- Photo: Mark Stevens

Photo: Mark Stevens

The City of Sacramento likely has one of the top sustainability policies in the entire country. Mark Stevens, fleet manager for the city, believes the best way to reach the goals outlined in the policy is to make informed decisions based on accurate data. Since recently installing the Samsara fleet management platform, he plans to use the information it collects to continue his work operating in the most environmentally responsible way possible.

Discovering What Works Best for You

The fleet he manages is comprised of 2,400 vehicles. Originally, the city was only using a GPS platform to track them. Stevens was unable to pull any information from the EVs they were currently running, which didn’t help in making sure he met the department’s goals to continue to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. He decided it was time to search for a better solution, and after reviewing various systems, determined Samsara would work best for his fleet.

“When it comes to figuring out the best option, you have to test drive the equipment and software to ensure it has the capabilities you are looking for,” he advises.

Consider how easy it is to retrieve the data you need, and how you can disseminate that data to continue to meet reporting goals. Take time to educate your staff and help walk them through the installation process so they have a full understanding of what it’s capable of.

Starting an EV Journey

Since 2007, the city has had a sustainability plan which mandates vehicle procurement and alternative fuels. Stevens took over as fleet manager in 2015, and one of his main goals has been to ensure fleet is doing everything in its power to meet these lofty goals.

By 2017, the Chevrolet Bolt was able to provide a range that would meet the city’s needs, which made it easy for Stevens to meet mileage requirements. They now have over 100. From electric motorcycles to electric solid waste refuse trucks, he’s interested in anything he can do to reduce fuel consumption.

As of 2018, 50% of all of the city’s light duty procurement will be zero emission vehicles.

“This isn't just an internal policy; this was actually an item approved by our city council. At this point, it’s no longer something we just internally focus on. The council understands how important it is for the city to meet those goals,” he explains.

Reducing Idling Time

Samsara’s telematics have proved useful in monitoring fuel consumption, which is key for Stevens. Not just in cutting costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also in monitoring idling on all vehicles. The department now has an internal city-wide five-minute maximum idling policy.

“With the data we’ve collected, we now have teeth to go back to our departments and say, ‘look, you had 12 vehicles last month that idled more than five minutes,’ and ask them to explain why that’s happening. We feel it's really going to bring clarity to the departments, their operations, and our fuel consumption.”

Having this information readily available allows fleet managers to dive down into individual vehicles and drivers based on engine diagnostics or trouble codes.

Making the Switch from Gas to Electric

When Stevens feels there's a vehicle ripe for replacement with an EV, he meets with the department that vehicle belongs to ahead of time to discuss a transition to a cleaner one.

“We've had great buy-in from our departments, so we have EVs going into our fire department admin and police department. We're now buying all hybrid police cars. We’ve made a big push into analyzing our vehicle replacement each year and determining where alternative fuels can meet those needs,” he says.

He plans on using the data collected from telematics to support claims EVs could potentially work for those departments that do not currently run them.

Stevens has also had great support from departments in standardizing the fleet as well. When he first arrived, fleet was purchasing different makes and models of vehicles, which didn’t help in minimizing costs. They have since standardized throughout the fleet with one OEM.

“Communication and working with departments enable us to better meet our sustainability goals. When we started on this venture with the EVs, we tried to be very proactive. We had ride and drives. We had vehicles here for the departments to look at and I brought in information on their capabilities with PowerPoint presentations. You have to work with people to get them to understand you're not forcing anything on them so they can see the benefits.”

Prepping for an EV Future

For those who want to get into EVs, Stevens says they must know enough to compare their current fleet to more environmentally friendly vehicles.

“You have to look at it as a total picture: total mileage, total cost, and then come up with a cost per mile. Right now, our EVs are running about six cents a mile, while our gasoline vehicles cost 24 cents a mile. When people ask how they can afford an EV, it's easy if the fleet manger can project what the return on investment is. Based on the additional cost of EVs, we have a payback less than two years, in some cases.”

Taking cold, hard data to your governing body, whether it be a council, commission, or city manager, is the best way to get them to agree to a sustainability policy you can enforce throughout an agency. If you can prove how much money you’ll save and how quickly you can save it, it’ll be hard for them to say no.

“I've shared our policy with numerous people, and it's a great place to start. That's open to anybody that is interested. But what’s really important is to make sure you have a plan in place that will work for your individual circumstances. Understand what your savings are and how you can identify the payback period, and then move that forward up to management.”

Click here to view a case study on the City of Sacramento with some additional facts and figures on their sustainability policies.

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