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Valuable Lessons from the World's Most Eco-Friendly Fleets

We all know running an eco-friendly fleet is important for complying with clean air regulations and protecting the environment. But it runs much deeper than that and has other key benefits like decreased fuel usage and improved brand equity. Idle reduction, for example, lowers emissions while simultaneously saving fuel, and having a reputation for commitment to low emissions can help you win over a more significant portion of your consumer base. 

In this article, we’ll examine three of today’s most eco-friendly fleets, analyze their specific strategies to achieve this status, and offer valuable lessons you can implement into your operations.  

Amazon’s Commitment to Electric

If there’s any company that should be emissions-conscious, it’s Amazon. As of 2021, they had “400,000 drivers worldwide, 40,000 semi-trucks, 30,000 vans, and more than 70 planes,” making them one of the largest fleets in the world. They are an absolute e-commerce behemoth, and an integral part of their success has been making timely deliveries. In typical fashion with hyper-ambitious goals, In 2019 Amazon announced its plan to be the first in its industry to achieve net-zero emissions for half of its shipments by 2030 and become 100% net-zero by 2040. Here’s a full list of their objectives: 

Eco-friendly fleets

And how exactly do they plan on getting there?

Mainly by using electric vehicles. “In 2019, Amazon ordered 100,000 custom electric vehicles from Rivian.” The initial vehicles were strictly used in Los Angeles in February 2021, but they’re expanding to several other US cities over time. “We plan to have 10,000 vehicles on the road as early as 2022 and all 100,000 vehicles deployed by 2030,” the company writes

Although time will tell if they reach their goal, Amazon’s firm commitment to electric is undeniable, and it’s resonating with consumers. Being an innovator in eco-friendliness has factored significantly in their success. And considering two-thirds of US and Canadian consumers prefer sustainable brands; this move will likely catapult them even higher in the future. They’re also going to save a ton of money on fuel. 

While a full-blown move to electric may not be realistic for all of today’s fleets, it shows that even making a slight shift can impact and give you a critical competitive advantage over others in your industry behind the curve. It also shows that you don’t have to do it all simultaneously. Most fleets make a gradual transition to electric in phases, this makes the process more manageable. If this is something you’ve been considering, 2022 is a great year to get started. 

Orkin’s Emphasis on Idle Reduction 

Excessive idling is an ongoing problem for many of today’s fleets. It is harmful to the environment with an idling diesel truck burning roughly a gallon of fuel per hour; it’s also costly, given that the price for a gallon of diesel fuel as of May was around $4.00, every hour of idling wastes $4.00. And when you look at this at scale across a massive fleet with thousands of vehicles, this can quickly eat away at profits.  

That’s why idle reduction is something pest control company Orkin tackled head-on. Their goal was two-pronged:

  1. Significantly reduce idling to produce fewer emissions and become an industry leader as one of the top eco-friendly fleets.
  2. Drastically lower their fuel consumption to boost profitability. 

They went about that by using a gamified challenge to motivate fleet drivers to reduce idle time and fleet management software to track the results. In addition, Orkin gave away generous prizes in terms of motivation, including a vacation cruise for the number one driver with the least overall idling.

It worked incredibly well. They reduced their idle rate by 8.4% over three months, with the most improved branch reducing it by 87% and their top driver dropping it by a staggering 99.5%. xcessive idling cost Orkin $1.22 million in 2019; this has put them well on their way to being far more eco-friendly while at the same time boosting their profitability. 

This example proves that offering the right incentive can change negative driver behaviors and motivate them to lower idling. Beyond that, many companies are also choosing to implement fleet management software with idle reduction technology. VQ Efficiency, for example, can significantly reduce vehicle idle rate without affecting the ventilation or heating performance. It takes just 30 minutes to install, but it can make fleet vehicles far more efficient and eco-friendly and includes built-in analytics for effectively monitoring idle rate across drivers, divisions, and your fleet. 

Eco-friendly fleets

So, if one particular division is continually exceeding their target max for idling, they would be the primary one you’d want to concentrate on improving. On the other hand, if a division consistently falls well below your target max, you would want to praise them to reinforce the positive behavior. 

J.B. Hunt’s Focus on Route Optimization

The last of our eco-friendly fleets is J.B. Hunt, one of America’s largest freight transportation and logistics providers. In their 2020 Sustainability Report, J.B. Hunt goes into great detail about their long-term vision for protecting the environment while at the same time supporting their employees and serving their customers. 

Their portfolio is impressive, and they currently have a laundry list of initiatives to become more environmentally sustainable. Like Amazon and countless other companies, they’re firmly dedicated to using electric vehicles to dramatically lower emissions, and they’ve made great strides to do so. 

But another critical part of their strategy is route optimization. “Engineers in the Intermodal, Truckload, and DCS business units use proprietary optimization software to adjust routes and reduce empty miles while improving delivery times and maintaining business continuity,” J. B. Hunts explains. In 2020 alone, this combined with other innovative strategies, allowed them to eliminate 4.3 million out-of-route/empty miles and decrease their carbon emissions by 6,112 MT CO2e. As a result, they could make shipments far more efficient while having an immensely positive impact on the environment. 

When used correctly, route optimization can help fleets get drivers from point A to point B quicker while accounting for various variables — everything from traffic congestion and road construction to driver dispatching and hours of operations. Besides setting the initial route, this technology also aids in rerouting on the fly. This is important because fleets don’t operate in a static world where conditions stay the same. Rather, conditions constantly change, but route optimization ensures drivers reach their destinations more efficiently with minimal setbacks. 

Learning from Today’s Most Eco-Friendly Fleets

Being eco-friendly is important on many levels. Besides being compliant with clean air regulations and abiding by core ethics, it’s deeply intertwined with profitability. Decreasing fuel usage saves money, and bolstering brand equity enables you to appeal to more of your customer base. Amazon, Orkin, and J.B. Hunt are three excellent examples of eco-friendly fleets, with their primary strategies being to commit to electric vehicles, idle reduction, and route optimization. So, if you’re looking for tangible ways to make your fleet more eco-friendly, these are great strategies to apply.