Fleet Management: Finding the Funds to Go ‘Green’

Although hard financial times may leave campus fleet managers wondering how they can afford to go green, hospitals, schools and universities can learn from the City of Inglewood, which has used funds from a number of government programs to support its eco-friendly fleet efforts.

Fleets often associate sustainability programs with the shelling out big bucks to buy as many eco-friendly products and equipment as possible. Indeed, in these financially troubling times, the cost of greening up can bust already tight budgets. For the City of Inglewood, Calif.’s Fleet Management and Transit Services Division, environmental and fiscal responsibility requires being proactive and knowing where to look.

Fleet Services Superintendent Rick Longobart takes a forward-thinking approach, offsetting higher prices through alternative energy, improved maintenance procedures and effective productivity rates.

In 2003, the city adopted a six-year alternative fuel plan identifying 143 pieces of equipment to replace with alternative-fuel units. “During the preparation of equipment replacement, the city prepares grants in advance to ensure fund availability prior to purchasing eligible equipment,” says Longobart.

In addition to owning and operating the city’s 600-unit fleet, the fleet department’s 17-member team is responsible for servicing 50 city divisions and insources other agencies’ fuel purchases.

To date, more than 150 vehicles have been purchased or converted to operate on CNG, propane, electric and hybrid technology, and biodiesel. CNG infrastructure and a fully automated propane fueling station were installed in 2004 using financial assistance from several governmental resources. Through aggressive efforts, Inglewood has reduced heavy-duty vehicle inventory to five on-road diesel pieces of equipment, while the remaining equipment operates on alternative energy.

Adopting CNG Leads to Savings
A participant in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program through the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the city is required to promote alternative-fuel technology and users. “Inglewood’s alternative-fuel vehicle acquisitions and development of a fueling infrastructure are proactive efforts to improve air quality within the community and encourage alt-fuel use,” says Longobart.

NOTE: To learn from two grant writers who have helped their communities receive more than $5 million in fleet grant funds, attend the Government Fleet Expo and Conference June 8-10 in Denver. For more information, click here.

Based on mileage, age, maintenance costs, and suitability, 143 of 513 mobile units in the 600-unit fleet were identified for replacement with alternative-fuel vehicles. The city’s fleet is comprised of 15 motorcycles, 181 passenger sedans, 38 vans, 88 pickup trucks, 111 light-duty trucks, 22 medium-duty trucks, 24 heavy-duty trucks, 15 tractors, 20 trailers and 86 other miscellaneous pieces of equipment.

In addition to reducing air pollution, fueling CNG vehicles costs less than funding diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles, achieving annual savings of more than $120,000, claims Longobart. Access to more than 100 CNG fueling stations in the Los Angeles region helps promote CNG use. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and other Southern California cities also deploy CNG vehicles, including maintenance trucks, police vehicles, sweepers, and transit buses. “Alternative fuel has provided tremendous savings to the city. In addition, city staff has embraced the technology and supports the commitment towards the reduction of greenhouse gases, and has received positive reaction from city administration, the mayor and city council members, and citizens,” adds Longobart.

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