A NYC Parks truck that runs on biodiesel. - Photo: NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services

A NYC Parks truck that runs on biodiesel.

Photo: NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services

Keith Kerman, New York City chief fleet officer and deputy commissioner, Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), has always had an interest in public policy, the environment, and public health. He worked with NYC Parks and Recreation for 17 years, spending a great deal of time as chief and then assistant commissioner of citywide operations. His desire for cleaner parks, better tree maintenance, and safer beaches enhanced his determination to make sure the fleet he helps run contributes to a cleaner future.

NYC Parks was an early adopter of natural gas vehicles in the mid-90s, one of the first users of hybrid and electric vehicles, and one of the nation’s leading adopters of biofuels. Although Kerman wasn’t necessarily hired to “green” the fleet, he says it’s a big reason why he loves his job so much. Here are a few points he has discovered that have been helpful in achieving the city’s clean fleet and emissions reduction goals.

A PHEV Corrections vehicle. - Photo: NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services

A PHEV Corrections vehicle.

Photo: NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services

  • Implement technology, then make sure you track and understand collected data: NYC Fleet does a lot with technology for emissions reduction, safety, and general fleet management. It has put in place one of the largest public fleet telematics programs in the country with more than 23,000 units, which offers promise for reducing emissions and crashes, avoiding thefts, and improving efficiency and direct services. The data collected can also have broader application for street planning or air quality monitoring.
  • Don’t just focus solely on electric: Kerman is pushing on all fronts —electrification, efficiency through hybrids and alternative battery units (ABUs), and biofuels to replace traditional fossil diesel use. The expansion of electric vehicles models, especially to pickups and vans, offers many different possibilities. NYC also recently implemented one million gallons of renewable diesel biofuel. This worked great, and offers the prospect of replacing diesel fuel use entirely in existing systems, without retrofitting, while we wait for a zero emissions future to emerge,” he said.
  • Embrace the positive environmental impacts of challenges brought on by the pandemic: While tragic, the pandemic prompted the NYC fleet to conduct safety training online in an interactive format, which it will continue to do even after it’s safe to come back to the office. Although not everyone has a job that can be done from home, those that do have contributed to a reduction in the number of people commuting to work, thereby reducing vehicle use and emissions and lowering building costs.
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