On the frontline of the green agenda

Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) has taken up the challenge of reducing its carbon footprint. With 60 per cent of emissions caused by its fleet, this was an area that needed much attention. While much of the fuel use is unavoidable due to the nature of the organisation, several areas were identified where carbon savings could be made without compromising the critical nature of the emergency service.

Q. What made Yorkshire Ambulance Service decide to reduce its carbon footprint?
Last year the NHS sustainable development unit and the government issued a statement saying that the NHS needs to cut its carbon emissions by ten per cent by 2015. We not only decided to take up the challenge, but wanted to go further and cut our emissions by 30 per cent by 2015. So we established a carbon management plan in the spring this year to identify how we would achieve it.
Our baseline was set at 2007 where we emitted 12,090 tonnes of CO2 overall, with 7,500 tonnes coming from our fleet. Fleet was therefore a significant area that needed attention. Elsewhere within our organisation we will address the carbon footprint of our buildings, waste, IT and lighting.

Q. What measures have you taken to reduce the carbon output of your fleet?

We are in the process of assessing our fleet to see how it can be made more efficient. Where we can, we’re upgrading to more eco friendly models but for vehicles we can’t replace, we’re looking at retrofitting them with green technologies. So we have adapted some of our patient transport vehicles to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or compressed natural gas (CNG) and have also looked at regenerative braking and the aerodynamics of our ambulances.
We are also looking at changing our car lease policy, so those wanting a new vehicle have to choose one that emits under 130g per km.
Driver training is also a big area where we could see improvements; if staff can learn to be greener in their driving style then we will not only save money but each driver will burn less fuel and emit less CO2. That said, eco driving will not be implemented when the YAS is responding to emergency calls as this is not practical. But it will be implemented at all other times.
At the moment we’re trialling 30 vehicles with telematics to identify any driving styles that could be improved. But we won’t use the technology to single out individuals. Instead we’ll do blanket training so that everyone benefits. We also held an eco fleet day earlier this year to introduce driver training in a fun and relaxed way.

Q. Tell us more about your eco fleet day.
The aim of the Emergency Services eco fleet day was to engage staff with our green agenda and to train them to drive more fuel efficiently. We also invited all the emergency services across Yorkshire so the benefits would be felt county-wide. So the police, fire brigade and army also joined in.
We set up a three mile circuit in an airfield designed to mimic real driving conditions so it included a roundabout, traffic lights and a level crossing. On the first lap, trainers noted how the drivers reacted to the road conditions and took down their fuel consumption when the circuit was completed.
The trainers then informed drivers of the various eco driving techniques they could implement to reduce their fuel consumption, such as not braking or accelerating harshly and changing gears at the right time. Before the training, fuel consumption started at around 35-40mpg and improved to as much as 90mpg after implementing the trainer’s advice. On average fuel consumption improved around 32 per cent, which translates as a potential cost saving of over £1.5 million per year.
The results were amazing and really showed that you can make a big difference to your fuel consumption by just introducing simple eco driving techniques.
We had really positive feedback from those who took part. Some said that they had implemented the techniques in their own cars and are now achieving up to 70mpg from their usual 40-50mpg.

Q. What will you do with any money saved as a result of these measures?
Any money that we save as a result of our carbon efficiency activities gets invested back into the carbon management programme. If you think we consume 4.2 million litres of fuel a year and this costs around £5 million, through eco driving alone we can save around 30 per cent. We can then use this to re-invest into upgrading vehicles.

Web: www.yas.nhs.uk
E-mail: carbon.management@yas.nhs.uk

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