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Changing our travel habits and fuelling the eco-driving conversation

In the fourth article in the series, Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser and Head of RoSPA Scotland, discusses the changing landscape of travel habits and the growing eco-driving conversation. As the cost of fuel continues to fluctuate, the focus on shared mobility, public transport, and sustainable transport choices is on the rise. McDonnell offers valuable eco-driving tips for individuals and poses crucial questions for businesses aiming to transform their drivers into eco-warriors, emphasising the importance of managing driving risk in the ever-evolving world of transportation.

 

Changing our travel habits and fuelling the eco-driving conversation KM
Karen McDonnell

Over the last year, the cost of fuel has been a constant topic of conversation, from dramatic increases to a gradual fall and now rising to over 150p per litre here in the UK for the first time since January. 

Shared mobility and public transport are becoming increasingly important within the current cost of living crisis. According to Active Travel England, more people than ever are regularly walking or cycling rather than using the car due to increases in the cost of living. Research by mobility app FREENOW, highlights that over half of the UK public plan to increase their use of sustainable transport choices in 2023. 

Changing our travel habits and fuelling the eco-driving conversation soc

Home delivery of goods and services has become the norm for many, although the shift back to shopping in a more traditional sense is apparent.

An insight report from Opinium Research found that the fuel price crisis was the main prompt behind people considering reducing their motoring costs in the last 12 months, closely followed by the rising cost of living, with many drivers having reduced the number of times they have jumped behind the wheel or made shorter journeys over recent months.

In short, due to the cost, personal driving habits have changed for many. However, within driving and riding for work context, whilst consideration can be given to reducing the number of miles driven and frequency of journeys, there is also a huge opportunity to bring eco-driving-related efficiencies into play. 

Here are some top eco-driving tips to help you rethink how you drive:

  1. Get your vehicle serviced regularly. 
  2. Check tyre pressures regularly: soft tyres are fuel vampires.
  3. Don’t carry unnecessary weight in your vehicle.
  4. Plan your route: a ring road might be slightly longer but could be better for fuel economy. 
  5. Drive smoothly, accelerate and brake gently.
  6. Read the road ahead to anticipate what’s happening and avoid unnecessary braking.
  7. Slow down: the faster you go, the more fuel you use. Driving at 70mph uses up to 9 per cent more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15 per cent more than at 50mph.
  8. Keep a note of your fuel consumption to track how much it improves. 

It is perhaps inadvisable to see yourself as a warrior as you get behind the steering wheel or handlebars of your motorbike, but by following these top tips, you might just become an eco-warrior. 

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Eco-driving and work

My question to those responsible for anyone who drives for work is, ‘Are your drivers eco-warriors or fuel vampires?’ Applying our top eco-driving tips at work can create a fleet of eco-warriors with the benefit that drivers can take these new skills home with them. These tips also reflect the importance of managing work-related road risk the same as any other risk to your organisation. 

Whether you are reading this as a fleet, human resources, training or logistics manager, ask yourself the following “safe vehicle, safe journey, safe driver” questions.

  • Is the vehicle fleet routinely maintained?
  • Are daily checks undertaken, and how quickly are faults remedied?
  • Is work planned to ensure drivers can meet the demands of the business while driving at an appropriate speed?
  • Are routes planned to avoid urban driving where practicable?
  • Do you really understand the type of driving people do on behalf of the organisation? 
  • Have you spoken to your drivers recently?
  • Do you track the number of miles driven daily, weekly, monthly and annually (remember, driving for work is, for most of us, the most dangerous thing we do)?
  • Do you have a person-centered approach to managing driving risk (remember, each driver is a unique individual)?
  • Do you encourage information sharing around near misses, perhaps as a result of distraction or inappropriate speed?
  • Do you encourage the development of smooth driving by your drivers?
  • How do these insights help you manage driving risk and create eco-warriors?

Eco-warriors or fuel vampires?

Each driver will have a different profile. They may come to your attention because of the high mileage they drive, because they have just completed the recruitment process because they have been involved in an accident or perhaps as an older driver, there are health issues that need to be understood and managed.

So, we can start with the data and build a dialogue around managing driving risk that includes eco-driving. Then develop a picture of each driver that tells their story, helping to create a person-centered approach to smooth driving and moving them from fuel vampire to eco-warrior: a shift which may also save their life.

To read Dr Karen McDonnell’s previous articles in this series, please click on the following links:

Applying safe systems to road safety

Life can change in a moment for road users

Driving for Work: How Organisations Can Manage Risk

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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