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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.
6) TRACK NUMBERS: For Sharp, success in building Shire Pharmaceutical’s green program has benefited from carefully monitoring fleet statistics: vehicle fuel spent, miles driven, fuel prices, average miles per gallon, odometer data, and carbon output in pounds (every gallon of gasoline burned produces 19.5 pounds of CO2 and 22.1 pounds of CO2 in diesel engines, according the EPA). These numbers can be used to make fleet buying decisions and to report to management and clients on the results of your green program.
7) TEST OEM GREEN PRODUCTS: Automakers are working with corporate and government fleet managers to test out new alt-fuel vehicles nationwide. This can apply to chauffeured transportation companies and provide a great opportunity to test out options and get publicized for participation. Joseph Brunetto, vice president of fleet and technology for MTC Limousine, based in Bedford Hills, N.Y., has been testing out the GM Equinox fuel cell car, and has been enthusiastically talking about the experience.
8) WAITING AND WAITING: Several of the fleet manager panelists complained about the wait time for hybrids and other alt-fuel vehicles that they want to purchase from automakers. They learned that retail customers are first and foremost, and that they will usually end up waiting longer for delivery of new vehicles than they had originally planned for. “There should be a paradigm shift for manufacturers,” said Sandra Koelzer, corporate fleet manager of Apple, Inc. “Manufacturers should stop restricting production.”
9) LINKING SAFETY PROGRAMS: More than one of the fleet manager panelists made a point out of tying in employee driver safety to their green programs, and it’s something chauffeured transportation companies should consider. These programs focus on changing driver behavior and affects idle time, insurance costs, safe and efficient routes, and other factors.
10) ISO STANDARDS: Fleet managers and corporate executives are looking at International Organization for Standardization (ISO) policies, such as ISO 14001, and many are adopting them to build total organization green programs. This is part of the process that Green Ride Global makes available to clients. ISO says that its program helps companies reduce energy consumption and improve their image among regulators, customers, and the public. (See www.iso.org for more information.)
BBM Hosts Green Fleet Conference
Green Fleet Conference 2008 was held Sept. 15-16 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, which is right next to the Navy Pier. The conference was a production of Bobit Business Media, LCT’s parent company, and was sponsored by the auto group magazines including Automotive Fleet. The conference was led by Robert Brown, who serves as associate publisher for the BBM Auto Group and also manages Detroit Big 3 automaker advertising for LCT Magazine. Kristen Messineo, LCT’s event manager, also provided management services for the conference. The Green Fleet Conference was held at the same hotel and right before the annual BusCon, where coachbuilders exhibited their latest bus offerings.
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