5 min read

Clean Air Day 2023: How can businesses reduce emissions?

Emma Loveday VWFS

Air pollution is a big environmental health risk, which causes up to 36,000 deaths each year in the UK. We all have a responsibility to try and reduce air pollution where we can. Emma Loveday, Senior Fleet Consultant at VWFS Fleet, is discussing how UK businesses can cut down their fleet emissions beyond switching to electric vehicles.

For many UK businesses, who are well aware of the approaching 2035 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, there’s an obvious way to cut down the amount of air pollution their fleets will be contributing towards. Transitioning to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) eliminates tail-pipe emissions and will have a positive and significant impact on UK air pollution levels.

However, switching to an all-electric fleet isn’t necessarily an easy option for all UK businesses. Fleets with commercial vehicles may have a much more difficult job to transition, however, they account for 13% of road transport carbon pollution in the EU, so more needs to be done to tackle their emissions. Even if it’s more challenging to transition your van fleet to electric, and you’re not making that switch yet, there are still alternative methods and solutions to reduce your fleet’s tail-pipe emissions and, consequently, air pollution.

Service your vehicle regularly

Having a vehicle that is regularly serviced can reduce emissions. One of the key elements of a vehicle service is having the oil changed. Engine oil cleans, cools, lubricates and prevents wear to your engine. Changing it regularly will freshen and keep the engine running efficiently, helping to reduce the vehicle’s emissions. Regular servicing also includes a change of air filter, which can lower vehicle emissions. When an air filter is clogged up, the airflow to the engine is reduced, which can lead to a range of issues. If an engine can’t breathe, dust, debris, pollen and other contaminants will build up, causing wear and tear, and increasing emissions. If you operate in a dusty environment, such as a building site, it’s best to be prepared to change the air filter more regularly.

Mechanic Working on Car

Check your tyre pressure

Having the correct tyre pressures will increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. By being more fuel efficient, you are reducing the overall carbon footprint of the vehicle as well reducing tailpipe emissions. Under-inflated tyres can drastically increase fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and reduce efficiency by 10%. Checking tyres and ensuring they are at the correct pressure can be an easy way to improve fuel economy and reduce pollution.

Journey planning and route optimisation

Urban or densely populated areas will tend to have higher levels of air pollution, and the DEFRA website forecasts air pollution levels. If your fleet is operating in and travelling through an area that’s experiencing high pollution, is there an option to find an alternative route that avoids this area? If you can limit travel in high-pollution areas you will improve air quality for that community.

Effective route planning can also see a reduction in mileage, fuel consumption and, ultimately emissions. It can also cut down on fuel costs.

Person using laptop

Stop idling

One of the top contributors to air pollution is from vehicle idling. Idling means leaving a vehicle’s engine running while it is stationary. While this is often because of everyday traffic, there are some instances – such as waiting for children outside schools and sitting in total gridlock – when idling is unnecessary and should be avoided.

There’s evidence that if drivers switch their engines off when stationary or use the start-stop technology in their vehicle, it can significantly reduce that driver’s contribution to air pollution.

Businesses should educate their drivers on the impact and consequences of idling. Ideally, ensure the vehicles used in your fleet have start-stop technology where possible and monitor any excess or unnecessary idling using vehicle telematics. 

Engine start stop button

Improving driver behaviour and habits

A less obvious source of air pollution isn’t from vehicle exhausts but brakes and tyres. This is called particulate emissions, where small particles, including harmful material from tyres and brakes, are released into the air whenever a vehicle slows down or speeds up. These materials can cause lung damage and severe health problems.

While we can’t remove particulate emissions from vehicles completely, we can reduce them. Improving driver behaviour by cutting down on harsh acceleration and braking can help to lower the particulate emissions released by the vehicle, as well as improve fuel economy. 

Driver education and training can play a big role in limiting the environmental impact of poor driving habits. There are some simple changes drivers can make to their driving style that can have a significant impact on the level of emissions their vehicle gives off. These are:

  • Avoiding harsh braking and accelerating – look ahead and anticipate the road in front of you to avoid any unnecessary quick reactions and changes to speed
  • Slowing down much further in advance
  • Not changing gear too early
  • Trying not to reach the upper area of the rev range
  • If it can be avoided, reducing mileage – by journey planning – or not driving at all. Lift sharing or using public transport can support this
  • Avoid idling – avoid leaving the engine running while waiting in the vehicle. Many modern vehicles have start/ stop technology that provides a solution to engine idling
  • Avoid exceeding the payload limit

There are some in-vehicle telematics devices that can be fitted to fleet vehicles to alert drivers when their braking and acceleration are too harsh. These provide drivers with ‘real-time’ feedback on their driving style and can help improve driving habits and behaviour.  By adopting a better driving style, not only will drivers be more fuel efficient and help reduce air pollution, but they will also be safer behind the wheel. A safe driver is also an economical driver.

Want further advice? VWFS Fleet’s expert consultants can give constructive advice on reducing your fleet’s emissions while lowering fleet costs.

If you have a specific question or would simply like to discuss your fleet requirements, please contact us.

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