NAFA survey indicates increase in sustainability initiatives

Fleets throughout North America seek to reduce their carbon footprint, improve the number miles per gallon their vehicles receive and use a mix of alternative fuels as part of their sustainability initiative.

According to a recent survey by NAFA Fleet Management Association, the number of corporate fleets with sustainability initiatives soared from 64.5 percent to 76.6 percent within the past 12 months.

Roughly 200 NAFA Members who are fleet managers throughout North America were polled over a period of two weeks in July. Results of the poll were released in the September/October 2010 issue of FLEETSolutions, NAFA’s bi-monthly print magazine.

While the survey showed that roughly 80 percent of all fleets currently have sustainability initiatives in place, the number of public fleets with initiatives remained the same as the year before. Of the fleets that do not currently have sustainability initiatives in place, 86 percent of corporate fleets and 70 percent of public service fleets have no plans to start one.

The survey shows public service fleets are far more aggressive in their approach to sustainability, using a larger variety of methods and alternative fuels than their corporate counterparts.

Three-quarters of all public service fleets use a mix of hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles as well as the use of alternative fuel vehicles. More than a third have downsized to 4-cylinder vehicles and 30 percent reported the use of only fuel efficient vehicles. In addition, 17.5 percent have made a move to the use of only hybrid vehicles.

For corporate fleets, the most popular method was the use of a mix of hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles at 59.2 percent. Close behind was a change to 4-cylinder vehicles (55.1 percent). There were also strong showings for the use of alternative fuel vehicles (36.7 percent) and the use of only fuel efficient vehicles (30.6 percent). In addition, roughly 10 percent of corporate fleets reported the purchase of carbon offsets to become carbon neutral – twice as many as on the public service side.

While 91 percent of the corporate fleets who use alternative fuel vehicles report the use of E85, no other alternative fuel topped the 10 percent mark. Public service fleets, however, were evenly split between those who used E85 vehicles (64.4 percent) and those using vehicles run on biodiesel (63.5 percent). In addition, public service fleets used vehicles run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) at 33.7 percent, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) at 16.3 percent, and electricity.

Within the next year, a number of public service fleets plan to procure light-duty hybrids (66.4 percent), E85 (57.9 percent), bio-diesel (52.3 percent), battery electrics (44.9 percent), plug-in hybrids (32.7 percent) and heavy-duty hybrids (29 percent). In addition, a significant amount plan on procuring CNG (15 percent) and LPG (13.1 percent) and nearly 3 percent are looking to procure hydrogen.

Meanwhile, corporate fleets are mostly interested in procuring light-duty hybrids (63.8 percent) and E85 (53.2 percent) in the upcoming year; the numbers for CNG, bio-diesel, heavy-duty hybrids, and plug-in hybrids are all less than 11 percent, although close to 20 percent are interested in battery electrics.

The NAFA survey also notes that the current economic downturn throughout North America has affected sustainability programs substantially. Yet, even with the economic problems, nearly three out of every four fleet managers who took part in the survey believe the sustainability issue will gain in importance over the next several years.