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Small business fleets: Eco-friendly practices

February 6, 2024

In an era where concern for the environment has become the expectation, small businesses are reshaping their practices to align with sustainability. By embracing eco-friendly initiatives, small business fleets can find themselves minimizing their environmental footprint while maximizing their fleet efficiency. This article explores actionable strategies for small business owners to align their fleets with environmental practices.

Leaning into sustainability has internal and external benefits for your small business

Evolving your fleet to include eco-friendly operations is important for several reasons:

  • Environmental impact: The obvious reason – traditional fleet management contributes to a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions. Fuel emissions, mainly from fossil fuel-powered engines, have increased air pollution, contributing to climate change. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that, in 2022, 30% of all U.S. CO2 emissions came from the transportation industry – 81% of those emissions came from road vehicles. 

Considering that the U.S. is the second largest CO2 emitter (behind China), the impact is not inconsequential.

  • Changing regulations: Governments worldwide are increasingly implementing stricter rules to combat climate change and reduce pollution. Compliance with these regulations is essential for businesses to avoid penalties.
  • Brand image: As consumers become more aware of the impact business practices have on the environment, business operations are increasingly being scrutinized. Businesses choosing to adopt green business strategies enjoy a positive reaction from consumers, and create a more favorable brand image, in turn enhancing brand loyalty.
  • Cost savings: While investment in eco-friendly technology may seem difficult because of higher price points, these kinds of investments often translate into long-term cost savings. Electric and hybrid vehicles tend to have lower operational costs and are less likely to be impacted by fluctuating fuel costs. Kelley Blue Book compares the cost of ownership for both EVs and traditional vehicles over a five-year period. The average cost to fuel a traditional, fuel-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, traveling 15,000 miles per year, is $9,490, while EV owners spend $4,295 on the same mileage. 
  • Competition: Lastly, as sustainability is becoming a core part of business strategy, companies adopting eco-friendly initiatives are gaining a competitive edge over businesses that don’t. They are better positioned to meet consumer demands for environmentally friendly services, and attract investors and partners looking to do business with organizations in line with their personal values.

Ways that small business fleets can go green

1. Consider transitioning some or much of your fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles

Electric and hybrid vehicles are already popular for personal use, but they also hold great potential for commercial use. Various types of EV chargers can be installed at home, at a business, or can be found at charging stations nationwide. The transition to EV is increasing as the market continues to grow and while the initial purchase cost of an EV is higher, the savings down the road can help lower business expenses overall.

2. Investing in renewable energy can come with financial incentives

Investing in a renewable source of energy is multi-beneficial. Energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower (water) can match the needs of your fleet while also limiting negative environmental effects. By installing on-site energy infrastructure your business could see more stable and reliable energy, and smaller operational costs over time. 

The U.S. The Department of Energy describes multiple perks that businesses may receive by installing solar energy, including tax write offs and installation credit. As of 2023, the solar panel tax credit your business can take advantage of covers 30% of all eligible costs. 

3. Build a community of environmentally conscious partners

One way to motivate and support sustainability efforts is to collaborate with other eco-oriented organizations. Find out which local, municipal, and federal organizations offer incentives that could help support your business in implementing eco-friendly initiatives.  

Your drivers are a valuable resource, too. Train them to prioritize fuel conservation and prep them with all the information they need to make smart decisions on the road.

4. Reduce idle vehicle emissions by planning efficient routes

Idle-time can represent a quiet menace to small business fleets. Without proper planning, vehicles can sit around idling for hours before loading or unloading. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that long-haul trucks typically idle for about 1,800 hours per year, consuming roughly 1,500 gallons of fuel, and ultimately wasting hundreds of dollars on inactive vehicles. 

Use vehicle tracking software to optimize your driver routes. Vehicle tracking can help you identify where idle-time occurs and can teach fleet managers specifics about driver behavior and traffic patterns. While road traffic can be somewhat unpredictable, specific locations during specific times of day often experience predictable levels of traffic congestion. Strategically plan your routes using the least congested times/days/hours to get your load to their destination quickly and efficiently. This approach minimizes potential delays, allowing you to maintain a precise schedule and better conserve fuel.

5. Turn your sustainability metrics into marketing points

Use data pulled from tracking tools to enhance your brand image. Highlight your sustainability efforts in your marketing materials. The metrics pulled from tracking tools will allow you to feature fuel conservation, decreased emissions, and other noteworthy sustainability achievements. Expand your company’s visibility and attract new customers by communicating your commitment to environmental responsibility.

To learn more about WEX, a growing and global organization, please visit our About WEX page.

To learn more about WEX’s EV offerings visit our EV page.

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U.S. Energy Information Administration
Kelley Blue Book
The U.S. Department of Energy

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