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Highland Council cuts travel costs and carbon emissions thanks to new car club

By Val Sweeney

A new car club has resulted in reduced mileage for Highland Council.
A new car club has resulted in reduced mileage for Highland Council.

NEW business travel arrangements introduced by Highland Council have significantly cut travel costs and carbon emissions in their first year.

Since introducing the Enterprise Car Club, the local authority has reduced its annual business mileage by more than 825,000 miles and saved over £400,000 – a 15 per cent reduction in overall business travel costs.

A fleet of 60 vehicles located across 21 council offices are available for booking by the hour or day by employees who would have previously used a private car and claimed mileage reimbursement, sometimes referred to as the ‘grey fleet’.

The car club, part of global vehicle rental group, Enterprise Holdings, is also used as an alternative to daily rental in many locations, as it has proven to be a more efficient choice.

Most of the vehicles are plug-in hybrids. Five plug-in Nissan Leaf electric cars are also based at council offices in Inverness, Golspie and Fort William where average journey lengths are often shorter and electric vehicles offer the most viable and sustainable option.

Enterprise has also installed car club technology, including the ability to book online or via a mobile app, in many of the council’s own pool cars.

The council estimates it has cut its carbon footprint from staff travel by about 377 tonnes – 19 per cent – in 12 months while its

grey fleet mileage has fallen by 22 per cent and its overall business mileage by 13 per cent.

Councillor Allan Henderson, chairman of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee, said the new arrangements had completely transformed the local authority's approach to business travel and given control over all the previously unmanaged elements.

"We’ll always have to deliver some services face-to-face, but this programme ensures that our business mileage is drastically reduced, saving a lot of taxpayer money," he said.

"We worked closely with Enterprise to analyse where we needed vehicles and to roll out the programme across our offices and made sure employees were on board and understood the benefits."

Diane Mulholland, general manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland at Enterprise, said: "Highland Council has developed a sophisticated programme that encourages employees to avoid journeys if they can, and to use the most cost-effective and sustainable option if the trip is unavoidable.

"It’s also monitored and adjusted on a day-to-day basis to keep it as efficient as possible.

"The impact on air quality and congestion could be significant if all organisations reduced their road travel emissions by 19 per cent and their business mileage by 13 per cent, as Highland Council has managed to achieve."

The council covers a large area roughly equivalent to the size of Belgium. Many of its 10,000 employees travel great distances for business to and from around 700 local offices, schools and depots to deliver essential local services.

Before bringing Enterprise on board, its grey fleet mileage amounted to more than six million miles a year at a cost of more than £2.2 million.

Enterprise worked with the council to analyse employee mileage in detail to identify why, how, when and where trips were taking place, if alternative options were suitable, and where it would make sense to have dedicated car club vehicles located on-site.

A significant factor in the success of the club has been an employee communications programme which provides clear information on how to make better travel choices.

This will soon include the generation of automated emails to notify when employees could be using vehicles more efficiently.

The council aims to increase its car club fleet to 80 vehicles by the end of this year to achieve even greater savings.

In addition, it is rolling-out improved information and communication technology to encourage video conferencing and is focusing on shared and public transport for service delivery where practical.

Related article: Highland Council cuts travel costs with new car club

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