Fleet vehicles are driven hard, averaging nearly double the mileage, fuel consumption and emissions of personal vehicles. As a result, fleets are not only expensive to operate but are also a major source of global warming pollution.

However, there are easy, cost-effective ways for fleets to "go green" and reduce their environmental impacts and operating costs at the same time:

Step 1: Measure Emissions and Set Goals

Understand your fleet's current greenhouse gas emissions. Simple calculations allow you to track greenhouse gas emissions based on how much fuel is consumed.

Step 2: Improve Vehicle Selection

One of the most important environmental decisions a fleet manager makes is which vehicles to have in the fleet. Consider the following strategies:

  • Select the right size. Analyze your operational needs and eliminate excess vehicles. Four-wheel drive and 6- or 8-cyclinder engines can increase costs and emissions.
  • Choose "best in class." Select vehicles with the highest fuel economy that meet's your firm's price and performance needs.
  • Evaluate total lifecycle costs, including acquisition, fuel consumption, depreciation and resale.
  • Offer employees incentives to choose more cost-effective, efficient vehicles, for example, sunroofs and satellite radio.
  • Incorporate hybrid trucks. Truck fleets should consider incorporating hybrid trucks into their fleets. Trucks are responsible for 6% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Hybrids reduce GHG emissions by 30-50%, decrease particulate matter (PM) 96%, and improve fuel economy 30-50%, saving money at the pump!

Step 3: Improve Vehicle Use

The way a vehicle is driven and maintained can yield significant savings.

  • Educate drivers in how to be more efficient and drive fewer miles. Driving gently and not speeding, for example, can significantly decrease fuel consumption. Avoiding idling also helps cut fuel usage.
  • Improve vehicle maintenance. Regular oil changes and proper tire inflation, among other practices, increase fuel efficiency.
  • Incorporate new technology. Routing software, GPS systems and fuel management software can maximize efficiency.

Step 4: Consider Carbon Offsets

Greening your fleet will not totally eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. By investing savings from lower fuel costs in high-quality carbon offset projects, you can effectively "zero-out" your fleet's greenhouse gas impact.

The idea of a carbon offset is simple: For every ton of emissions "put into" the atmosphere, one ton is "taken out" somewhere else.

Step 5: Report Progress

  • Share your information — and successes — with employees, shareholders and the public.
  • Use the data to fulfill reporting needs for such programs as EPA Climate Leaders or the Carbon Disclosure Project.
  • Mention progress in reducing emissions in your firm's social responsibility or annual report.

More information on the program, including the five steps can be found at Greening Fleets: A roadmap to lower costs and cleaner corporate fleets