Sustainable Construction: 6 Ways to Reduce Your Fleet’s Carbon Footprint

Make a move to more eco-friendly construction by tweaking your operations and your equipment mix.

Sustainability in construction is a major concern for many project owners these days, and contractors who can demonstrate a commitment to leaving a lighter environmental footprint are in a good position to win more business.

Countless avenues exist for reducing the impact of construction on the environment. Analyzing your construction fleet and looking for opportunities to make your equipment operations more sustainable is a good place to start.

What is fleet sustainability?

Sustainability is the ability to maintain a natural environment that sustains people, animals and plants and allows future generations to survive. Fleet sustainability is the degree to which an equipment fleet is sustainable. More-sustainable fleets have less impact on the environment. First and foremost, they emit lower levels of greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Tips for sustainable fleet management

Here are six achievable ways to reduce your fleet’s carbon footprint and move toward more sustainable construction without hurting your bottom line.

1. Reduce your fuel consumption

Fossil fuels are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and construction equipment gobbles its fair share. To reduce your fuel consumption on the job:

  • Curb unnecessary idling. For example, institute a 5-minute idling limit rule and remind operators to turn off machines when they aren’t working. In cold weather, keep the cab warm with a cab heater instead of running the engine for heat.
     
  • Lay out direct routes. Supervisors should lay out direct routes between tasks on site, for fill-and-dumps, for example, and train operators to take them.
     
  • Right-size your equipment. Don’t use an excavator when a backhoe will do. Using equipment that’s larger or more powerful than you need wastes fuel.
     
  • Train drivers and operators. Speeding behind the wheel or operating equipment aggressively impacts fuel economy as well as safety.

2. Stay on top of preventive maintenance

Well-maintained equipment burns less fuel. Equally important to sustainability, regular preventive maintenance extends the useful life of your equipment.

Performing maintenance based on engine hours vs. calendar intervals helps prevent both under-maintenance, which can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the machine and lead to breakdowns, and over-maintenance, which wastes materials such as oil. United Rentals’ cloud-based fleet management platform Total Control® uses engine hours captured by a machine’s telematics device to send alerts notifying managers when it’s time for maintenance. A maintenance scheduling tool allows them to easily schedule and track maintenance.

If you’re struggling to maintain a large fleet, enlist help. United Rentals’ Customer Equipment Services group offers tiered plans that provide repair and maintenance of customer-owned equipment.

3. Update old, outdated equipment

Even the best-maintained equipment can’t last forever. When it’s no longer performing efficiently and starts costing you money, it’s time to replace it. Your fleet management software can provide detailed information on usage, mileage and operational performance that can help you decide when to dispose of the asset. Newer equipment tends to be quieter, safer, cleaner and more energy efficient.

4. Bring electric equipment into the mix

Most heavy equipment runs on diesel, but more and more manufacturers are producing electric models of everything from scissors lifts to mini excavators to cranes. Electric equipment typically runs on rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs and emits no GHG pollutants. Another benefit: An electric motor turns off when it’s not in use, so idling is not an option. Because these machines have fewer moving parts, less maintenance is required.

5. Consider renting instead of buying

Manufacturers are continually improving their construction equipment. When you buy equipment, you’re locked into the features and capabilities of the model you’ve purchased. Renting from an industry-leading equipment vendor, on the other hand, may give you access to newer, more fuel-efficient models that feature cleaner-burning engines.

Renting also lets you try out equipment, such as an electric forklift or mini excavator, before you decide to add it to your fleet. And it helps you right-size your fleet and boost your equipment utilization so every piece of equipment works harder for you.

6. Track your greenhouse gas emissions

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Knowing which pieces of equipment in your fleet are generating the most greenhouse gas emissions can help you make strategic decisions about when and where to deploy those machines.

United Rentals customers can now track the estimated GHG emissions of their rental fleet using an emissions reporting feature in Total Control. Emissions estimates are calculated based on estimated fuel burn and emissions factor by fuel type. Reports break down the estimated GHG emissions by EPA priority pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrous oxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and others.

Achieving greater sustainability in construction is an ambitious goal that can be accomplished only by attacking it on multiple fronts. Taking small steps to use less fuel and reduce the emissions generated by your equipment, along with monitoring those emissions to help you understand the impact of your fleet, can make a big difference over time.

Contact the Customer Equipment Solutions Group for help with maintaining your owned equipment in order to keep it running effectively and efficiently.

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