Fleet sustainability: paving the way into the future

by Zoya Cochran, Principal Content Strategist, AT&T Business

When you invest in fleet sustainability, you’re investing in technologies that can help you reduce fuel consumption, insurance costs, and maintenance costs. This occurs while decreasing the carbon footprint of your fleet and helping you stay in compliance with industry and government regulations. In short, you’re investing in the strength of your bottom line.

Beyond bottom-line considerations, fleet sustainability also sends an important message to customers or clients who may be looking to do business with companies that embrace reducing their environmental impact.

This article examines the current state of the transportation industry and why sustainable fleets are so important. We also discuss how to develop and implement a sustainability strategy, and what technologies you should be investing in to optimize your fleet to see tremendous returns.

State of the transportation industry

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to the United States’ greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, making up almost one-third of the nation’s emissions.1 The transportation sector includes everyday modes of transit like planes, trains, and automobiles. But among the biggest drivers of emissions within the sector are the fleets of light- and heavy-duty trucks and vans that crisscross the nation’s highways to transport goods and services. Unfortunately, these emissions are contributing to climate change, which is leading to more severe heat waves, droughts, floodings, and severe storms.

Reducing these emissions will be an important part of helping to address climate change and reaching the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep the average global temperature from rising beyond 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels (2.7° Fahrenheit).2 For many companies, reducing emissions from their automotive fleets will be a critical component in reaching their climate goals. The task may seem daunting at first, but technology developments such as fleet telematic solutions are helping to ease the path toward creating sustainable fleets for companies.

Regulatory compliance facing the transportation industry

With mounting pressure from the public and politicians to use all tools available to fight climate change, many governments are using regulatory agencies to help push the transportation sector to become more environmentally sustainable. As part of this, they’re issuing guidelines and rules to lower emissions from vehicles such as commercial trucks and vans, aiming to introduce efficiencies to standard practices.

For example, it’s common for trucks to idle their engines while they’re parked, even for extended periods of time. While it may seem harmless, truck idling results in high amounts of GHG emissions. To help reduce this practice, regulators are encouraging commercial trucks to adopt technologies that reduce idling. These technologies include automated engine shutdowns, auxiliary power units, and electric parking spaces at truck stops. Even adopting a few small steps can help begin to make changes. 

Why is the sustainability of fleets crucial today?

Having a sustainable fleet is an important part of being a successful business today. In addition to reducing a company’s overall environmental impact and staying ahead of regulatory pressures, effective sustainable fleet management can help reduce fuel consumption and maintenance costs. It also sends an important message: We care about sustainability and are doing something about it. Living by that creed, your business will be able to attract customers and clients who also embrace sustainability as you build a stronger brand image.

Stages of sustainable fleet management

As you build a fleet that’s sustainable, there are several steps to consider.

First, you’ll need to assess your current fleet’s emissions, fuel consumption, and environmental impact. It’s important to create a baseline set of data for all aspects of your fleet operations. The data can and should be measured each year to track its progress and identify opportunities for greater efficiencies.

After this initial assessment, set clear sustainability goals, like reducing emissions by a certain percentage or transitioning to alternative fuels. Giving business units or teams specific goals can help inspire innovation and motivate workers to think creatively about sustainability. For many companies, this may be setting an overall climate or GHG reduction goal, such as achieving carbon neutrality across operations by 2035. To meet this goal, it’s necessary to set individual targets within company business units and operations—including fleet management.

Once you’ve set your goals, next is implementing the practices, policies, and technologies that can help you work toward sustainable fleet management.

Technologies to consider include cloud-based GPS location and telematics technologies that provide fleet managers with actionable data. For example, Internet of Things (IoT) services can provide data-driven insights that can help you discover opportunities for better efficiency in your business. And specific to the transportation industry, solutions like AT&T Fleet Complete can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions with vehicle performance monitoring.

