Green Fleet Mentality

In the new, Democratic-led world, change is going to come quickly in the form of Browner, Chu, Jackson and Sutley. President Obama's appointments represent a Green dream team that has a history of driving environmental initiatives. And fleet managers who get ahead of the curve will be the ones that survive and flourish.

We will soon see historic changes in the capping of carbon-based emissions, and eventually trading carbon credits, as well as a mandated focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many companies are beginning to work with environmental consultants to benchmark emissions compared to similar sized companies, documenting and validating carbon footprint and gas emissions through a baseline study using methodologies recognized by the EPA, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Carbon Disclosure Project.

The bottom line is fleets can be major contributors of greenhouse gasses, and therefore targets of upcoming Green legislation, mandates and regulations.

A simple approach to this challenge is to view it from three angles: how we build our fleets, how we operate them, and how we manage waste that is produced. All three activities will be impacted by recycling, re-use and renew best practices.

Whether you buy stock vehicles with minimal special requests, or custom build to meet unique demands of your business, it's time to make your suppliers part of your green substantiation. For instance, every Safety-Kleen route truck body is built using 68.5 percent recycled materials. Our oil and vacuum trucks, which are highly specialized in their design and usage, are built with a minimum of 20 percent recycled aluminum and steel in each and every vessel. Reducing the carbon footprint at the manufacturing phase is key to a successful and sustainable plan.

Much has been written and discussed about how to apply Green thinking to the operations of your fleet. Logistics management, driving habits, engine and tire maintenance are extremely important and effective at reducing fuel usage. For instance, all Safety-Kleen vehicles are equipped with electronic control modules (ECMs) set to a five-minute idle shut off, reducing unnecessary idling. Over the road equipment is being retro-fitted with auxiliary power units (APUs) so the vehicle does not have to continue to run while the driver is in the sleeper berth. In addition, all equipment has been set to a maximum of 65 mph in the U.S. and 100 kph in Canada, to keep fuel consumption efficient, along with other programs like tire maintenance.

What other activities does the fleet operator control? Mitigation can be achieved through re-use of materials. Motor oil and antifreeze are almost indefinitely re-usable. In fact, a fleet that collects and recycles its motor oil can claim significant reductions in overall greenhouse gas emission depending on how those materials are ultimately managed.

Fuel is another fluid that demands attention. Biodiesel and hybrid trucks currently being tested by large fleets must be evaluated for cost versus payback. Not all alternatives are clear cut winners today, but improved technologies, lower costs and future incentives by the new Green administration now point to a greater likelihood that we'll see these alternatives commonplace in future fleets. Even if you decline to implement them, it's best to have a clear, documented sustainability plan in place for your customers, your suppliers and your investors.

Most major companies through numerous business arrangements will need to do the following:

  • Create a carbon baseline with help from a reputable environmental consulting firm
  • Establish a greenhouse gas emission mitigation plan
  • Work with every partner and vendor in your supply chain
  • Understand the carbon footprint of your vehicles
  • Continuously work to minimize your waste streams
  • Pay attention to impending Green initiatives

It is no longer a question of whether fleets should be considering Green initiatives; it is a question of how quickly they can adopt the practices that Safety-Kleen and other industry leaders have already initiated.