Government Fleet Top News

Winston-Salem Tries to Make Fleet More Fuel Efficient

August 9, 2006

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the flow of gasoline to North Carolina — most of which came from a pipeline originating in the Gulf Coast — dried up, causing shortages and skyrocketing fuel costs. For the weeks until the pipeline returned to full function, city governments in both Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C., adopted fuel conservation guidelines that limited nonessential trips by city staff, according to the Greensboro Yes! Weekly.Although both municipalities gradually loosened their restrictions on vehicles, Winston-Salem city officials used the opportunity to reexamine aspects of the fuel use and vehicle acquisition policies. The motivating factors behind policy changes went beyond fiscal concerns, as citizens had also asked the city to look into low-emissions vehicles.In 2005, the city of Winston-Salem spent more than it had budgeted for fuel, the price of which had increased from about $1 per gallon in January to $2.38 by the fall. The city council and fleet department set a goal to reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent. So far, departments have cumulatively curbed their use by a little more than eight percent, not by cutting services but by being more efficient with routes.In April 2006, Winston-Salem adopted a “Vehicle Fuel Management and Vehicle Acquisition Program” aimed at codifying the specifications for buying and maintaining the most fuel-efficient fleet. Around the same time, the city bought three new Honda Civic hybrids, and they will soon purchase three Nissan Sentras. They will then compare the purchase, maintenance, and fuel costs to determine which model best suits the city’s needs.The City of Greensboro bought the first of its several hybrid vehicles a few years ago, around the same time transportation officials started mixing biodiesel into fuel for trucks and buses. Fleet Manager Gary Smith has assembled a Fleet Advisory Board from representatives of several city departments that will recommend guidelines for vehicle purchases, according to the Greensboro Yes! Weekly.Winston-Salem trucks consumed 1.4 million gallons of diesel last year compared to Greensboro’s 1.5 million.Winston-Salem’s vehicle fuel management program calls for annual fuel conservation plans to identify specific goals for fuel reduction and track those monthly. The city manager is also charged with setting an annual goal for the percentage of alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles in the city fleet.

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