27 Jan
What are the most cost-effective steps on the path towards increased fleet efficiency?

How can Kiwi fleet managers cut emissions?

The sheer amount of vehicles out on the roads all over the world are having a big impact on the environment. After all, even the most innovative, progressive petrol or diesel engines emit a small amount of carbon dioxide.

Consequently, finding ways to limit the number of harmful gases that are emitted into the atmosphere has become a priority for many governments. Here in New Zealand, while the country has better emissions figures than an array of larger nations, things are no different.

New Zealand's Minister for Transport Simon Bridges recently explained that the country needs to become a 'low carbon economy' sooner rather than later. In fact, Mr Bridges even went on to say that the current array of solutions that can aid both energy and fuel efficiency remain largely untapped across these shores.

It's possible to assess efficiency using data gathered from business fuel cards.

Making a difference

So, while the government is clearly aiming to limit New Zealand's vehicle emissions and boost the country's overall efficiency going forward, what steps can businesses take now?

Well, in the case of the latter, there are a few relatively simple, cost-effective practices that can begin to limit emissions. For entities with road-going operations, many of these revolve around improving the efficiency of their fleets. Here are three ways fleet managers can stay on top of emissions, and even potentially save money in the long term:

1. Leverage data

There are a whole of host of technologies on the market that have the specific aim of equipping fleet managers with as much information about their operations as possible. Everything from the specific routes each driver takes most regularly to the total amount of mileage covered can be collected and assessed.

Such telematics systems can occasionally be expensive, and the costs to install the solutions – especially on a particularly large fleet – may put some business decision makers off. However, there is another, potentially more cost-effective way to evaluate fleet emissions.

Automotive Fleet contributor Karen Healey suggested that it's possible to assess efficiency using data gathered from business fuel cards. Ms Healey argues that many companies base their emissions and efficiency targets around figures from the manufacturers of their vehicles. Breaking out of this cycle is critical in limiting environmental impact over the long term. 

How? Well, it's a case of using the information provided by fuel cards to establish how much petrol or diesel is actually being used to power the company's fleet, and then creating a baseline using that information. Once that process is carried out, it can become much easier to assess exactly how and where the company could boost its overall economy and efficiency figures.

Combing through the data provided by business fuel cards can allow fleet managers to assess efficiency.Combing through the data provided by business fuel cards can allow fleet managers to assess efficiency.

2. Regular maintenance

It may sound relatively obvious, but a poorly maintained vehicle is likely to be an inefficient one. While the vast majority of fleet managers will have a thorough system in place to ensure that their cars, vans and trucks are kept to high standards, even small improvements can impact economy and emission figures.

For example, swapping out air filters or regularly topping up oil levels can make a difference. In the case of the former, if an engine is effectively being starved of oxygen, it has to work harder to burn fuel and consequently will be less efficient.

Overarching bigger gains on efficiency can be better garnered when the little things are done right. If they are, the financial benefit can ultimately be significant. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency explained that a reactive maintenance program can save 12-18 per cent of the overarching fuel costs per year on each vehicle.

Basic fleet maintenance can have a big impact on overall efficiency. Basic fleet maintenance can have a big impact on overall efficiency.

3. Alternative forms of power

While not quite as cost effective as the above tips, the Kiwi government is putting an emphasis on electric vehicles (EVs) at present, with the aim of limiting emission even further.

This is partly due to the fact that around 80 per cent of New Zealand's electricity currently comes from renewable energy, meaning that the long-term sustainability of EVs is a lot more far reaching than the fossil-fuel powered equivalents.

Now, while the overarching costs may be a little too much for some enterprise owners and fleet managers, those that do get on board when it comes to EVs could save a significant amount of money in the long term, if the infrastructure surrounding such cars, vans and trucks is consistently improved.

"I'm encouraged to see many New Zealand organisations are already making progress in supporting EV ownership and I firmly believe that it's the private sector that will ultimately lead this step-change as the world transitions towards a low carbon future," explained Mr Bridges.

Around 80 per cent of New Zealand's energy comes from renewable sources.Around 80 per cent of New Zealand's energy comes from renewable sources.

Ultimately, going forward, the best practice for fleet managers looking to cut emissions is likely to be a mixture of the above three tips. In the long term, EVs could well be the way most companies unlock superior efficiency.

However, presently, leveraging information from fuel cards and regularly maintaining vehicles are the first, cost-effective steps on the path to better fleet economy.