Is it really important for a fleet company to go green? Yes. And it's not all about image. The pressure to go green is about reducing emissions, conserving fuel, and reducing a fleet's carbon footprint to contribute to a cleaner environment.

With fuel such a large fleet expense, going green should positively impact a company's bottom line. Most such efforts are focused on the immediate — how to reduce fuel costs and dependency. Some initiatives focus on secondary issues, such as projecting the right company image, complying with corporate policies, and reducing a company's carbon footprint.

Whatever the motivation, greening up a fleet will improve its impact on the environment by reducing emissions and fuel consumption. More importantly, the same steps in planning and implementing a green initiative will save more "green" — the kind you can put in your pocket.

Where to Begin Greening
Start with planning. Set realistic goals and create an achievable vision of your final plan, e.g., certain percentage of alt-powered vehicles in the fleet, measurable emissions carbon footprint reductions, or decreased fuel consumption totals. Develop a step-by-step implementation plan with established timelines.

A fleet greening program is necessarily dependent on budget figures and how it may affect day-to-day operations. Depending on the initiative's scale, up-front expenditures may be required, but the savings eventually will outweigh the cost. Key steps to implement a green
initiative include:

■ Conduct an overall vehicle assessment.

■ Update fleet maintenance and service programs.

■ Use technology where appropriate.

■ Use a dedicated fleet card for better reporting, security, and control.

■ Implement driver training and driving modification tools.


Assess & Review
An initial fleet vehicle assessment will help determine its greening capabilities. Green vehicle and fuel options are increasingly available. Depending on a fleet's budget, one greening option may be to incorporate the use of hybrid, flex-fuel, or more fuel-efficient vehicles.

To reduce carbon emissions, many fleets are integrating alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, in their fleet fueling practices.

Complete an overall maintenance review of fleet vehicles to help decide what alternative fuels can be used. Determine the alt-fuel vehicle standard maintenance requirements and review what initial steps must be taken to bring the fleet up to the new maintenance standards.

Even small steps in maintenance can make a cumulative difference. For example, a simple factor such as low tire pressure significantly decreases fuel efficiency and reduces mileage. Fleet upkeep and maintenance are key components to any green initiative.

Establish a Good Partnership

Planning and implementing an effective green initiative is much easier with the help of industry partners. For example, most fleet management companies provide research, program advice, vehicle data, and tools to benchmark emissions and fuel consumption.

As another partner, a fleet card program can provide hard fleet data, offering a global look at a company's fueling habits. This data can determine the extent of a fleet's carbon footprint and how to begin decreasing its impact on the environment.

A fleet card program also features fuel consumption tracking and monitoring capabilities while allowing fleet managers to set fuel use limits and parameters. This capability is key in preventing abuse and reducing fuel costs. For example, purchasing parameters can be set through exception reporting, automatically alerting the fleet manager when a driver purchases premium grade instead of the mandated regular grade.

Working with a fleet card company with access to these tools, a fleet manager gains greater control of fleet costs and operations, including green initiatives.

GPS Technology Aids Green Fleet
Today's new technologies are constantly evolving to support the growing need for more fuel-efficient and green fleets.

One such technology is telematics - GPS wireless vehicle-tracking and diagnostic products. One such product is Wright Express' WEXSMART, which offers timely reports on fleet vehicle location, speed, and actual operating condition.

Fleet fuel cards can be useful tools for keeping drivers accountable for the bottom line. For example, start-stop driving and speed limit violations greatly reduce fuel efficiency and mileage. Eradicating these bad driving habits can save significant costs in the long term.

With tools such as WEXSMART and others, fleet managers can:

■ Monitor and influence driver behavior.

■ Reduce maintenance and operating costs.

■ Improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.

■ Realize increased safety and security.

■ Reduce unauthorized use.

■ Improve response times.

■ Integrate scheduling, routing, and dispatch.


Driver Behavior Fundamental
Don't underestimate the importance of driver behavior in successful efforts to cut fuel costs and reduce emissions. Ensuring driver compliance to certain fuel-efficient driving methods can significantly affect the bottom line.

Consider a dedicated driver training program that supports company green initiatives. Available eco-friendly driver training can improve a driver's mpg measure by a reported 20-25 percent.

In addition, educate fleet drivers about new modifications, technologies, and policies that affect them, such as planning an eco-efficient daily route.
It may be important to remind drivers that contributing to saving company dollars is great job security in today's market. They can make the following "green" actions a habit:

■ Drive the speed limit.

■ Plan routes efficiently.

■ Research best daily fuel prices.

■ Reduce vehicle idling time.

■ Use cruise control.

■ Moderate defensive driving.

■ Adhere closely to routine vehicle maintenance schedules.

Taking the proper steps to green-up a fleet will enhance the program's overall success.

Managing and documenting a successful green initiative focuses on problem areas and implementing new business tactics or technologies. The options range from purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles, incorporating the use of alternative fuels, and training eco-conscious drivers to establishing controls and limits on fuel purchases.

There is no one solution to greening a fleet, and more than likely, most fleets will find a successful program involves a combination of the many available options.