With goals set and implementation underway, you should continuously track and analyze data on a regular basis. This may mean undertaking overall evaluations once or twice a year, so you can have a greater understanding of what is working and what’s not. By tracking and analyzing data, problems can be identified and addressed head on, while identified solutions can be scaled for overall success.

Developing a sustainable fleet management strategy

These first steps into sustainable fleet management can help you get started, but it’s important to also develop a long-term strategy. Yours might include components unique to the nature of your company and its sustainability goals.

For example, companies can consider encouraging behavioral change of drivers in your fleet for more efficient routing—another area where technology and fleet telematics can provide valuable insights into driver behavior.

Another opportunity is investing into low-carbon fuels and/or electronic vehicles (EVs) along with the charging stations they require. Legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) have made it easier to build the infrastructure needed to support a greater number of EVs on the road.

Companies can also change their “built environment,” which entails designing facilities and transportation hubs with sustainability in mind. This includes considering eco-friendly building designs for new transportation facilities. These are built with efficient loading and unloading zones, as well as EV charging stations to help vehicles recharge when they are off the road.

In addition, implementing smart logistics solutions can streamline supply chain operations, reduce unnecessary trips, and minimize emissions. This delivers better planning, efficient loading, and collaboration with other stakeholders.

Finally, consider exploring vehicle and engine performance technologies. Advancements in fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly options are continuously improving. Whenever possible, fleet managers might benefit by upgrading their engines or vehicles to newer models. While there are often upfront costs to upgrades, in the long-term doing so might not only reduce emissions, but also save on long-term operational costs, which include maintenance. 

Technologies that enable fleet sustainability

Advancements in IoT services have made it easier to manage fleets and have a positive impact on environmental sustainability. IoT devices can report information wirelessly to a centralized cloud-based platform or a M2M (machine-to-machine) connectivity platform. Within the platform, IoT fleet management solutions can provide real-time visibility into vehicle, asset, and connected equipment activities, maintenance, and performance for more informed decision-making by fleet managers.

Fleet tracking enables you to track vehicles and assets in near-real time. Through your management portal, you have the power to see the entire fleet and assets on a map. Your call center or hub can route the appropriate driver to each job. In addition to vehicle location, fleet tracking can provide visibility into driver behavior, maintenance needs, and more, so fleet managers can better plan operations and quickly respond to fleet needs.

Fleet solutions are available for all sizes of fleets. If you have a small or mid-size fleet, AT&T Fleet Complete is a solution that combines an advanced GPS fleet tracker and asset tracker on a single web-based management portal.

This near-real-time tracking combined with detailed, intuitive reporting and auditing allows you to reduce fuel and insurance costs, improve customer satisfaction and retention, lower maintenance expenses, and prevent unauthorized vehicle use.

Another solution, which can help large-scale, enterprise-sized fleets, is AT&T Fleet Management. Similar to AT&T Fleet Complete, AT&T Fleet Management provides near-real-time data that helps manage compliance, control costs, and optimize a fleet from one easy-to-use platform.

Pairing devices with fleet management software helps to bring immediate improvement to a company’s fleet safety and security programs. In addition, real-time route updates with road incident notifications, mobile vehicle upkeep checklists, and video training help improve safety, while stolen vehicle recovery and vehicle location data helps keep vehicles secure.

Optimize your fleet, reduce fuel, and maintenance costs

Through using these innovative sustainable fleet technologies, you can steer your organization toward a more efficient, lucrative, and GHG-free future. You can use real-time tracking combined with detailed, intuitive reporting and auditing to help reduce fuel and insurance costs, lower maintenance expenses, prevent unauthorized vehicle use, improve customer satisfaction and retention, and help stay in compliance with industry and government regulations.

Discover how IoT fleet solutions from AT&T Business can help you cultivate sustainability in fleet management. Contact your AT&T Business representative to connect with an expert who knows business.

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1“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” EPA.com, Accessed Jan 2, 2024, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

2“The Paris Agreements,”UN.org, Accessed January 2, 2024, https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/paris-agreement.