings

Since the recent emission scandal engulfing Volkswagen, there has been lots of hysteria in the motor industry about what impact this will have on the rest of the market. As a business, with vehicle fleets, a few HGV’s or maybe just the odd van, you might be wondering, how can I reduce my carbon foot print and save money on running costs in the process? Well the benefits don’t just start and end with cost savings (although it’s always the primary objective). There are plenty of other factors to consider when looking to be more environmentally friendly with your vehicles and some of the things you can do to contribute include:


1. Reduce your payload

This is basically looking at what type of goods you will be carrying and what the maximum payload required for your vehicle is. Payload is often reduced slightly in alternatively fuelled vehicles due to the weight of additional components such as batteries, motors or gas tanks. As electronic cars become more popular payloads are likely to reduce further.


2. Downsize your Vehicle

What load space is required? The best way to reduce emissions and cost is to use smaller and lighter vehicles. Downsizing from a larger vehicle will also open doors to more low emission van options. For example most plug-in vans are only available in the smaller van range. Obviously it would be difficult to convince many business owners that downsizing is a good idea, especially when most decision makers would rather get deliveries done in less trips than would be possible with a small vehicle.


3. Use fuel cards

A fuel card can provide you with an extremely high level of control over your petrol and diesel spend. Analysing the fuel card data to identify areas of cost improvement will ultimately allow you to accurately measure your fleet’s carbon footprint and any reductions in this footprint over time.


4. Local regulations

Is there any preferential treatment given for having a particular type of vehicle, such as access to low emission zones? Low emission vans are often encouraged in cities by local authorities offering discounted access and parking fees. Where an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been declared, local authorities in England and Wales can apply for powers to carry out roadside emissions testing. Where vehicles are producing high emissions, fines may be applied to encourage better standards.


5. Dealer support

Where is your closest trained dealer? Will switching to more fuel efficient vehicles affect the warranty? Make sure your local service centre is able to support your alternatively fuelled vehicle. Different service frequencies have to be followed when running on biodiesel for example. An additional third party warranty may be needed to maintain full warranty cover of an electronically powered vehicle which could be more expensive.


6. Are you buying or leasing?

Do you want a guaranteed fixed cost for vehicle ownership or are you happy to pay in instalments? You should look at both lease rates and ownership costs. Leasing companies can get bigger discounts on buying vehicles compared to low volume van buyers. They offer convenient fixed monthly charges that can include maintenance. Plus many have specialists offering free advice for customers wanting to switch to lower carbon vehicles. Purchasing the vehicle yourself, especially if you can get a good dealer discount, can be much cheaper.


7. Think flexibly

Flexible thinking is helpful. Savings are there to be made, you may just have to rethink how you operate your vans to take full advantage of them. Employers and drivers can substantially cut costs by operating low emission vehicles. The savings stem not simply from lower fuel bills, but also from significant reductions to tax charges, national insurance contributions and vehicle excise duty.


8. Think about driving style

Once you have acquired a van or HGV, the single biggest factor impacting on the CO2 output is usually driving style. The difference in fuel consumption between a driver with a heavy right foot and one with a smoother driving style can easily be 35%, and the disparity in CO2 will be the same. Effective driver training for fleet operators is vital because of the effects bad driving can have on efficiency. Remember, the most economical speed to maintain is between 55-65mph. Any faster and fuel efficiency falls rapidly.


9. Check tyre pressures

There are many reasons for taking the issue of tyre pressure seriously. For a start, tyres that are maintained at the right pressure are safer and wear more slowly. However, what you may not know is that correctly inflated tyres can also reduce fuel consumption and therefore CO2 output. Under-inflated tyres have a greater degree of rolling resistance, resulting in the engine using more fuel simply to keep the car or van moving forward.


10. Use technology

Satellite Navigation has quietly revolutionised the working lives of company car and van drivers. While they are not fool-proof, a sat nav that can be bought for less than £100 gives car or van drivers an easy way to follow the most efficient journey route available to them and even tells them when they are likely to arrive. It has helped reduce the miles wasted by drivers who are unsure of the quickest ways to get from A to B. In the last couple of years, we have even started to see sat navs that provide real time traffic information, allowing drivers to anticipate and drive around congestion, meaning fewer vehicles sitting in jams with their engine running, burning fuel.


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