Lead the Way in Cutting Car Use by Anna Semlyen

Anna Semlyen, a research economist, has reviewed the transport literature and written Britain's first car use reduction guide for individuals - Cutting Your Car Use. Here, she applies the advice to business journeys. So, if you want to save money and run a greener fleet, read on.

A fleet manager's main aims are to:

Effectively and efficiently manage an fleet at the minimum cost.

Provide added value to the company.

Many business needs will be motor vehicle-based with no sensible alternative. But you should still ask whether purposes could be fulfilled more locally, or if better use can be made of cars in the fleet in general. After all, transport is a means, and not an end in itself, only valuable as a way of accessing raw materials, goods, information e.t.c

Attention to two central transport issues will save money and raise your firm's environmental credentials.

First, limit total miles driven, whilst still achieving your aims.

Second, limit the damage done by driving.

Mileage is cut if you use the phone, post, fax, email or Internet more - the high tech solution now being teleconferencing. Perhaps use other delivery companies where this would make savings because your drop off /pick up is on a run they make anyway. Definitely go to the nearest place for your needs since proximity is often the cheapest and most convenient option. Shorter distances also mean that (in some cases) walking, cycling or public transport may not take much more time.

With rising congestion, trains are quicker for urban centre to centre trips. Staff could also do desk work while they travel and make savings on parking costs. Organisations such as the Countryside Agency, Hewlett Packard and City of York Council have pool folding bicycles for staff to use locally or to ride to or from nodes on the public transport network. I ride a British made Brompton (020 8232 8484).

Careful route planning and directions from maps or software (e.g. Micro Soft Auto Route Express) will reduce miles driven and the amount of time and fuel wasted by being lost! A free route planner is on the RAC website www.rac.co.uk Try to avoid rat runs down residential or country lanes to minimise danger to others.

Flexibility often brings travel savings. For example, flexible hours, compressed working and linking up tasks in a planned way are all beneficial. If customers can wait, or you can offer two tiers of delivery prices, then plan 'runs' geographically each week. Also ask your organisation for a policy favouring local inputs, outlets and services. The idea is to eliminate unnecessary trips or those with only a small gain.

As to cutting the environmental and social damage done while driving, free advice is available from ETSU (0800 585794). They offer research based help on managing the inevitable trade-offs between issues such as drop off times and speed versus energy efficiency and crash risks.

Fleet composition and fuel choices are major sunk capital decisions. Use whole-life costs to assess what vehicles to buy or lease, knowing that a mix of vehicle sizes gives most flexibility. Vehicles should satisfy usual, not peak transport needs, when hire can be appropriate. Choose smaller cars and pay 55 per year less road tax (for up to 1100cc engines rising to 1200cc from March 2001) and enjoy fuel savings. Avoid bull bars, which are particularly dangerous in collisions with pedestrians. Some cars could be 'pooled' and shared, for instance, when several staff go to the same place, or between part-timers or those with occasional business travel.

Persuade drivers to use the smallest, lightest, safest and best maintained vehicle available for their purpose. Back ups are taxis or standard hire firms. Car clubs are beginning to be established with cars owned jointly by members who pay by use. Clubs are very popular with Swiss businesses and CCSN (0113 234 9299) can tell you your nearest.

The government is funding up to 75% of the extra costs of cleaner fuel vehicles (e.g. LPG, CNG or electricity). Diesel particulates do most to harm respiratory health and so diesel can no longer be recommended. Ring 0845 6021425 for a Powershift pack www.est-powershift.org.uk. A catalytic converter cuts some fumes but not the main climate change gas (carbon dioxide) and has a life of around 50,000 miles.

After carefully considering and monitoring the optimum composition of their fleet, managers could best demonstrate their added value by:

Helping co-ordinate a Green Travel Plan (GTP)

Calculating the pay back periods of various energy efficiency options and then implementing them in priority order.

For an effective GTP, that will meet targets for both commuting and business single occupant car use reduction, Dutch research shows that half a day a week of Travel Officer time is required per 500 staff/site visitors. ETSU offer free GTP guides and training or see www.local-transport.detr.gov.uk/travelplans/index.htm. My book, Cutting Your Car Use, is a cost-effective travel planning tool. For instance, a parking space is worth 770 per year in central Leeds and this is equivalent to the bulk purchase cost of 385 books.

As to energy efficiency, the primary measure must be slower speeds. Slowing down reduces fuel use, emissions and noise pollution. It's much safer too; whatever the speed limit, go at a speed suited to the road conditions. As you know, crashes are more likely if drivers drink, take drugs or are tired. Using a phone while driving is also dangerous. It is the distraction of the conversation, rather than the mechanics of using the phone that causes the problem. Best to use a message service and take breaks. Regular sight checks for all drivers are also worth paying for.

Fuel consumption can be reduced through speed limiters, aerodynamic styling, training for steadier driving, switching off a modern petrol engine when idle for 20 seconds or more, regular servicing, engine tuning, emissions checks and correctly inflated tyres. Know also that automatic transmission and air conditioning use 10-15% more fuel.

In an ETSU case study, McKelvie and Co Trucks made energy savings through driver training which paid back within 9 months in the first year and in three months by the third. Measures were backed by top-level commitment and included a full-time driving trainer, speed limiters set at 56mph, development of a culture of fuel efficiency and safe driving, monitoring of individual driver performance and publication of performance league tables.

Advertising your environmental transport policies can be a commercially worthwhile. One method is to mark vehicles that run on cleaner fuels. As councils begin to tackle air quality issues, there may be a business advantage in using clean fuels as this will give access to some controlled areas.

A package of 'green' transport measures and some careful restructuring of your schedules will produce worthwhile results. This takes time and effort, but do persevere. Soon you'll rejoice in your success at greening your fleet.

Distortions to the market are caused by tax allowances and thresholds, priviledge cars and perks. It is best ask your accountant for tax advice or get Inland Revenue pack 480 (08457 646 646).

Cutting Your Car Use - Save Money, Be Healthy, Be Green! by Anna Semlyen was published by Green Books in June 2000 and updated October 2003. It has a directory of 185 green transport contacts, success stories of people driving less, cartoons and maps.

It costs 3.95 + 1 p&p per order. Bulk discounts are 100 copies for 2.50 each, 250-499 for 2.00 each, 1000+ for 1.60 each, 5000+ for 1.20 per copy and 10,000 for 1 each. Contact 01803 863260 or greenbooks@gn.apc.org or www.greenbooks.co.uk www.cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk info@cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk

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