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Energy Saving Trust: Championing change

Date: 02 December 2011

The Energy Saving Trust is promoting its campaign to help UK businesses cut carbon emissions - and costs - by educating fleets on benefit-in-kind changes, reports Rachel Burgess

Many fleets are unaware of benefit-in-kind banding changes next April, according to Ian Featherstone, fleet advice manager at the Energy Saving Trust.

"It's not unusual for firms to think: 'We're under 120g/km - job done' when in fact we're now talking about 99g/km for next year," he says. "We're getting fleets to look at the future as well a the present."

The EST has been working with fleets for more than 10 years, with an equal mix of private and public sector organisations, primarily in order to reduce their carbon footprint, which means reducing fuel usage, which inevitably, in turn, cuts costs.

There are three key areas that fleets must address to achieve better efficiency and monetary savings according to Featherstone: reconsidering vehicle choices, ensuring staff drive better and reducing mileage.

It offers three programmes for business to help them to improve efficiency of vehicle fleets. The Green Fleet Review, which is currently undertaken for about 100 fleets annually, exists for companies running in excess of 100 vehicles, although ordinarily the average fleet size is between 500 and 600. "This is quite an in-depth report fully funded by the Department for Transport," says Featherstone. "We encourage firms after a review to join our Motorvate certification scheme. Once the organisation has a carbon footprint that we can use as a baseline, then we can audit on an annual basis to ensure they are reducing emissions and saving money." There are four levels of membership: basic for anyone and then bronze, silver or gold based on achieving a 5%, 10% or 15% reduction in emissions from the base line audited figure.

"We also have an online network where Motorvate members (there are currently 148) can share ideas, post events and discuss fleet management issues."

For companies with more than 50 vehicles, the EST carries out a fleet health check over the phone or by email. It is a shorter "snapshot report" with some suggestions of how to move forward. At the moment, around 60 of these reviews are carried out each year. For even smaller fleets, the EST offers advice over the phone without a fleet report. It does, however, produce a monthly newsletter for all sizes of fleet, with 10,000 business subscribers, offering recommendations as well as sections on topics such as whole-life costs and grey fleet management.

Data in the reports provided to firms that undertake the EST review includes calculating the carbon footprint for an organisation as accurately as possible based on the amount of fuel used, and emissions of the vehicles used multiplied by the mileage multiplied by fuel consumption plus 15%. Other more minor factors considered include engine size and type of engine, and what sort of vehicle it is. "The initial work we do gives us quite an insight into how strongly a firm's finger is on the pulse of what's going on and whether you can drill down and see how efficient certain vehicles are," says Featherstone.

He continues: "We suggest the best vehicles to run, how to drive them better and how to drive less mileage. The report we compile is aimed to be practical and viable for the organisation.

"We look at saving carbon and money and we find that savings can invariably be made."

Referring to the changes to benefit-in-kind tax bandings next April, he says the EST is encouraging companies to put incentives in place to help staff choose the right vehicles in the first place.

The EST also offers a DfT-subsidised training programme to improve driving, which costs £20 per driver and results in a 15% reduction in fuel use immediately after the training. However, since naturally this improvement could quickly deteriorate, Featherstone says he then asks organisations to measure individual fuel consumption to encourage employees to drive better. "We try to get people to think about ways of doing that by engaging well with staff."

The other natural way of cutting carbon and saving your pennies is not driving at all. Suggestions include telephone conferencing or sharing cars to go to meetings. "Even if you cut mileage by 5% that's 5% less fuel used. Less driving also cuts payroll cost, and there's less wear and tear on the car so it also means less maintenance cost."

The EST also considers grey fleet and can put a carbon footprint on that. But Featherstone says the biggest hurdle overall is obtaining all the information required from a company to do a full review.

Featherstone concludes: "The average reduction in emissions for our audited Motorvate members is about 10%. We take into consideration that cars are becoming more efficient and so the improvements in this area have to be ahead of market improvement. And some improvements will take time to become apparent, for example, due to vehicle-change cycles."