Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Slow Recovery Requires Fleet Managers to Adapt to the 'New Normal'

With the economy in a continued slow-motion recovery, fleet managers have had to be resilient and creative in doing more with less. The result: Budgets may have shrunk, but the bottom line has increased.

January 2012, by Grace Suizo & Chris Wolski

Click here for a pdf of the print version of this article

As the U.S. economy continues its slow-motion rebound, fleets, more than ever, are expected to do more with less. While this is a challenge after three years of shrinking budgets, fleet managers — across the board — have shown themselves to be resilient and creative in finding ways to save money and manage a company's fleet.

Ways they have maximized fleet bottom lines include instituting wide-ranging sustainability initiatives, rightsizing, engaging a fleet management company (FMC), and adjusting vehicle lifecycles.

Saving Green by Going Green

Many fleets are seeing green — as in dollars — by adopting sustainable processes in their operations. Most are aimed at reducing the fleet's carbon footprint, with the added benefit of reducing spend, particularly on fuel.

Ohio-based Park Ellis ServiceMaster has reduced its fuel cost by 10 percent using a fleet tracking solution. In addition to reducing fuel costs, the solution has also helped the cleaning and disaster restoration services provider cut maintenance costs while improving customer service.

Likewise, Sears Holdings Company has turned to telematics solutions to save money and cut its emissions. The company realized a 10-percent gasoline savings by controlling acceleration of its vans with a system it installed on 4,000 units. It has also implemented a strict no-idling policy for vehicles at its distribution facilities.

Elevator giant Schindler plans to go to the top of the sustainability list by cutting its fleet's carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2013. Among the ways it has implemented this is by modifying driver behavior. The driver behavior program has netted up to a 30-percent increase in fuel efficiency alone.

Safelite AutoGlass has made its anti-idling policy the forefront of its sustainability efforts. The "Turn it off, idling gets you nowhere" campaign includes "green" signage and goals, as well as enhanced mileage,  exception reporting, and field training to support its overall reduction goals.The program saw an estimated reduction of 9,000 metric tons of CO2  emissions in 2011.

EMD Millipore is investing in hybrid vehicles to make its fleet more sustainable. The Mass.-based life sciences tools and technology provider implemented a 33-percent hybrid fleet into its North American operations, and plans to save 140,000 gallons of gasoline while also significantly cutting CO2 emissions. The fleet has also moved to four-cylinder vehicles with better fuel efficiency and other types of fuel-efficient vehicles to further meet its goal of helping the company cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.

Best Buy has made sustainability a priority. Working with its fleet management company, the electronics retail giant has realized a 19-percent decrease in cost per vehicle per month and a 22-million-lb. reduction in total carbon emissions since 2009.

As with other fleets, Best Buy has been able to decrease its carbon footprint and save money by picking the best vehicle for the job, choosing more fuel-efficient vehicles, and retiring those that no longer fit company needs.

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