European legislation: Paying the price in the quest for ‘green’ vans

Green focus has an unexpected silver lining for fleets

Van fleet operators may well have to pay more for vans which emit lower amounts of CO2, but there is a silver lining – less CO2 means greater fuel efficiency. And at a time when fuel is at record prices, that can’t be a bad thing.

The manufacturers are all offering a variety of fuel-saving gadgets on their vehicles and fleets are reaping the benefits.

The Fiat Doblo Cargo, for example, has a stop-start device as standard which cuts out the engine when idling and with the gear lever in neutral. A dab of the clutch sees the engine fire up again. Fiat reckons that in urban use, stop-start can save around 16% of fuel.

Meanwhile Ford offers an Econetic version of the Transit which has, in addition to stop-start, features such as a 70mph speed limiter and low rolling resistance tyres. The effect is that this model boasts an official combined fuel consumption figure of 43.3mpg, something unheard of even a few years ago.

In fact fuel has now become the number one concern of van fleet managers, according to a recent survey by telematics provider Trimble, with 85% of those questioned saying it was at the top of the list.

There are basically two ways of cutting fuel costs – by driving more sensibly and by cutting down the number of miles driven. And Trimble believes that both avenues can be exploited fully by the use of telematics systems, which surprisingly are still only used by around 18% of van operators.

A spokesman for Trimble said: “The key to achieving fuel savings is to track real-time data from individual vehicles linked to specific drivers.

“Telematics systems can achieve this, alerting drivers that they are driving too aggressively or braking too harshly, by offering real-time feedback. Knowledge is key – identifying where problems are and then implementing best practice to mitigate them is a huge step forward in helping organisations to truly understand their fuel efficiency.

“Fleet management and telematics solutions enable fleet managers to make intelligent decisions using real-time field status information, which can lead to a significant reduction in wasted fuel and reduce carbon emission-causing activity such as speeding, excessive idling and route deviation. Unsafe driving behaviour is bad for fuel economy – using telematics to monitor for safe driving can also result in fuel savings of 10-20%.

“Giving drivers target-based incentives to go easier on the pedals and conserve their fuel during a day’s work is an idea that should be explored. Bonuses or salary rises are an obvious choice for rewards, but they could also include material gifts.”

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