Redefining Green for Corporate Fleets

Jason Mather's profileNearly 7 million passenger vehicles on the road today are in commercial operations. These vehicles are driven hard, averaging nearly double the mileage, fuel consumption and emissions of personal vehicles. As a result, fleets are not only expensive to operate, but are also a major source of global warming pollution.

Environmental Defense Fund has been working with some of the largest commercial fleets – including Fortune 500 titans Abbott, DuPont and Owens Corning – to identify ways to reduce fuel consumption, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions. Our efforts have delivered results. Fleets that fully implemented the program outlined below reduced their emissions by an average of 14 percent, and reduced lifecycle operating costs by 4 percent.

We first started working with commercial passenger vehicle fleets in 2005 when we partnered with PHH Arval, one of the world’s largest fleet management service providers. At the time, most fleets were focusing their environmental efforts on a technological approach. They included a limited number of alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles, but made no changes in most of their operation. Together with PHH, we came up with a more effective plan that consists of five simple steps:

  1. Measure emissions.
  2. Consider projected emissions when selecting new vehicles.
  3. Work with drivers to optimize fuel-economy.
  4. Offset emissions that aren’t reduced.
  5. Report on the progress of reduction efforts.

Using this process, our partners are demonstrating that small improvements in a large number of vehicles can make a significant difference. Plus their initiative is causing ripple effects.

At two recent fleet events – American Fleet Leasing Conference in Phoenix, and the first ever GreenFleet conference in Chicago – nearly every speaker emphasized that fleets need to quantify and reduce their emissions. Fleet managers shared many innovative stories on ways they’ve been able to do this. Pepsico, for example, changed some delivery routes to avoid loading-dock congestion. Abbott Laboratories encouraged its sales staff to choose more efficient vehicles by up-fitting those vehicles with popular – and usually driver-paid – options.

The greatest sign of progress has been the response of other fleet management companies. PHH Arval, with our help, became the first company in North America to offer a comprehensive greenhouse gas management service. Now their largest competitors, including ARI, LeasePlan, Wheels, and Donlen, are following suit with programs that measure and reduce fleet emissions.

With 7 million passenger vehicles in commercial operations, there’s a huge opportunity to reduce emissions. The current efforts are just a beginning. Company fleets can cut their global warming pollution and fuel expenditures even more. In these days of $4/gallon gas, that’s a big win-win.

This post is by Jason Mathers, a project manager in the Corporate Partnerships Program at Environmental Defense Fund.

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