Green Fleet

Strategic Actions: Simultaneous Fleet Reduction and Greening

January 2008, Government Fleet - Feature

by David Mills - Also by this author

Specific strategic actions can be taken to simultaneously achieve the goals of fleet reduction and greening of the fleet. Many fleets have already taken action. These proposed actions present several methods of achieving the goals and require the consideration of a fleet-specific makeup, current infrastructure, and fuel type availability.

These methods are certainly not the only options available. However, based on my own experience with the City of Oceanside, Calif., they are the best methods presently available to achieve these goals, with the least negative impact on the operations of fleet customers.

 Greening the Fleet

"Greening the fleet" is a term rapidly being overworked. The basic definition of greening is altering the make-up of any particular fleet of vehicles to reduce emissions and fuel use. Greening is accomplished by employing clean — or cleaner — more fuel-efficient methods to power vehicles.

Greening can be more broadly defined to include reducing use of all fossil fuel products, not just those used for powering engines. Advantages of altering a fleet with more fuel-efficient vehicles include a lowered dependence on foreign oil and political correctness.

Greening is not restricted to vehicle power sources, but should also include altering operations and product selections to achieve less dependence on nonrenewable resources and minimize any environmental impact from fleet operations.


Determining fleet reductions seems simple enough, but "the devil is in the details." A key factor to be considered is whether the vehicle is essential to operations.

Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce

Some key words to remember are recycle, reuse, and reduce. Fleets in general have long been leaders in employing these terms, and the story would be incomplete if measures currently in use to lessen the impact of fleet operations on the environment were not pointed out.

Recycling. Recycling doesn’t end when bottles, cans, or paper are diverted from landfills. The recycled material must be reused in order to complete the cycle. Our fleet recycles all waste oil and purchases re-refined oil in every grade available. We recycle waste antifreeze and purchase recycled antifreeze in bulk.

Instead of sending off 60 gallons of dirty cleaning solvent and buying a new supply each month, we redistill the same mineral spirits each night to provide our staff with clean solvent on a continual basis. Each technician’s bay contains a recycle container for cardboard packaging of air and oil filters, as well as parts that arrive in cardboard packages.

Aerosol cans have been almost completely replaced by providing handheld pressure vessels to all technicians. Many hazardous petroleum-based chemicals have been replaced by citrus-based cleaners as well. Windshield washer solvent formerly purchased in gallon plastic bottles has been replaced by bulk concentrate mixed onsite, eliminating several hundred empty plastic bottles each year.

Reuse. Many electronic products such as power supply units, siren controllers, and fuel management computer modules are reused for several vehicles, helping reduce the ever-growing stream of electronic waste.

Batteries (not just automotive) are sent to recycling facilities and tires with usable tread are resold through a third-party arrangement.

Floors are washed with a small electric-powered sweeper that collects the wastewater, which is disposed in a clarifier prior to entering the sanitary sewer. This same clarifier captures wastewater produced by vehicle washing. In this way, fleet protects creeks, streams, and ground water from contamination either directly from dirty water or indirectly from run-off rainwater over dirty areas.

Reduce. All these practices reduce our contribution to the waste stream, our negative impact on air or water quality, or our use of petroleum products. We are doing a lot to protect our environment, but we can do more and we will continue to improve as opportunities present themselves.

An emerging market of bio-lubricants is developing alongside the biofuels everyone is hearing so much about. We can and will employ these new products as they develop and become proven alternatives to traditional products.

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