The debate over fleet sustainability is increasingly focused on the question of ‘how’ rather than ‘if,’ according to experts and technicians who presented at the 2015 Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) held last week in Nashville, TN.
Demand from customers and shipping companies continues to build momentum for new government regulations and initiatives designed to minimize the environmental impact of fleet operations of all types and sizes. Fleet companies that take a proactive approach to sustainability will thus avoid the extra costs associated with falling behind on new regulations and standards.
But that’s where fleet sustainability becomes tricky: where do you start? Alternative fuel vehicles are growing in popularity, but there remains uncertainty over which type will emerge as the new standard, and fleet companies (especially smaller ones) may not be in a position to make such a big investment.
The government itself doesn’t recommend taking such drastic steps too soon: guidelines developed for the government fleet operations suggest developing a strategy first and then collecting thorough data that can be used to create workable strategies.
In other words, the first step fleet companies need to make is to move away from paper systems and spreadsheets, and implement full-featured, centralized fleet management software with mobile functionality.
No other type of solution offers the reliability of data tracking and depth of operational insight necessary to develop effective sustainability initiatives. Here are some of the key areas where fleet management software can assist with sustainability initiatives.
+ Maintenance first. The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) rates preventive maintenance as one of the primary cost-effective ways to reduce fuel usage. Basic powertrain maintenance, including air filter replacement, lubricant changes, and tire rotation can cut fuel usage by as much as 19 percent.
The important thing is to ensure that these services are performed in a consistent, timely manner. In terms of sustainability, falling behind is the major concern: each day that these services fall behind is another day that you could be using up to 19 percent more fuel.
Fleet management software makes it easy to tie these PM tasks to log readings such as mileage and hours of operation, helping ensure that these services are performed before they start to impact fuel usage. Alerts can be sent out when these log values approach pre-defined thresholds, making it easy to stay ahead on these schedules, and reduce your fleet’s environmental impact.
+ Minimize idle time. According to Ford Motor Company, one hour of idle time is equivalent to traveling an additional 33 miles. Cumulatively, idle time can dramatically throw off PM schedules and contribute substantially to greenhouse gas emissions.
This is a big part of the reason why most states have some form of anti-idle law on the books. In Massachusetts, a school bus company was fined $33K for violating the state’s idling laws.
Idling is a tough problem to tackle in general, but it’s next to impossible for fleet companies that use paper systems or spreadsheets. The administrative work necessary to track this data using these outdated methods can be overwhelming, and the results are often highly inaccurate.
In a vehicle management software solution, these log values can be entered either remotely by mobile phone or tablet, or sent directly to the system from the vehicle’s fuel/hour tracking device. This means that the data will be much more accurate, and it will be easier to track both hours, miles, fuel and other metrics, and use reports to spot trends that might point to high idle time.
For instance, the “Log Efficiency” report in ManagerPlus can be configured to show a comparison of current ratios of miles to hours, fuel to miles, fuel to hours, etc., with historical data on these ratios. This makes it much easier to crack down on idle time and make your fleet more environmentally friendly.
+ Implement new technologies. With fleet management software in place to track complete historical data on equipment repairs, it will be much easier to make decisions about when to upgrade to new alternative fuel vehicles.
Having this real-time data on hand is essential if companies want to avoid pouring money into an older fleet when they would be better off investing in upgrades instead. As fleets age, problems tend to come in waves as components wear down.
If this information is available at any time in a quick summary view, as it is in ManagerPlus, a fleet manager can act before major breakdowns occur. As a result, the fleet will run more efficiently, producing fewer greenhouse emissions, and new, greener vehicles can be phased in gradually over time.
Whether your company adopts these initiatives or others, one thing should be clear: no sustainability initiatives should be pursued without strong data to back them up. And the best way to gather and analyze this data is with fleet management software like ManagerPlus.