A green fleet makes for a happy fleet. Brian Martin of Wyless looks at the impact of vehicle telematics.

Operating a fleet is an expensive and essential business; however, it is also important to remember the impact vehicles have on the environment. Vehicle telematics is an important tool which can enable fleet managers to transform their fleet's effect on the environment.

The technology, which is a combination of the personal computer, global positioning technology, mobile phones and the internet, helps fleet managers to focus on analysing the key areas of their business: vehicle management, transport management and mobile workforce management.

Vehicle management focuses on the vehicle and the driver. By capturing and analysing data on fuel consumption, driving style and engine performance, measures can be taken to optimise performance.

Transport management goes further and addresses the need to optimise the transportation of goods. This includes paying close attention to navigation, routes, order management and cargo monitoring, ensuring there are no 'empty' back loads. In many cases integration with ERP systems is a requirement.

Mobile workforce management is aimed at improving the efficiency of mobile or remote workers through real-time communication and providing access into the enterprise IT systems through in-vehicle solutions.

More than fuel bills

However, green fleet management goes far beyond just looking at the fuel bills; it has to be part of the corporate policy to run all vehicles efficiently and cost-effectively. Therefore, a green fleet is one that does its best to minimise fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

It also seeks to minimise the amount of traffic it generates, by utilising vehicles efficiently, by using alternatives to the car wherever possible, and by conducting its business to minimise the need for travel.

A green fleet is always a safe fleet; its drivers will be trained, encouraged to drive safely and efficiently, and will not be put under pressure to do excessive hours behind the wheel, showing a 'duty of care'. It will also choose vehicles with road safety in mind, not just for that of the occupant, but also other road users.

There are a number of reasons for deploying vehicle telematics and adopting green policies. Currently, fuel prices are a major deciding factor for UK fleet managers. Both petrol and diesel prices are unlikely to reduce in the near future.

Most of the evidence suggests that crude oil prices, and therefore road fuel prices, are in fact going to continue to increase, as the world faces increased demands and growing concerns about climate change.

Recognition of these problems can be built into the fleet operation and policy, and a significant and positive contribution can be offered to offset both costs and the environmental impact.

The driver has a key role to play in delivering what the company expects in terms of fuel consumption and overall cost. How the vehicle is driven has a major impact on the amount of fuel used, especially that of idling or unauthorised use. Once an organisation has identified a green transport policy, it must be effectively communicated to the drivers, with regular reminders.

Keeping fleet cars and vans properly serviced and roadworthy is an important aspect of a fleet's green policy. This is not only an important part of road safety, but also provides environmental benefits.

A well-maintained vehicle generally uses less fuel and produces lower emissions than one that is not properly maintained.

Real-time management of vehicle telematics enables quick, efficient decision making. This real-time management is one benefit of using a managed wireless data network, which allows secure, reliable data communications to give visibility of all car movements, lot transfers and other in-car security information.

Green fleet management is achievable with little effort and is simply good business practice. To ensure success, all need to understand the efficiency benefits to the company and also the importance of reducing emissions.