By Dan O’Sullivan

Driving’s great. Whether you’re 17 and trying to break the land speed record or 70 and want to go and see the grandkids for their birthdays, it’s a quick and easy way to get to where you need to be.  Yet, behind the joys of using a car, there also lies the sinister shadow of carbon emissions – and even more immediate in this time of recession and rocketing fuel costs – expense.

When you scale up the very personal driving experience to company-level and have to consider the impact of that to a business or organisation, it takes some seriously strategic thinking to keep on moving while cutting carbon and cost.

This becomes even more serious work when you consider that around half of all cars are bought for fleet use, so this sector has a big influence on the future shape of the market.

With this in mind, we held our annual Fleet Hero Awards last night, recognising and rewarding organisations that have introduced measures to combat the extent of their driving related carbon emissions from business travel. There were gongs up for grabs in several different categories, rewarding those striving for excellence in areas such as reducing mileage, using smarter driving techniques and implementing innovation in their fleets.

The Innovation in Car and Van Manufacturing award saw the likes of Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford, Nissan and BMW vying for first place when it comes to carbon cutting technology in their vehicles – a key consideration for now and for the future. In the final, Ford and BMW went head-to-head, with Ford beating its counterpart over the finish line, although the judges deemed BMW a worthy runner up.

In other categories, the sirens are blaring but the emissions are falling, as the Yorkshire Ambulance Service secured the Leadership award – whilst HMRC bagged Best Large Public Sector Fleet, proving that large-scale transport planning doesn’t have to be taxing (sorry, couldn’t resist that one). Such varied competition represents the importance of cutting our driving related carbon emissions – but just how is it achieved?

Innovation and leadership doesn’t necessarily involve space-age technologies, by any means.  By doing something as easy as setting up a meeting via video conference rather than driving four miles across town, a company cuts back on its mileage and reduces its carbon footprint. In repeating the same process several times over, the accumulative effects are felt in a variety of ways, as money is saved on fuel and a company’s carbon footprint drops a size.  

Similar steps involve companies that offer cash allowances to employees purchasing company cars. Through setting a small set of requirements that relates to buying more efficient cars – such as newer models that automatically switch off their engine when sitting in neutral – companies can reduce their carbon emissions and, almost as importantly, take steps towards recognition in our Fleet Hero Awards.

The message here is that we don’t have to ditch cars – the Northamptonshire Police, runner up in Best Large Public Sector Fleet, wouldn’t get very far on roller blades – but that by being sensible about their approach to driving, organisations with sizeable car fleets can make a difference.  Indeed, in the last few years we’ve has trained 20,000 drivers in smarter driving techniques.

In this sense, there is something for all of us here. The Awards reward measures that show real attempts to make concerted efforts on everything from effectively managing van fleets to more direct monitoring – and cutting – of company mileage. By looking at these examples, we hope to set a precedent which ripples across organisations of all kinds that have fleet vehicles; smart planning, driving when we need to and opting for more sustainable cars means we don’t have to assign them all to the scrap heap in pursuit of a green future.

If you’d like to learn more about our work with businesses and organisations to reduce their transport emissions and costs, start here.

You can view the full list of Fleet Heroes here