When Mark Leuenberger was considering integrating GPS technology into part of Cox Enterprises Inc.’s 13,000-vehicle fleet a few years ago, he was looking at it from a customer service improvement standpoint. But in doing so, he discovered a way for the fleet to be more environmentally friendly, as well.
“As part of collecting that data, we monitored idle time, and that’s really where it came up, and we had a real opportunity to reduce our carbon output and create a fairly large green initiative with that,” says Leuenberger, assistant vice president of supply chain services and fleet management.
He saw that many of the drivers were idle more than they were driving, so they implemented GPS technology into 5,000 vehicles that sends alerts when the vehicle has idled too long and shuts it down. This encourages employees to finish paperwork up in the home instead of in the vehicle. They also implemented a new routing system that leads the trucks on tighter routes, which reduces the mileage and the amount of time the vehicles are on the road.
“Telling your techs where to go next and how to get there really has an impact on our green initiatives,” he says.
As a result of these initiatives, the drivers were able to reduce idle periods by as much as 84 percent, depending on the market. The new routing system reduced mileage by about 15 percent. On top of these reductions, Cox was able to reduce its fuel consumption about 8 percent, and it has reduced the overall fleet size by about 400 vehicles over the past few years, because not as many were needed anymore as a result of the efficiencies created.
One of the biggest things he says you have to keep in mind when rolling out new green initiatives is communication.
“Start communicating long before you implement the initiative,” Leuenberger says. “Prepare people for its coming and the why component of that communication is extremely important. You definitely want to lay out that this is going to be advantageous to you.”
For Cox employees, the changes gave them the ability to perform more work, which meant more money in their pockets. Additionally, it was simply the right thing to do.
While these are great reasons to make the changes, he says it also comes down to costs.
“It has a positive impact on vehicle repair costs and vehicle wear and tear,” Leuenberger says. “All that behavioral changing, all that doesn’t just save us the amount of fuel we burn. It has impacts in all these different areas, so you really want to communicate all the different areas of the job or the company where it has a positive impact.”
He says if you want to make green changes, you have to look at what the cost and return is.
“The biggest challenge is financial,” Leuenberger says. “You’re obviously not going to put in big components that have a negative impact.”
Another big key to implementing a greener fleet also comes down to leading by example. Cox has one of the largest executive fleets in the country with more than 600 vehicles and quite a few more on a cash allowance for driving their own vehicle. All of the cars in the company fleet must meet a minimum of 27 miles per gallon.
He says, “The company cars that are driven by everybody from our chairman all the way down to direct levels are fuel-efficient vehicles.”
How to reach: Cox Enterprises Inc., www.coxenterprises.com
Find a plan that fits you
By Mark Scott
You can make a difference in the environment even if your business does not have a fleet of thousands of vehicles taking the road each day. That’s the message from Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The nonprofit organization helps businesses find solutions to environmental challenges.
“Anything an employee is doing for the company on behalf of the company, the emissions associated with that are part of the environmental footprint,” Mathers says. “Just because you’re not able to easily track something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Figure out what impact your company does have in terms of the number of vehicles you put on the road and how much they are used. Encourage your employees to be better drivers by not speeding, idling or hauling unnecessary weight in their vehicles.
“You’re talking about vehicle efficiency and routing, driver behavior and all these things that have a very significant return on investment,” Mathers says.
If you do have fleets, look at the vehicles you have and whether a more fuel-efficient model could do the same job.
“If you can take a modest step over your entire fleet, that can add up to a significant impact,” Mathers says.
How to reach: Environmental Defense Fund, (617) 406-1806 or www.edf.org/greenfleet