The Environment Agency’s principal aims are to protect and improve the environment, and to promote sustainable development. The organisation plays a central role in delivering the environmental priorities of central government and creates a better place for people and wildlife. The fleet plays a significant part in helping to deliver this function but needs to ensure that work carried out is done in an environmentally sensitive way.
The recent transfer of assets for EA’s welsh fleet (along with the Forestry Commission) to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has taken a huge amount of time and setting up but is now complete. For the EA this consisted of about 500 vehicles and 3-400 plant assets. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is a new Government body that has been created to manage Wales’s landscape, forests and water resources, and it is expected to save the Welsh Government £158 million over the next decade.
The EA has an overall goal to reduce its CO2 emissions 33% by 2015. Recognising that transport emissions from its fleet created one of the biggest impacts on the environment the department reduced the size of its commercial fleet by 18%.
Dale Eynon, Head of Fleet Operations, said: “We downsized many of our commercial vehicles where possible. So Transits were switched to Transit Connects or Berlingos, for example. We also ran a lot of Land Rovers and other big 4x4s for use when inspecting remote river structures and transporting monitoring equipment. Switching to the Mitsubishi L200 and Outlanders has enabled more flexibility. Drivers can use 2WD when appropriate under normal driving conditions but can easily switch to 4x4 mode when they need to go off road. The Outlander has approximately 100g/km CO2 less than other 4x4s.”
Another significant factor in reducing carbon was the decision taken to switch commercial vehicles to B25 bio-diesel, which is made from 100% waste vegetable oil, taken from fully sustainable sources in the UK. Four or five years ago bio-diesel was getting a bad press so the EA commissioned a scientific trial with Ricardo-AEA over 18-months, based on the use of sustainable bio-diesel. The findings of the report were startling: With a 22% blend they were seeing a 20% carbon reduction and, during the trial alone, they saved 136 tonnes of carbon. The bio-diesel is supplied by Convert2Green and is bunkered on-site at 16 locations around the country. To date they have saved 262 tonnes of carbon.
The waste cooking oil is sourced in the UK, recycled and blended to create the bio-diesel so it has a low carbon footprint and the whole waste to energy process is undertaken at Convert2Green’s plant, powered by its own bio-fuel. This passes additional carbon savings through the supply chain to the EA who further reduce their CO2 emissions against the use of mineral fuels.
“We are currently trialling 50% blend bio-diesel. The tests are going well but we are still awaiting the results,” said Dale.
The Environment Agency’s fleet department has also completed a Cenex, (Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon vehicle Technologies) trial. The trial has highlighted what they are doing right and what can be done to improve efficiency further. Cenex also has a useful fleet carbon reduction tool that allows accurate estimation of the carbon reduction performance of different transport fuels and technology options.
Introducing low carbon vehicles into a fleet brings potential environmental and economic benefits to business operations. But, quantifying the benefits from low carbon choices is challenging. Possible vehicle efficiency and CO2 savings depend on whether a particular vehicle technology is appropriate for your fleet and, crucially, how your vehicles are operated. Running vehicle trials can help you quantify economic and environmental benefits. However, assessing all the available technology options can be very expensive and time consuming.
The EA has a number of electric and hybrid vehicles including the pure EV Nissan Leaf, of which they have two on trial and have purchased one. “The Leaf is a truly impressive vehicle which has a good range which cope with day-to-day motoring,” said Dale.
“We have worked hard to get the infrastructure in place to cope with electric vehicles and, after a number of teething issues, we have all the installations working properly. 20-30 of our big sites have this electric infrastructure now,” he continued.
There are approximately 20-30 Vauxhall Ampera and Toyota Prius on the fleet too. Ashwood hybrid vans have been successfully trialled and there are now 20-25 on the fleet.
Cost is one of the biggest issues for the fleet department. Dale said: “When looked at positively though, tight budgets aren’t such a bad thing, they helps us focus on being efficient and sourcing the very best options.”
Another big issue is safety. Dale continues: “We want to be the best in terms of our safety record: Buy, use and manage the fleet with minimal risk. The ultimate would be to eliminate risk altogether, but by providing workers with the right assets to do their job in the first place it can be reduced at the very least.
“We conduct dynamic risk assessments, safety checks on vehicles and make sure they are operated according to manufacturers standards. Drivers’ licences are all checked on an annual basis. This is currently done manually but we are looking to take on an electronic system linked to the DVLA.
“Drivers also undertake courses for 4x4 driving and trailer training to help eliminate risk. They are tested through training programmes.”
When it comes to choosing vehicles for the fleet the Environment Agency has to look at the capabilities of commercial vehicles and makes sure that they meet operational needs. Mitsubishi are a preferred supplier as they have good products in terms of carbon and cost.
All commercial vehicles and some cars have been purchased through eAuction via GPS. The eAuction programme has been specifically designed to address the Government’s requirements for the centralised procurement of common goods and services. eAuctions also helps to deliver additional savings, while protecting quality and service levels.
The EA does not look to any one particular manufacturer for cars so that employees have a good choice. Providing staff keep to the CO2 bands set for small, medium and larger vehicles that are 100g/km, 110g/km and 120gkm respectively. A number of executive brands do not feature on the car fleet at all including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Most cars are on contract hire via a GPS framework agreement.
Other companies play a part in helping the EA fleet run smoothly too. For example, fleet management and maintenance services are provided by Hitachi Capital.
Long-term fleet management by Hitachi Capital ensures that the EA consistently over-achieves on CO2 emissions targets. Mileage management is important too, proactive mileage management by the company results in savings for the EA of nearly nine million miles and £400K over the last three years which significantly reduces lease charges and the volume of vehicles required on the fleet. The final thing Hitachi Capital provides is an environmental fleet review that makes recommendations to the EA enabling further savings to be made in the future.
The EA does not currently have a telematics system fitted to vehicles although one is being trialled over the next six months with 50-60 units fitted. This is primarily to improve safety.
Other initiatives to improve safety undertaken have included smarter driver training from the Energy Saving Trust. The EA’s funding covered about 1,300 car drivers and has resulted in a 12% reduction in fuel consumption. It is hard to get funding however and it would be good to put additional drivers through the course.
The EA also does a lot of work with road safety charity Brake. A number of EA managers have been on Brake courses and the organisation takes part in Road Safety Week (See Events diary on page 62).
Overall, the job that the EA does is hugely rewarding for Dale Eynon. He said:
“Those people who work for the EA care about the environment. There are tangible benefits that come from the fleet lowering its CO2 and contributing towards the organisation’s overall carbon reduction target — the two go hand in hand.
“We see our fleets on a regular basis and are getting the message across to drivers that changing to more fuel-efficient vehicles is worthwhile, for example. It is good to get things right and see the savings being made.”
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