MINNEAPOLIS - In March 2011, the City of Minneapolis approved a Green Fleet Policy that aimed to reduce and inventory fleet vehicle emissions, optimize fleet size, and ensure low-emission vehicle procurement. One year later, John Scharffbillig, director of fleet services, and Al Thunberg, fleet manager, talked to Government Fleet about what Fleet Services has been able to accomplish so far.
One of the policy goals was to meet with all user departments (from bi-weekly to quarterly depending on the customer) to discuss utilization and to see if any departments could reduce their fleet sizes. Thunberg said Fleet Services gathers information for each vehicle used by each division, breaking down costs such as lease rate, fuel consumed, and maintenance costs. He then meets with the department to go over the numbers.
"By putting this report together, showing them their real cost for the calendar-year of each vehicle along with annual utilization, whether it's in miles or hours put on the piece of machinery, it really is great information for them to look at," Thunberg said. User departments see, "here's a unit that's not getting used very much, but it's still costing a few thousand dollars per year to have," he said.
Thunberg elaborated, "When they start seeing a few of these here and there, they're able to think about...how they can consolidate vehicles within their operation and overall, reduce the number of units, increasing the utilization of the ones they have and reducing their overall costs."
Fleet Services was able to recommend reductions based on annual utilization. Due to the small geographical size of the city and the possibility of high-frequency, low mileage use for some departments, Fleet Services defers the decision to those users.
While unable to comment on the number of vehicles reduced through this method, Scharffbillig said a conservative estimate was about a 5-8 percent reduction.
As also outlined by the policy, Fleet Services has created and maintains a vehicle inventory list. According to Scharffbillig, the inventory list has been completed, listed based on year, make, model, and type of fuel. The vehicle inventory list reports the City operates 1,700 on-road vehicles and equipment. Of these, 402 are flex-fuel vehicles, 71 are hybrid vehicles, five run on electricity, and approximately 300 diesel vehicles run on some type of biofuel.
Other green policy changes include purchase of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Using the EPA's SmartWay guide, the City has transitioned from purchasing the Chevrolet Impala to the Ford Focus as City's standard sedan. Scharffbillig stated that the Focus' cleaner-burning engine and small size also allowed the City to purchase less hybrids, reducing vehicle purchasing costs and operating cost.
"We're looking at it as an overall standardization. Standardizing our fleet, from a training perspective for our technicians and operators, reduces our cost," he said. In addition, a standard fleet of Focuses will reduce parts room inventory.
Smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles can additionally result in reduced gasoline consumption. The City experienced two emergencies in 2011, leading to prolonged use of vehicles for road plowing and tornado restoration, but barring any unforeseen natural disasters this year, the change in vehicles could lead to decreased fuel consumption.
Fleet Services is also using environmentally friendly maintenance products, including vehicle cleaning soaps, recycled and reused paper products, filter cleaners and cutters, recycled oil, and up to 20 percent biofuel.
Further, the City plans to have three solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations open to the public within the next month. Fleet Services already has one installed and running for its own vehicles, Scharffbillig said.
By Thi Dao
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