The public sector must lead by example when it comes to reducing vehicle emissions. While some are already on the zero-emission journey, many are not. So what should fleet managers consider before switching to an electric fleet? And what can they do if electric vehicles are not yet suitable? We ask our new Panel of Experts
The government is clear that it wants electric vehicles to be common place on our roads in order to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. The public sector therefore must lead by example, if it wants others to follow suit.
Many public sector organisations have already made headway in this agenda.
Leeds City Council for example, is on its way to having 95 electric vehicles on its fleet in total, and has a goal of making its entire fleet zero or ultra low emission by 2025. Meanwhile, Dundee City Council has 87 EVs and Swansea Council has around 40.
Many blue light services are also adding electric vehicles to their fleets. London Fire Brigade is trialling BMW i3s to identify opportunities where EVs could be suitable, and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has introduced electric vehicles and installed 33 chargepoints across its sites.
Advice on making the switch
For those organisations in the public sector that have not embarked on the electric journey, what advice is there for those considering zero-emission vehicles?
Mark Gallagher from Grosvenor Leasing believes that it is paramount to have a plan before jumping head first. He says: “This is not one of those occasions when you just add a few ULEVs or EVs to your vehicle policy and start ordering.
“It’s important to consider which stakeholders across the organisation will want to have a say in the plan, what the vehicles will be used for, who will be driving them, what mileages and territories they are covering, charging availability at work or home, and what charging points are in those areas of operation.
“Public sector organisations should also look at the vehicles on their fleet now and when they are due to be replaced. Assess which ones could be replaced with low and zero emission vehicles, and which are allocated to drivers whose job role may mean they’ll need a petrol or diesel model for a further three or four years.”
Martin Evans from Jaama agrees that thorough consideration of the operational needs of the vehicle needs to be given first. He says: “Fleets should consider the nature of use before choosing the appropriate vehicle in terms of fuel type, drivetrain, vehicle size, daily distances and where the vehicle is actually going.
“A lot of PHEVs for example, only have a 25 mile range which means the vehicle is having to cart around additional weight whilst using petrol or diesel. If the vehicle is required to do long distances between charges, it may not be as efficient compared to traditional vehicles.”
Testing out the vehicles in the capacity they will be used is an excellent way to assess their suitability, as Mark explains: “At Grosvenor Leasing, we wanted to assess the viability of current electric vehicles, giving two of our regional sales managers different models for a week and it was a fascinating exercise.
“On some days the cars enabled them to carry out their jobs as normal, but there were other days when they were travelling larger distances to meetings in small towns and so had to resort to their petrol and diesel cars due to the distance and lack of charging points on route. We would therefore advise that it’s worth checking their viability with a cross section of staff before deciding if now is the right time.”
Other measures to go green
All our panelists agree that careful assessment of suitability of EVs and ULEVs is an absolute must. After all, the public sector is scrutinised for using taxpayer’s money. So what can public sector organisations do if EVs are not yet suitable, or if they are not in a position to invest? Are there other ways to reduce emissions?
Andy Edwards from Quartix believes there is: “There are still several opportunities to reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint without investing large sums in new vehicles,” he says.
“The most powerful way to do this is to think about how you use your vehicles at the moment and pinpoint areas where you can reduce wasteful or polluting behaviours. Good examples of this are excessive idling, harsh acceleration and speeding.
“In order to identify problem areas, you need good data about your fleet and its current performance. That is where a good vehicle tracking system comes in.
“By making positive changes with the resources you already have, you can make savings and reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint quickly and with minimum disruption.”
In the aim of reducing the amount of vehicles on the road, Martin from Jaama advises that fleet managers assess whether travelling is really necessary. He said: “First and foremost, before switching to low and zero emission vehicles, public sector fleets should consider the reason for transport and whether that transport is a necessity. Can technology such as screen sharing and conference calling reduce the need to travel in the first instance and therefore aid fleets in reducing their carbon footprint?
“Secondly, are there alternative travel methods to consider, for example utilising public transport, introducing pool vehicles/car sharing and cycle-to-work schemes and initiatives.”
Grosvenor Leasing’s Mark Gallagher agrees that technology can offer other ways to do business that avoids travelling. He says: “We’re seeing a real sense of momentum with organisations looking to reduce their travel, and according to ‘the British Business and Mobility Study’ by Sewells, the UK could see a 25 per cent reduction in both business travel and commuting in the next five years.
“Interesting, at Grosvenor Leasing, we have recently introduced state of the art video conferencing in our boardroom to do just that, with a plan to reduce our carbon footprint and increase productivity by replacing non-essential travel with video meetings.”
Of course if you do have to travel, then being conscious about your driving style can lower emissions.
Andy Edwards from Quartix explains: “Companies can support their green agenda by thinking about how they use their vehicles and eliminating wasteful or damaging behaviours.
“This means reducing aggressive acceleration, harsh braking, watching your speed, and trying to drive as smoothly and economically as possible. In turn this reduces the fuel used, emissions produced and wear on the vehicles.
“The Quartix system measures driver behaviour and gives each driver an individual score. Having a ‘grade’ applied to their driving style by an impartial system improves driver awareness and education, helping staff to
think about their own impact on the environment.
“In addition to driving style, vehicle tracking can be used to reduce other polluting behaviours such as vehicle idling, unnecessary journeys or not using the most direct route, all of which have an impact
on emissions levels.”
