Small Steps to Big Green
Written idle policy improves the green bottom line.
These days, it seems impossible to go very long without hearing a mention of “green.” From green energy to green roofs or simply just “going green,” the topic of green seems to be everywhere. In the equipment industry, green fleet is the term that’s creating plenty of buzz and leading a new trend for fleet managers and their crews.
So why the obsession with green? In many cases, green practices are viewed as a way to save money. Others see it as simply the right thing to do for the planet and future. One of the best things about implementing greener practices is that even the smallest steps can make a major impact.
While fleet managers have the same incentives to go green as anyone else, they also have additional factors driving their efforts. One key factor is the negative, unfair perception by many outside the industry that construction fleets are a major contributor to pollution problems. While those close to the industry realize this isn’t true, it doesn’t make the problem go away—which is why it’s even more crucial for equipment managers to take an active role in “greening” their fleets.
With all the benefits and other factors pushing them, one might wonder why all fleets don’t just go green. One challenge fleet managers face is simply knowing where to start. Though no step is too small, green practices are uncharted territory for many, and can be a bit intimidating. Another hurdle that comes into play is the other all-important “green”—money. Certain green practices require substantial investment, and for some fleet managers, securing these funds isn’t always possible.
Recognizing the challenges faced by the industry and fleet managers, The Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) developed its Green Fleet Initiative. Still in its early stages, the initiative helps, encourages and recognizes equipment managers in their mission towards a cleaner fleet, and lets them see the benefits of obtaining green fleet status. It’s about more than just the pride and good feeling of being green; voluntary green fleet investment allows companies to take advantage of federal funds to relieve costs associated with reducing emissions. And perhaps the greatest benefit, companies that have achieved Green Fleet status will have a distinct advantage over competitors when bidding jobs.
AEMP’s program focuses on two main areas: Idle policies and Tier requirements. While upgrading engines to be at a higher level of Tier compliance can be challenging (again, going back to the issue of funding), an idle policy is an ideal first step towards Green Fleet certification, and a greener operation.
There are several benefits to implementing an idle policy. Certainly reducing emissions is at the top of the list, but lessening fuel consumption is a major advantage as well. With the price of diesel well into the $3–plus arena, every little bit of savings goes a long way.
There’s also benefit to the equipment, and related cost savings. By shutting off equipment when not in use, less wear-and-tear is incurred. While the dollars saved on less maintenance and replacement is great, the real cost savings comes from less downtime. The more the equipment is up and running, the better. Also, an idle policy ensures the machine isn’t incurring additional hours and chipping away needlessly at the warranty policy.
So the big question for those looking to take initiative and implement an idle policy: How do I start? It’s actually quite simple. AEMP provides example policies for companies to use as a guideline, and most state Air Resources Boards also offer assistance and sample documents. Three main steps go into creating a policy:
- Establish a Time—An idle policy designates the amount of time a vehicle may idle before it must be turned off. While every state has its own set number, the generally-accepted rule of thumb is no more than five minutes.
- Know the Exceptions—Some pieces of equipment are exempt from idle policies, primarily for safety reasons (for example, cranes) or when it’s performing other necessary functions on the jobsite (such as providing hydraulic power to other pieces of equipment). Know these exceptions and include an explanatory section in the policy to avert confusion and errors.
- Have a Plan and Follow Through—Upon implementing an idle policy, it may seem as though the hard work is over—but that’s not the case. It’s imperative to have a plan, as well as a commitment by the entire crew, to ensure the policy is enforced, and to develop a way to measure the progress and efficiency of the initiative. Many fleet managers will find it’s best to delegate the task of enforcing the policy to the operations managers or supervisors, as they are typically on job sites and able to monitor closely. It is the equipment manager’s responsibility to create an operational benchmark to review at predetermined intervals to validate the progress and efficiency of the initiative.
With just a bit of research, a few simple steps and a good-faith commitment to following through, fleet managers can implement a written idle policy and take the all-important first step towards their green goals—whether it be simply fulfilling a mission of a cleaner fleet or achieving official Green Fleet status.
Author's Bio: Stan Orr is president of the Association of Equipment Management Professionals.