Lessons Learned During Green Fleet Conference

Posted on November 1, 2008 by Jon LeSage

Page 1 of 2

Fleet managers are gaining common ground with chauffeured transportation operators, especially when it comes to providing transportation to corporate accounts. Like chauffeured transportation operators, corporate and government fleet managers are facing multiple pressures to green up their fleets from executive management, clients, and local communities.

The urgency of the topic was enough to get 350 people to attend the first-ever Green Fleet conference at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. The event was sponsored by Bobit Business Media’s auto group and focused on corporate and government fleet management issues affected by the green movement (see sidebar). Panelists made several points that also apply to chauffeured transportation.

1) LOTS OF GREEN CARS: Nearly all automakers offer or load up their product pipelines with gas/electric hybrids, plugin hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, fl ex-fuel vehicles, and other alt-fuel models that can be powered by natural gas and propane. The number of green product launches is amping up each model year. Automotive Fleet Editor Mike Antich started the conference with photos and descriptions of new products and prototypes from nearly every automaker. The electric-powered Chevrolet Volt, launched by GM that same week, has been getting a lot of media coverage along with the upcoming Chevrolet Equinox hydrogen fuel cell car. Ford will be introducing the Fusion hybrid in 2010 and the Mercury Milan hybrid in 2011. The Ford Escape hybrid has 25% less carbon dioxide emissions than the gasoline engine version, Antich said. And while fleet managers have mixed feelings about the Toyota Prius, the 2009 Camry hybrid has skyrocketing sales to commercial fleets.

2) CAP AND TRADE: Keynote speaker James Bruce, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist, talked about the “cap and trade” issue, and how Congress will most likely pass legislation in the next two years that could affect transportation companies mainly in the area of increased fuel taxes. Cap and trade started up in Europe in the years following adoption of the Kyoto Treaty by several countries (except for the U.S.), and is being considered by several U.S.-based companies. It basically boils down to companies trading credits to stay at acceptable emissions levels. Bruce said cap and trade would primarily affect energy, oil, and manufacturing companies, but could increase the cost of fuel for everyone. Congress is concerned that raising fuel taxes is a bad idea under current economic conditions, but that could change in the future.

3) SUCCESS STRATEGY: For fleet managers, success in handling green sustainability programs has boiled down to a few management decisions: acquiring some hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles; downsizing to smaller engine/higher fuel-economy cars; implementing and monitoring strict idle-time practices; increasing maintenance procedures including use of nitrogen-filled tires; analyzing and tracking vehicle CO2 emissions; and participating in company programs that include office energy savings, recycling, and other green practices.

4) HYBRID BATTERIES: For fleet managers with hybrids, they’re finding that the batteries are lasting through the entire lifecycle of the vehicle, which is good news for operators concerned about having to replace expensive batteries. The other side of the coin is that batteries often times do need to be replaced once the car gets more than 80,000 miles, which can happen in the second or third year of use for chauffeured transportation companies. Batteries cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000, which affects the total operating costs and can remove some of the fuel saving benefits. Another consideration factor: Hybrids are getting great resale values now, which can offset the battery replacement negative factor.

5) EMPLOYEE COMMUTES: For Josie Sharp, fleet manager for Shire Pharmaceutical Co. in Wayne, Pa., the company green fleet program now includes vanpools, carpools, and video conferencing to cut down on trips. F about such companies cutting down air travel through video conferencing, you should consider the vanpool and carpool segments, which many companies are increasing for employee work rides. Chauffeured companies can help corporate and government clients reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and better serve staff through well-managed employee transportation programs.

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