Public sector organisations are scrutinised for their duty of care to staff, and this is the case for when employees take to the road as well. Data from a telematics solution can identify areas that need addressing, but can such data open a liability can of worms if the organisation does not act upon any issues that are flagged up?
Andy Edwards from Quartix warns of the issues that arise by not acting on data flag-ups: “Telematics is a valuable source of data that helps to identify areas of concern. However, avoiding telematics in an attempt to minimise liability is short-sighted and futile. You are still responsible for your vehicles, whether or not you have detailed reports from a vehicle tracking system.
“Ignorance is not a defence, but if there are issues with staff on the road, an organisation will often be aware of them via other sources. It’s far better to find these things out from a tracking system than to receive complaints from the public or experience the consequent damage to vehicles. If your telematics system identifies that a driver is behaving in a risky manner, you can tackle the issue at an early stage and avoid the fallout of an accident or legal issue.”
Using data to create risk profiles is another way of ensuring duty of care compliance, recommends Mark from Grosvenor.
He says: “Start by ensuring your licence checking process is robust and that licence checks are up-to-date. The only viable way to do this is online. Also check that grey fleet drivers are recorded. This data can give an initial risk picture which is useful as you start to look at further BI and driver support and training. For vehicles in life, it is key that this data-capture is maintained – which is a key benefit that our award-winning OSCAR365 platform delivers.”
Investigating accidents is also recommended. Mark says: “Remember that accidents don’t just happen. Almost all incidents are caused by human error, however many organisations don’t take time to properly investigate what the real causes of incidents are which means they have little business intelligence to base decisions on.
“Implementing post-accident interviews for every incident, however minor, helps build up intelligence on why at-fault accidents are occurring and the root causes can often seem quite unconnected to the incidents themselves. For example, hitting third party in the rear contributes up to 30 per cent of incidents, and often gets put down to the driver in front slamming the brakes. However, through a post-accident interview, it can be revealed that your driver was late for a meeting, under pressure to be on time, had too many appointments scheduled that day and had just come off the phone after a run in with a member of staff. This type of data is important in helping improve your safety record and your approach to duty of care.
“Online driver risk assessments also help to create a risk profile of each driver, providing more business intelligence and, if looked at alongside insurance/accident records, enables fleets to build up really strong profiles to take mitigating action.”
Track, measure and manage risk
Expanding on the subject of risk profiling, Martin Evans from Jaama explains how technology such as Jaama’s Key2 fleet and asset management software can enable public sector fleets to track, measure and manage all duty of care information. He explains: “The software can offer mobile vehicle defect checking apps to provide instantaneous defect capture and ensure a robust repair programme. It can also conduct driver licence checking, driver eye sight checks and driver training to ensure drivers are legally permitted to drive vehicles on company business. Risk profiling is something else the software can do, to enable an intelligent strategy for improving compliance.”
Air quality agenda
The government recently published its Future of mobility: urban strategy report, which explores regulations around new types of vehicles, how sharing data can improve services by reducing congestion, and how journey planning and payment can be made more simple.
Future of Mobility Minister Jesse Norman, said: “We are at a potentially pivotal moment for the future of transport, with revolutionary technologies creating huge opportunities for cleaner, cheaper, safer and more reliable journeys.
“Through this strategy the government aims to take advantage of these innovations; connecting more people and bringing big benefits we hope for both the economy and the environment.”
Improving congestion and air quality are primary government objectives. How can mobility as a service and future transport trends achieve this?
“Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a new way of thinking about transport,” explains Mark Gallagher. “MaaS has the potential to be the most significant modernisation of how we get from A to B since the automobile was first introduced.
“Bringing about a major change in how we view our cars, and how we choose to travel, MaaS combines mobility services from public transport, taxis, car rental and car/bicycle sharing under a single platform – all accessed through your smart phone.
“Simply by stating where you are going ‘from’ and ‘to’, the MaaS platform will plan your journey, define the forms of transport to get there and allow you to buy tickets from a range of service providers.
“In reality, this multi-transport model remains in its relative infancy however, if we look at the infrastructure in major cities such as London, you can get from A to B by using Apps, with minimal reliance on cars. And where your journey involves a car, these are in newer vehicles that will increasingly meet the clean air zone requirements resulting in far lower emissions where MaaS is beginning to happen.”
Martin Evans believes that monitoring vehicle utilisation can help put in place alternative travel arrangements. He says: “If employees are attending meetings, promote car sharing if they are going to the same destination. Or consider alternative technology to carry out meetings, for example conference calling or screen sharing, therefore removing the need for transport.”
Andy Edwards from Quartix believes that future transport trends will be shaped by the changing environmental agenda in both society and the public sector, but that changes will not happen overnight.
He says: “Technology is likely to play an increasing role in helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality. Low/ zero emissions vehicles will play a part, but this change will not happen overnight and there is a great deal of smaller changes we can make in the meantime.
“Many organisations are facing budget cuts and tightening their belts, so expensive new fleets are out of their reach. They need to think carefully about how they can most cost-effectively meet their environmental responsibilities.
“The public are becoming more ecologically aware and they expect their suppliers and representatives in both the public and private sector to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their activities. This pressure will increase the demand for change and bring environmental issues further up the agenda.”