Everybody talks about “going green,” but it’s not always clear what that means for every company and whether it’s just a passing trend or smart business. But if ever there was an industry that can benefit from environmentally-friendly practices, it’s a transportation-dependent industry like field service. Here are three common-sense ways you can boost your bottom line.

Greening Your Fleet Systems 

From high gas prices to stricter fuel-efficiency standards, fleet owners have plenty of reasons to take a hard look at the latest advances in hybrid and other clean-fuel technologies. For many, however, the upfront costs can seem daunting and the logistics overwhelming.

But greening your fleet doesn’t have to be difficult, says Bill Van Amburg, a senior vice president at CALSTART, which helps fleet managers implement clean, efficient transportation systems. First, you can reduce waste by taking a hard look at your fleet operations and understanding the costs associated with mileage, idling times, and route structures, he says. Next, you can start small: don’t go “all green” overnight. Invest in a few fuel-efficient vehicles before going all out.

AT&T, for example, purchased 1,200 compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered Chevrolet Express vans as part of a broader plan to replace more than 20 percent of its total vehicles with alternative-fuel models by 2018.

Above all, recognize that the long-term payoff might justify the short-term costs.

Digitize Back-End Processes

Fleet managers can also put new technologies to work to streamline their operations and slash fuel costs. GPS-based vehicle tracking software, for instance, can help operators identify the most efficient routes for resolving multiple work orders, according to Todd Ewing, director of product marketing at Fleetmatics, a Boston-based provider of GPS fleet tracking technology.

Here too it’s worth starting small, says Ewing. “Prioritize the issues you want to solve,” he says. “A mistake I’ve seen made is that people try to put out a monster project to turn everything around. It slows everything down, and you end up not doing anything.”

Shifting to the Cloud

Field service is also hugely paper-intensive. The volumes of paperwork — from service requests to parts orders to customer invoices to maintenance contracts — that need to be completed and filed cost money and take time to sort, file and archive. Here’s where software, particularly web-based programs, can eliminate a lot of waste.