What is fleet sustainability?

Article Published by Geotab
Author: Joanne Tucker, Fleet industry writer/contributor

Scientists, governments, and organizations around the world have jointly acknowledged the need to take action on climate change. On March 21, 2019, for example, the UN celebrated the 25th anniversary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is responsible for the Paris Agreement and new guidelines for countries to reduce greenhouse gases. While these guidelines have made some strides, they’ve been met with a lot of challenges as well. As UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stated in celebration of the anniversary, “What we need now are results.”

This anniversary comes amid UN’s examination of extreme weather events, which resulted in about 524,000 deaths globally between 1997 and 2016, with damages costing more than $3 trillion. “What we need now takes all of us,” Espinosa said in her speech. “Because we know that solutions to climate change don’t come from governments alone. They also come from businesses, investors, community organizations, private citizens and more.”

Why is fleet sustainability important?

For a fleet — big or small — creating a sustainable fleet program is one of the best contributions it can make to meet Espinosa’s call. In the U.S., for example, the transportation sector is one of two largest contributors to greenhouse gases, according to the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on emissions.

Here are some figures to consider:

  • In 2016, 28% of U.S greenhouse gas emissions came from transportation (up 1% from 2015).
  • It’s also important to note that the largest contributors to emissions are light-duty vehicles at 60% and medium- and heavy-duty trucks at 23%.

Fleet sustainability isn’t altruistic — it has a tremendous amount of benefits for fleets as well:

  • Reduce the organization’s carbon footprint through better route management and/or use of alternative-fuel vehicles with fewer to no emissions.
  • Lower long-term costs, such as spending less on fuel, oil, and even maintenance.
  • Comply with any applicable emissions regulations.

What is fleet sustainability exactly?

Fleet sustainability refers to activities centered around reducing the environmental impact of fleet vehicles, including strategies such as:

  • GPS tracking
  • Fuel-efficient driving
  • Adoption of hybrid/electric vehicles and right-sizing
  • Use of alternative fuels
  • Vehicle pooling or car sharing
  • Considering alternative modes of transportation altogether

See AlsoThe impact of data on corporate car sharing

Encourage staff participation in sustainability programs with incentives

Some organizations, particularly government fleets, may even add one more green strategy to the list: Encouraging all staff members to practice a sustainability mindset in their personal lives. Incentives can be created to promote walking, biking or using public transportation to get to work. Organizations can even help coordinate an employee rideshare program to make carpooling easier on staff. In one case, a major university in California provides rideshare participants two free rides home per year, in cases of emergency.

Education and awareness campaigns, sustainability committees, and special recognition such as a VIP parking space, are some other ideas for motivating employees to go green.

Supporting sustainability goals with telematics  

To act on a fleet sustainability plan, a fleet needs data. This data has to tell the fleet’s whole story to drive efficient decision-making. One of the key roles telematics devices play involves fuel consumption. Plus, by focusing on fuel reduction, the benefits can ripple throughout operations, from a reduction on safety and collision costs to lowered maintenance.

The Geotab open platform and GO telematics devices retrieve important information from the vehicle on a quantitative scale, letting you monitor every aspect of the fleet. You can collect data on GPS location, idling time, dangerous driver behavior, customer visits, and many other measurements. All this comes together so a fleet can work on inefficiencies and embrace new ideas, such as adopting electric vehicles (EVs).

Four ways telematics supports fleet sustainability

There are at least four ways fleets can use Geotab to reduce emissions:

  • Promote efficient driving, and identify and reduce unnecessary idling
  • Help manage the application of alternative fuels and powertrains like EVs
  • Reduce miles driven by optimizing routes
  • Manage and practice proactive vehicle maintenance

1. Promote efficient driving and reduce unnecessary idling

Telematics can be used as a tool for reducing fuel through driver and safety management. Reports and alerts can highlight aggressive driving behavior, such as speeding, harsh acceleration, and other environmentally harmful activities that burn up more fuel.

This information on driver behavior provides managers the ability to improve driver efficiency by directing training at the specific areas needing the most attention. With an increase in awareness, a driver’s average MPG is likely to follow.

