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How Your Fleet Can Be Eco-Friendly (and Profitable) in 4 Easy Steps

Zach Blank


December 7, 2020

You hear it all the time: humanity is destroying the planet, and unless we all do our part, we are going to face consequences to our climate. Studies suggest that emissions from our motor vehicles are causing the Earth’s atmosphere to warm, resulting in climate change. You know polluting the earth is an issue. You know you want to help. The problem is, how do you “do your part” for the environment when your entire business consists of managing fleets of vehicles? Especially vehicles that are less-than-ideal in fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

Every fleet operator wants to make his or her operation more eco-friendly, but balancing the impact on climate vs. your bottom-line can be challenging. The demand for business, especially with COVID-19 restrictions on commerce creating a year-round “peak season” for fleets, is stretching supply chains to their limits to meet shipping deadlines. The thought of “going green” can seem daunting at first. Improving the environmental impact of every vehicle in your fleet is not as easy as turning off the lights at the end of the day.

The task of making your fleet “greener” seems difficult, but running a more environmentally-friendly company may not be as hard or as expensive as you think.

How can I make my fleet more eco-friendly?

There are a few simple methods you can implement to help your company go green without spending a lot of green. By re-evaluating delivery goals, using better route optimization software, monitoring fuel expenses, and lightening vehicle loads, you can lower your carbon footprint. Not only can you help the planet and improve your fleet’s efficiency, you can still make a profit as well.

Step 1: Re-Evaluate Your Driver’s Habits

One of the biggest challenges facing delivery companies wanting to be more eco-friendly is setting goals for drivers to meet every day. Because of the current gold rush in the shipping and delivery industry this holiday season, carriers are imposing strict delivery times and order delivery quotas. To meet these demands, drivers may develop bad habits in their efficiency, and the result may be a larger carbon footprint.

Drivers might lean on the gas pedal to reach destinations faster, using more fuel than normally needed to complete the route. When they reach a drop-off location, drivers may leave the vehicle idling while they rush a package to the recipient’s doorstep. While this seems efficient compared to shutting off and restarting the engine, idling for more than ten seconds consumes more fuel than an engine restart. To meet delivery quotas, drivers may prioritize destinations with larger package volumes and ignore optimized routes that schedule smaller drop-offs first. This could lead to more fuel consumption and more wear and tear on vehicles. All of these situations can cause your fleet to pollute more than necessary, as well as cost your company precious time and money spent on fuel.

You may be asking yourself, “What can I do about this?” You need packages to ship on time and have deadlines to meet. But to run a greener fleet, a small reduction in productivity may be needed initially to create more environmentally sustainable practices with your company.

This change does not automatically translate to a loss in revenue. In fact, the adjustment may lead to net profits from improved efficiency. For example, relaxing the delivery quotas on drivers may cause them to follow their optimized delivery routes more carefully, saving time and fuel necessary to complete the shift. The increased efficiency may reduce costs, improving profit margins even as driver productivity decreases slightly.

Another cost-beneficial measure may be to reduce the geographic region each driver in your fleet covers. Sometimes drivers have to cover multiple city regions, which means more time spent on the road, and more fuel being consumed and exhausted. Rather than schedule all drivers to all regions, perhaps you could schedule drivers based on volume needs.

For example, a certain part of town may host many residential apartments. This creates a constant demand for deliveries. Rather than schedule multiple drivers to make stops in that area, dedicate one driver to cover the region exclusively. By doing this, the assigned driver will have all the packages to an entire apartment complex. With all the packages going to one place, the driver would be more likely to leave the vehicle fully parked while making deliveries on foot. This would cut down time spent in transit as well as fuel consumption and emissions.

Adjusting driver habits might take time, but it will make your fleet more eco-friendly. Additionally, these efforts can save your fleet operation money in the long run.

Step 2: Route Optimization

Route optimization software plays a crucial role in the operation of a delivery fleet. Every major carrier in the world uses some sort of delivery route planner to improve delivery times, but the technology can also improve your carbon footprint with minimal effort.

