The three challenges that are consistently the top priorities for most fleet managers operating internal combustion (ICE) vehicles are mitigating the high cost of fuel, complying with corporate pressures to reduce fleet’s contribution to the company’s carbon footprint, and improving driver safety. In episode 5 of my biweekly video series with Han Damen of Fleet360, we compared fleet safety practices between Europe and North America. During this discussion, I spoke of the synergy between safe driving, emission reductions, and cost containment and how all three are interrelated providing an excellent opportunity to achieve their goals simultaneously. The best strategy to synergistically achieve these all three objectives is to modify driver behavior.
ICE Vehicles Will Be Here for Decades
All OEMs have product plans for the widespread introduction of EVs in the coming years, which will have transformative effects on our current transportation model and fleet KPIs. But ICE vehicles will continue to be a major part of fleets for decades to come and strategies still need to be in place to optimize their usage. As a consequence, it is critical to train drivers of ICE vehicles (and EVs) to practice safe driving techniques, which will contribute to reduced fuel consumption and longer battery ranges. For ICE vehicles this has the added benefit of decreased emissions. A safe driving program for both ICE vehicles and EVs will allow a company to reduce liability exposure by lowering the incidence of preventable accidents. In many ways, safe driving and eco-driving are one and the same, with both focused on modifying employee driving behavior. By making drivers safer and more fuel conscious, you will decrease fuel consumption, lower preventable accidents, and reduce emissions. Most company drivers average 20,000 miles per year and driver behavior is a major influence in both the incident of a preventable accident and fuel consumption. The safer the ICE driver, the lower the fuel consumption and emissions, and the greater the battery range for the EV driver.
Changing Driver Behavior is the Key
How employees drive a company vehicle determines how safe they will be on the road. The same is true in terms of sustainability. How an employee drives a vehicle can improve (or decrease) fuel economy or battery range and decrease (or increase) emissions for ICE vehicles. In fact, up to 30% of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is impacted by driver behavior. The way an employee drives an ICE vehicle makes a significant difference in the volume of GHG emissions emitted, regardless of vehicle size or engine displacement. Every unnecessary gallon of gasoline burned by a vehicle creates 19.5 lbs. of CO2. The same is true for diesel trucks — every unnecessary gallon of diesel burned creates 22.1 lbs. of CO2. Even if EPA fuel economy is rated high, aggressive driving will substantially degrade fuel economy. To further illustrate this, consider that the greatest amount of GHG emissions occurs during aggressive driving. Less than a minute of high-powered driving produces the same volume of GHG as a half hour of normal driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking can lower fuel economy by 33% in highway driving and 5% in urban driving. Even small increases in mpg can yield substantial savings and emission reductions when extrapolated across the entire fleet.
By limiting sudden acceleration and fast braking, a driver can increase fuel economy and minimize the potential of a preventable accident. Stop-and-go driving burns fuel more quickly, increases emissions, and, from a safety perspective, increases the probability of being involved in a rear-end collision. Also, reducing unnecessary idling is the simplest and easiest way for a fleet to cut fuel costs and unnecessary emissions. In addition, excess idling also causes needless engine hours and engine wear-and-tear. An idling engine gets zero miles per gallon. Excessive idling doesn’t just consume fuel, it also creates engine hours, which depending on the OEM, are used to determine oil drain intervals and when the powertrain warranty expires. Lastly, vehicles get better mileage when not loaded with unnecessary weight. Every 200 pounds of additional weight trims one mile off fuel efficiency. Remove unnecessary items from the vehicle, such as tools or sales materials.
Route planning is an important component of eco-safe driving. By pre-planning trips it will minimize inefficient driving and help to avoid areas of traffic congestion. It is also important to remember the highest volume of emissions occurs when starting a cold ICE engine. Eco-safe driving encourages combining several short trips into one. Since a catalytic converter must be heated to a certain temperature to work; fewer emissions are produced during longer trips because the engine is warmed up.
Safe Driving Minimizes Preventable Accidents
Driver distraction accounts for 25-30% of all fleet-related accidents. Eco-safe driving teaches drivers to avoid distractions and focus on driving. These driving habits likewise contribute to reduced fuel consumption and emissions. An eco-safe driving program allows a company to leverage constrained resources to simultaneously green its fleet, control fuel consumption, and liability exposure by reducing the incident of preventable accidents.
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