Sustainable Fleet Planning: 5 Key Considerations

sustainable fleet planning

Planning for the future of your fleet? Everyone seems to have their mind on sustainable fleet planning nowadays. Environmental regulations become more stringent every year, and there’s intense pressure on companies with fleets to minimize their impact on the environment. At the same time, customer demands are also becoming more intense—with each passing year, thousands of new products hit the market and customers expect their distributors to make them available on the delivery schedule they dictate.

In other words, some companies with fleets are preparing to go green, but some don’t have a plan at all. The key is understanding that it will take time to fully decarbonize your fleet.

There’s a lot to keep in mind as you get into sustainable fleet planning. It’s not as easy as going out and buying a few dozen electric vehicles. Here are some questions you should ask yourself as you craft your plan.

1. Why are we going green in the first place?

Are you striving to achieve compliance with environmental regulations? We’ve written before about how the Biden administration has raised gas mileage standards and set tougher expectations for tailpipe emissions. Fleets have until 2026 to comply. If you’re preparing in 2023 to meet requirements in 2026, you’re smart. As you’ve surely considered, there will be a transition period involved in swapping out your vehicles.

Are you also trying to please your shareholders? Then you may want to go for a quick splash by purchasing some electric vehicles as soon as possible and generating some positive press around this progress.

Perhaps you see greener vehicles as a cost-saving move. Fuel-efficient (or electric) trucks can dramatically reduce your fuel costs. As you crunch the numbers, find out whether your EV fleet will be worth the investment.

These are just three reasons for sustainable fleet planning, and they’re all valid. Our point is simply that you should stay focused on your most important objectives as you plan your fleet of tomorrow.

2. Which of your vehicles are the best candidates for replacement?

If you had unlimited resources, you might replace your entire fleet with the latest electric or alternative fuel vehicles. You could slash your fuel costs, exceed environmental regulations, and let your sustainable fleet planning coast for a while.

But reality looks more like this: Your budget is finite, and not all your vehicles are old and in danger of failing smog tests. If you want the biggest bang for your buck, you need to spend time identifying your oldest, lowest-performing vehicles. They’re the low-hanging fruit for replacement. But don’t stop there. Consider which vehicles may be on the older and more expensive side but are essential for certain kinds of work. You may have to bite the bullet and keep these vehicles while making upgrades elsewhere in your fleet.

Consider also which of your vehicles are likely to age poorly. Don’t be fooled by trucks that are currently affordable to maintain and get decent gas mileage. Project what your costs will look like in 2027 or 2030, and make decisions today that will lower your costs tomorrow.

3. Are the vehicles you want even available?

You’ve gone through our first two steps. You’ve carefully honed the goals of your sustainable fleet planning and identified the vehicles you want to replace.

Perhaps you’ve even made a list of potential replacement vehicles. Now is the time to figure out whether you can even get these replacements.

As the World Economic Forum reported in 2022, the world needs 2 billion electric vehicles to get to net zero, but there may not be enough lithium to make all the batteries. And although big rigs are going electric, even industry giant Tesla had to delay production in 2021 due to battery cell shortages and global supply chain challenges.

As you hone your sustainable fleet planning, do your homework on how likely it is you’ll be able to get the vehicles you want on a timeline that satisfies regulators, your customers, and your executives.

4. Will you be able to charge your electric vehicles?

Imagine identifying the vehicles you want to replace, finding suitable electric vehicles to replace them, purchasing these trucks, and then finding that you can’t charge the trucks in a timely enough fashion to keep up with your delivery schedule. That’s the kind of nightmare you want to avoid as you go deep in your sustainable fleet planning.

What will it take—and what will it cost—to install charging technology at your warehouses? What’s your plan for getting your trucks charged out on the road, based on the routes you normally run today? If charging introduces significant delays into your routes, how will you manage expectations with customers? How will you explain this brave new world to your drivers—and will it affect their morale?

None of this is meant to scare you off electric vehicles. We simply urge you to create a detailed, far-reaching plan that keeps your fleet as productive as possible.

5. What’s the market doing?

You may have your heart set on electric trucks and know you can make them work for you financially. That may be a huge step forward for your company in terms of profitability and sustainability. But it may not be the only step forward.

Keep an eye on the other emerging solutions in the market. For example, there are some major companies building hydrogen plants across the nation. Could hydrogen vehicles be an even bigger play than electric vehicles in a few years? We don’t know exactly what the future holds.

What we do know though is that manufacturers are consistently working with companies to identify what solutions do work for their fleets. What’s often considered is not only sustainability goals but also how carbon emission reduction can have a positive financial impact on companies.

So, don’t get fixated on one technology. Keep your mind open to new alternatives.

Let’s Talk About Sustainable Fleet Planning

As you plan and implement your fleet of the future, you’ll need to demonstrate ROI to your executives. Picking the right sustainability path for your fleet is important, and having the data to support your choices will be imperative. Gridline has the tools to help you on this journey.

We’d love to tell you about our analytics solutions that help you find hidden insights in your telematics data so that you can truly understand the performance of all your vehicles. Schedule your consultation.