Route optimization software plans the most efficient routes by organizing all scheduled stops into the shortest trip possible. These apps use advanced algorithms that analyze real-time GPS systems to calculate routes for drivers based on traffic reports, road closures, weather conditions, and noted detours.

Here are some features you should look for when selecting a route optimization software for your fleet drivers:

  • Convenience in mapping: mapping your driver’s delivery route should be painless. Many of the best route planners make the process as easy as snapping a picture of your delivery addresses. Then, the app does the rest of the work planning the route for you.

  • Navigation: most great delivery route planners have turn-by-turn navigation built right into their interface. This is not only convenient for drivers, but it keeps their attention on the road, and not fiddling with different apps and screens for route information.

  • Large volume: being able to map a delivery route containing all scheduled stops in one trip is vital to the success of your business. Quality route optimization apps can organize over two hundred stops in a single delivery route.

Without changing anything else in your business, simply upgrading to the best route optimization app for your drivers can reduce operating costs. A top-rated route planning app can save each individual driver at least one hour from their shifts. One hour saved on a route could mean more stops made per shift, less idling in traffic, less overtime pay for drivers, and serving more customers without the overhead costs of hiring new employees. The time saved would also cut an extra hour of carbon emissions per vehicle. Taking advantage of this technology is essential to running a more eco-friendly fleet.

Step 3: Proactive Fuel Monitoring

In addition to adjusting delivery expectations and investing in route optimization software, making your fleet greener means knowing how much fuel you are using in the first place. Not only is excessive fuel consumption bad for the climate, it is bad for business. Understanding your fleet’s consumption on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis allows you to make decisions that can reduce costs and help the environment.

The most effective method to monitor fuel costs is the use of small business fuel cards. By equipping every driver with a fuel card, driver-side fuel reimbursements are eliminated. All fuel expenses are also captured in uniformed invoices that can be analyzed by your logistics staff.

Because fuel cards gather all expenses to one account, you can dig deeper into the numbers and see how much fuel your drivers are purchasing during shifts. Instituting a fuel management program will also give you greater control over what your drivers purchase in the future. For example, a fuel card can limit the type of fuel purchased, restricting the driver to only using regular unleaded gasoline as opposed to super-unleaded or premium grade gasolines.

Another benefit to fuel cards is the insight provided to fleet managers. The expense reports will show managers which drivers are consuming the most fuel. With this data in hand, a manager may be able to address bad habits of certain drivers. It may also show managers where route scheduling could improve. Having fuel card data can produce an invaluable reference point for improving your fleet’s fuel efficiency, thus increasing green efforts.

Step 4: The Lighter the Load, the Lighter the Costs

The fourth step may seem simple, but reducing the weight of the load can dramatically increase the fuel economy of your fleet. A Canadian report found that a truck reducing its weight by just 100 pounds would save nearly $600 in fuel across 124k miles. According to an article by Autozone, reducing 200 pounds of unnecessary weight would add one mile per gallon back to your gas mileage. The weight reduction would also decrease the amount of pollution emitted into the atmosphere.

Lightening the load on your vehicles is beneficial for several other reasons. The heavier the load, the more stress is placed on your vehicle’s engine, increasing the wear and tear and shortening the lifespan of the truck. Not only will you need to make repairs sooner, but worn parts could lead to less efficient fuel consumption with every shift. By reducing the weight of the vehicle, engines will last longer and fuel economy will remain optimal.

Safety is an added benefit when operating lighter vehicles. Delivering a smaller load lowers the risk of a rollover and improves the ability of a driver to stop suddenly to avoid collisions. Combined with less fuel consumption, lighter vehicles are safer for the planet and the person behind the wheel.

You Don’t Have to Go Broke to Go Green

Making a fleet of heavy-duty, gas-guzzling delivery vehicles more eco-friendly can be difficult, but it is not impossible. You don’t need to buy new equipment or modify every one of your fleet vehicles. You also don’t have to wait for zero-emission trucks and vans to make the world a better place either. By applying these simple, cost-effective solutions, any fleet manager can make their business more eco-friendly starting today.

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Zach Blank

Zach is the co-founder and CEO of Straightaway.

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