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Costs or the environment - what's driving driver choice?

Date: 05 February 2010

BusinessCar has teamed up with Lex Autolease to carry out some research into what impact cost and environmental factors are having on fleet purchasing in the user-chooser market.?Tristan Young reports

While businesses and even their drivers know how much they spend on fuel, and that if they increase consumption they will also produce more CO2, many are still not acting to lower costs and carbon output.

Running a fleet of cars, however, is not just a case of finding the most efficient vehicle and getting the best discount for the volume you're ordering. Cars have a significant influence on HR in terms of staff morale and, ultimately, retention, so, therefore, the views of drivers also need to be taken into account.

For this reason, BusinessCar asked drivers whose companies lease their vehicles from Lex Autolease a series of questions.

The first two questions looked at trends for car choice to see if drivers were having cost savings forced on them. Interestingly, it appears there has been very little drop-off in terms of what is being offered, with the majority of fleets continuing to provide the same level of vehicle choice. This would support the importance of the HR role in fleet.

By far the bigger influencer when it comes to choosing a more efficient vehicle is cost.

Our research shows tax and fuel cost as the primary motivators for making drivers select a more efficient car as their next company vehicle, with nearly 75% of those surveyed picking one of the two factors. 'Wanting to be seen to be green' was listed as an influencer in less than 6% of cases.

Marcus Puddy, head of consultancy services at Lex Autolease, commented on the figures saying: "We shouldn't be surprised that taxation is pushing people into more efficient cars. It's been at the heart of the Government's policy for 10 years."

According to our findings, businesses realise that drivers need encouragement to go green as nearly a third incentivise eco-driving.

"I was surprised that a third of drivers are incentivised to return better fuel figures," says James Sutherland, managing director of driver training firm Peak Performance. "We've found that businesses are now focusing on costs as well as health and safety."

Puddy says: "We have come across competitions in business where groups of drivers are incentivised with rewards for the best fuel consumption, but there are a lot more rewards for picking a more efficient car in the first place."

While many drivers are improving the efficiency of their driving for financial or environmental reasons (or both), businesses should worry that nearly one-third of drivers are making no effort to improve.

Puddy says: "Changing people's behaviour is a big issue - it's much harder than changing the choice of a car. The only way to change drivers' behaviour is to educate them."

Sutherland adds: "Like it or not, we're all going to be driving greener cars, but unless we change the way we drive, that's all going to be wasted. For example people picking hybrids need to be shown how to drive them, otherwise they don't get a lift in efficiency. It's the same when people move from petrols to diesels.

"Companies need to get this on the agenda with their drivers. If they don't talk to them the drivers won't do anything about it."