One of the biggest culprits in vehicle carbon (CO2) emissions is idling. In an example from Natural Resources Canada, if every Canadian would reduce daily idling by three minutes, CO2 emissions could be cut by 1.4 million tons yearly, or the equivalent to taking 320,000 vehicles off the road.

Here is a fleet management success story about a courier fleet that was able to significantly reduce fuel costs through idle reduction.

About Geotab idling rules:

Geotab allows managers to see how long each driver is idling and overall fleet idling time, as well as the cost of all that idling. Drivers can also receive alerts when the engine has idled for too long, and warnings can be sent to their manager as well. Reports can be automatically emailed at preferred time intervals, such as weekly, through the MyGeotab user interface.


Geotab Weekly Idle Cost Daily Trend report for fleet sustainability management



Example of a fleet idling report from MyGeotab

Minimizing your carbon footprint:

Geotab also offers a custom report specifically for fleets looking to understand and reduce their carbon footprint, called the COEmissions Report. It is free to download on the Geotab Marketplace. This report uses engine-based fuel economy data to calculate an estimated amount of CO2 emissions from fleet activity.

Geotab CO2 emissions fleet report

Geotab CO2 Emissions Report from the Geotab Marketplace

2. Integrate and manage EVs

Of all the new vehicle technologies available, EVs offer fleets the greatest opportunity to improve urban air quality, as they create zero roadside emissions from the tailpipe. However, it is important to right-size any EV to its required duty cycle, and to be confident in exactly which vehicles on which routes would make the best candidates for replacement. To do this, it requires access to the data that will make the case.



An Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment (EVSA) provides all the information required to help ensure you are putting the best-fit EVs into your fleet. With an EVSA, fleet managers can see the environmental and financial case for transitioning to electric, based on real duty cycles, taken from the vehicle. The final report provides a roadmap for when and where to switch to EVs, allowing organizations to forecast the effects of the purchasing decision before making them.



Managing EVs with finesse:



EV tracking can be easily integrated into existing fleet management routines. On the Geotab platform, fleets can report on historical and real-time EV data, along with data from their other non-electric vehicles, together.



3. Optimize routes



By optimizing routes, fleets can avoid heavily congested routes as much as possible. For example, if you have a customer delivery every week and you see a report indicating that your vehicle has been moving at a speed well below the posted speed limit for 25 minutes or more, it is safe to assume this is due to some type of traffic congestion issue.



With MyGeotab, you can preset routes for drivers and avoid these known high-traffic areas. This feature can provide drivers with the most efficient route and increase the number of stops they can make in a day. This will result in less fuel wastage, increased productivity/profitability and again, fewer carbon emissions released into the air.


4. Practice proactive vehicle maintenance

Some of the common contributors of fuel waste and unnecessary carbon emissions are based on vehicle maintenance not being completed on a regular basis. A perfect example of this includes tire maintenance. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, for every 1 psi that tires are under-inflated, gas mileage is reduced by 0.2%.



Be Car Care Aware (BCCA) advises driving a vehicle with deteriorating brakes forces the vehicle to work harder in order to accelerate, as the brakes will not release properly and in turn increase the amount of fuel being used. All in all, the BCCA also warns that a poorly maintained vehicle could cost you 15% more in fuel, which also means unnecessary carbon emissions.



How telematics helps with vehicle maintenance:



Fleet managers can optimize their maintenance programs by using telematics to keep a record of diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs), such as through real-time alerts, and tracking odometer readings to accurately schedule preventive maintenance. You can also record completed vehicle maintenance and updates for future service dates. Through the Geotab Marketplace you can simplify this process further with the Dynamic Vehicle Maintenance Reminder report.



Beyond that, fleets can also compare vehicle efficiency within similar specifications and duty cycles, and highlight vehicles that need more robust preventive maintenance or could even need replacement due to high maintenance costs. In other words, service schedules, odometer readings, and DTC tracking can be centrally managed so that maintenance schedules are upheld, and the health of the fleet optimized.



In addition to this, telematics has many fuel management tools to support fleet sustainability goals. Thanks to technology, greening a fleet has never been easier. The time is now, to go green.



Read about Geotab’s own environmental practices here.






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Originally published June 27, 2018. Updated April 18, 2019