While developing the agenda for the 2011 Green Fleet Conference, it was abundantly clear that sustainability continues to be an important responsibility facing public sector fleet managers. Fleets recognize that they must be environmental stewards to reduce emissions and their carbon footprint, since vehicles and equipment are the key contributors. The types of vehicles deployed by fleet can have a dramatic environmental impact as witnessed by the introduction of DPF and SCR technologies, which have greatly reduced diesel emissions.

Through normal replacement cycles, fleets continue to replace older, higher-emissions vehicles with new technologies. Fleets have disposed of numerous older vehicles that couldn’t pass a smog test any longer. Many fleets have sold off old diesel forklifts and other equipment that require diesel particulate filters and replaced them with units powered by a non-petroleum-based fuel.

However, today’s constrained capital budgets, which limit the funds to replace units, especially green vehicles, run  counter to sustainability initiatives. The failure to replace aged vehicles contradicts carbon emissions reduction plans. To sidestep budgetary constraints, fleets seek to leverage grant funds as much as possible. But, some smaller fleets grumble that current funding opportunities seemed to be geared to larger operations.

In addition, political support is not universally true at all political subdivisions. As many fleet managers will tell you, acquiring alt-fuel vehicles is frequently a tough sell, both from a cost and political perspective. At some jurisdictions, current leadership is politically opposed budgeting additional funds for green initiatives.

Another reason greening a government fleet, especially municipal fleets, is difficult is because the largest percentage of fleet vehicles are in public safety. Until alternative-fuel solutions are available for police patrol vehicles and fire apparatus, which police officers and firefighters will accept, the use of alt-fuel vehicles by municipalities will be limited.

Migrating to a greener fleet also adds complexity to an operation. For instance, tighter emissions regulations for on- and off-road heavy equipment add complexity in terms of maintenance, technician training, parts inventory, etc.

Sustainability All-Stars

Despite these constraints, “green initiatives” continue to gain priority at other political subdivisions. Political support for carbon friendly, low-emission vehicle technologies, along with funding through earlier federal stimulus monies and other grants, has provided fleets the opportunity to acquire additional green vehicles.

These political subdivisions are committed to acquiring low-emission vehicles. These organizations recognize that fleet can play a significant role in achieving emissions-reduction goals. Some goals are very ambitious. For instance, the City of Austin, Texas, has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2020. Also, political subdivisions are mandated under EPAct to have 75-percent of their acquisitions be non-petroleum based vehicles.

Most business plans require fleets to incorporate alternative-fueled vehicles and equipment wherever and whenever possible, with the guiding factors that the unit meets operational requirements and is economically feasible.

In addition, green initiatives go beyond vehicles/equipment and also impact fleet services operations. There is continued pressure to recycle waste material, dispose of used fluids and parts in an environmentally friendly manner, decrease facility energy consumption, control water run-off, etc. Most fleets have been extremely successful in greening their facilities. 

What sets public sector fleet managers apart is their ability to adapt to adversity and develop innovative solutions in times of fiscal austerity.

“With the current economic doldrums, there is immense pressure to abandon best management practices and just survive,” said Allen Mitchell, CPFP, fleet manager for Snohomish County Dept. of Public Works in Everett, Wash. “We have chosen not to let the tight budgets deter our progress toward having our fleet run 95 percent on biofuels and electricity by 2015. We will also seek out additional grant opportunities to better leverage funding.”

Mitchell manages 893 powered units, of which 62 percent are green. We need to celebrate this can-do attitude as personified by Mitchell and many other fleet managers.

At the 2011 Green Fleet Conference, we will recognize outstanding green fleet success stories by presenting our new Sustainability All-Stars awards to 40 deserving fleet professionals, including Mitchell, who will be profiled in the September/October issue of our sister magazine – Green Fleet.

Here are a few examples:

  • City of Sacramento, Calif., decreased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 1,717 metric tons.
  • City of Fort Wayne, Ind., implemented a “Green City” initiative, reducing emissions from City equipment by 30 percent.
  • New York City operates a fleet of 430 EVs, recently purchasing 50 Chevrolet Volts, 10 Ford Transit Connects, and 10 Navistar eStar trucks.

The bottom line is that fleets want to be environmentally friendly, but are often hamstrung trying to balance contradicting political, environmental, and financial issues when procuring green vehicles.

But, as our Sustainability All-Stars demonstrate, where there is a will, there is a way.

If you haven't registered yet for the 2011 Green Fleet Conference, I encourage you to do so. We have a terrific lineup of speakers and it is the industry's best networking venue to swap ideas about best practices in greening your fleet. Check out the Web site www.greenfleetconference.com to see the full agenda. If you're interested in greening your fleet, this is the one conference you should attend. See you there.

Let me know what you think.


Mike Antich
Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

View Bio