Feds Help Large Fleets Clean Up Their Act. What About the Little Fleets?

DOE kicks of National Clean Fleets PartnershipA new federal initiative called the National Clean Fleets Partnership has set an ambitious goal to slice 2.5 billion gallons of petroleum usage from the largest vehicle fleets in the U.S. by 2020. To kick off the program, the Department of Energy enlisted some big guns as charter members: AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS and Verizon. Together, the companies will be tasked with deploying more than 20,000 high tech vehicles. Though that is less than ten percent of the companies’ combined fleets, it gives the federal government a pretty big bang for the buck, and it may provide some insights into the challenges that smaller fleets face as they try to green up.

The National Clean Fleets Partnership

The National Clean Fleets Partnership is part of a broader effort to conserve petroleum – and reduce pollution – in urban and industrial areas, called the Clean Cities initiative.  In announcing the new endeavor, the White House noted that targeted incentives for large fleets offer a “key area of opportunity” to make a significant reduction in diesel and gasoline consumption. As part of the Clean Cities initiative, the partnership also creates a green marketing opportunity for participating companies with familiar, strongly marked vehicles that make their way into practically every neighborhood.  As public appreciation for “good neighbors” in the form of low and zero-emission vehicles grows, both large and small fleets using older, more polluting technologies are more likely to be viewed as bad neighbors.

Elements of the Partnership

Clean Fleets aims to motivate large fleet owners to use more efficient vehicles, in addition to replacing petroleum with a wide range of alternative fuel vehicles. In return, companies get technical assistance and group purchasing opportunities, as well as R&D opportunities through the Department of Energy and national laboratories. DOE anticipates that smaller fleets can benefit from group purchasing arrangements that save money. However, the program is designed primarily for large fleets with the structure and resources needed to train and recruit employees in the use, maintenance and repair of new vehicle technologies.

A Challenge for Smaller Fleets

Employee training and vehicle maintenance are key parts of the equation, so smaller fleets need to invest in alternative vehicle technologies with their eyes wide open. However, there are a number of green fleet solutions at hand for companies of any size. Purchasing standard hybrid vehicles is one option, since the need for driver training is minimal and dealer-based service centers are available. Regular maintenance for vehicles of any kind helps to conserve fuel, as does reviewing routes periodically for maximum efficiency. Other common fuel efficiency tips include training employees to reduce or eliminate unnecessary idling, removing excess cargo, and using the smallest possible vehicles (all the way down to freight bicycles) to get the job done.

Image: Pepsi truck by Dawn Endico on flickr.com.

Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

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