Cutting Hybrid Fuel Surcharges Part of Big Picture for Two Companies

Posted on July 1, 2008

NEW YORK — EmpireCLS Worldwide and BostonCoach have eliminated customer fuel surcharges on their hybrid fleet vehicles, taking a key step toward building broad “green” programs.


EmpireCLS removed its $9 flat fee per trip fuel surcharge on hybrid vehicles, and BostonCoach decided not to add any surcharges on its hybrids. EmpireCLS runs 25 hybrids – 15 in Los Angeles and 10 in New York City, said David Seelinger, president and CEO. EmpireCLS is picking up clients in the Lexus LS 600h sedan and the Lexus RX Hybrid (which Lexus calls a Luxury Utility Vehicle).


EmpireCLS gets more demand from clients, especially in Los Angeles, for environmentally friendly cars. This is working out well so far, Seelinger said, but staff members have to be guided on how to handle these reservations. “We have to train reservation agents on all of this – clients don’t realize that hybrid trunk space is limited for cargo,” he said. “The Lexus RX does have more space.”


For BostonCoach, hybrids make up about 2% to 3% of the company’s system-wide fleet, said Lisa Allen, senior vice president of marketing.


“There hasn’t been a huge demand for them, but we do want to offer clients the option,” she said. BostonCoach is offering clients the Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, and Lexus RX Hybrid in select markets.


In 2005, BostonCoach levied a variable fuel surcharge based on U.S. Department of Energy data, but this only applies to non-hybrid fleet vehicles. “Since our cost of operating hybrids is lower, and since we’re pleased to make hybrids available to environmentally conscious clients, we didn’t think it’s appropriate to apply the fuel surcharge,” Allen said.


Both companies are looking forward to adding more hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles to their fleets. EmpireCLS has acquired a few GMC Suburban flex-fuel vehicles, and will be looking at the upcoming Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and the Mercedes R-Class BLUETECH bio-diesel. “The Mercedes R-Class BLUETECH is coming out in October and offers amazing technology,” Seelinger said.


BostonCoach is testing out a bio-diesel minibus and a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, and is considering adding the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. BostonCoach wants to acquire business-class vehicles that facilitate ridesharing, and develop transportation management programs with shuttle buses operating less frequently to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, Allen said.


Developing such programs has become important to BostonCoach, along with its entire corporate “green” program. These efforts allowed BostonCoach to be recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council, which awarded the company its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification at its new corporate headquarters in Boston. BostonCoach was honored for making several environmental moves at its headquarters: installing water-conservation fixtures, reducing lighting power consumption by 40%, using recycled ceiling tile, and buying furniture made from low-emitting materials.


EmpireCLS will soon launch a corporate program focused on the company’s “carbon footprint,” Seelinger said. “We’ll be doing what clients have been asking for, especially in corporate Requests for Proposals (RFPs),” he said. “We’ve chosen a consultant to build this corporate program.”


Other major operators are making moves in the green direction, including New York-based Town Car International, CEO Russ Cooke said. Along with office greening, the company is implementing New York City Taxi & Limousines Commission guidelines, although it doesn’t belong to the “black car” category; using alternative-fuel vehicles such as natural gas vehicles, hybrids, and bio-fueled vehicles; suggesting shared rides to clients when appropriate; and using directional and tracking GPS units in all vehicles to improve travel time, Cooke said.

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