What’s your green fleet strategy?


The Environment Agency has recently scooped an award for showing leadership in environmental fleet management. Dale Eynon, the Agency’s head of fleet operations, shares how this success was achieved

The Environment Agency is involved with a variety of environmental protection and improvement work and therefore has a fairly mixed fleet. Operational activities are mainly undertaken using cars and vans, ranging from small, fiesta sized vans up to very large transit vans. But for those that undertake heavier work – for example going off road to repair flood defences – the Agency has a commercial fleet which includes a collection of 4x4s. To make matters even more complicated, the Agency also has a fleet of plant and boats.

Q In which ways have you ‘greened’ your fleet?

A We begun by looking very carefully at whether we had the right size of fleet. We had to be tough and decide what vehicles we absolutely needed and which we could loose and replace with shared or hired vehicles. Over the last two years we have managed to reduce our commercial fleet by over thirteen per cent, which translates to a significant financial and carbon saving.
Then we looked at whether we had the right vehicles for the job in terms of size and suitability. We downsized vehicles if operationally viable and have managed to reduce the number of 4x4s we operate by over 100. We’ve also tried to move away from the highest polluting 4x4s by replacing them with models like the Mitsubishi Outlander. This vehicle can switch between two and four wheel drive and has about 100g of CO2 per km less than other 4x4s.

Q Have you used any new technologies?

A We keep up to speed with any new or emerging technologies and trial the ones we believe could work for us. We’ve now got 24 hybrid vans on the fleet, including 12 Ashwood Hybrid Transit Vans which will be trialled as part of the government’s Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Plan.
We’ve also been doing some trials on engine remapping software. So far we’ve seen a ten to 15 per cent increase in mpg and the same drop in CO2 in the five months of the trail. So this technology looks promising and is relatively easy to fit to vehicles.
But what’s impressed us the most is sustainable bio-diesel. Bio-diesel has had awful press over the last couple of years largely because of where the ‘bio’ element comes from; often food crops are replaced with bio-crops in third world countries which inevitably affects crucial food sources. We were therefore very keen to try a bio-fuel that was sustainably sourced. We believe we’ve found the answer in bio-diesel made from waste cooking oil which we’ve been trialling for about 18 months without any problems whatsoever.

Q What challenges have you come across?

A It’s often a challenge persuading end-users to give new technologies a go. Some of our field workers are often sceptical about new technology, and if you give them a hybrid van or tell them to use bio-fuel, they may take some time to warm to it.
However our managers have been very good in directing and supporting some of these initiatives and staff support is strong overall. But understandably they are concerned about costs because we’re using tax payers’ money. So we have to make sure that any new initiative is cost effective, green and safe – and sometimes it’s a challenge making people believe that these three things can go together.
It’s also tricky trying to manage people’s expectations. Colleagues often make suggestions or query why we can’t do something quicker so we have to explain that these things take time and have to be properly thought out.
Q How has your green fleet strategy been successful?

A The government set a target that all new deliveries for public sector car fleets had to have average CO2 emissions of new cars of less than 130g CO2/km by the end of March 2011. We actually hit that target last year and currently the CO2 level on our new deliveries is 124g CO2/km. The overall CO2 level on our fleet is 136g CO2/km.
And we’re really proud that our success has been recognised; we have recently won EST’s Green Fleet Hero award for Leadership, as well as an award for Green Van Fleet of the Year.

Q How do you manage your grey fleet?

A Grey fleet is a huge area as we have over 3,000 people who use their own vehicles. We already have a travel hierarchy whereby using your own car is the very last option – we investigate teleconferencing, public transport, and leased or borrowed vehicles as the first option.
But in April this year we’re starting a new policy which will restrict the amount of mileage you can travel in your own vehicle. And we’ll start to be stricter about the type of vehicles used.
We’re also bringing in a driver risk management programme where we’ll do a risk assessment of driving style which may lead to training for those that are high risk. The programme will also allow us to check licences online through the DVLA.

Q What advice would you give to other fleet managers looking to ‘green’ their fleet?

A I would tell them to really tailor the size of fleet and types of vehicles to their operational activities and find areas where the fleet can be reduced or the vehicles downsized.
And I’d strongly advise them to speak to other fleet managers to share information. Smaller companies may not have the cash to trial new technologies, so by speaking to other companies that have, they can make informed decisions about what could work for their fleet.