For municipal fleets, it isn't easy being green. Big cities in particular are challenged with large numbers of diverse vehicle equipment for a variety of fleet services, from parks maintenance, street sweeping and sewer repairs to road construction, snow removal and waste management.
Perhaps nobody knows more about greening a municipal fleet than the New York City Parks & Recreation Dept., which recently won the NAFM (National Association of Fleet Managers) Greenest Fleet award. The department oversees 40 different fleet operations and almost all of its 2,400 pieces of equipment are run on some type of cleaner technology where available, be it biodiesel, CNG, electric or solar power.
The City of Toronto, Canada, is looking into the use of CNG for its solid waste fleet and working with manufacturers to develop alternative-fueled trucks that can be used in cold as well as warm weather.
For the past two years, Toronto has been successfully running one biodiesel (B20) garbage packer that was fitted with a heated fuel line and fuel tank to allow it to run on the alternative fuel. All 850 of New York City Parks Dept.'s diesel trucks and equipment are now fueled with B20 as well. In addition, the department tested B50 with good results in a 40-vehicle pilot project last summer.
Keith Kerman, assistant commissioner for the NYC Parks Dept., explains that the use of B50, once it becomes more widely accepted in the industry as a viable alternative fuel, will have a substantial impact on reducing vehicle emissions. Meanwhile, B20 is a stepping stone for New York City in reaching its goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 30% by 2030.
Biodiesel, together with the federal mandate for diesel particulate filters in all new diesel trucks (which effectively reduces particulate emissions by 90%), offers a major opportunity for green.
The Fleet Services division of the City of Toronto is currently working with Eaton and Peterbilt to build a hybrid garbage packer that will be tested out during 2009 and 2010. Hybrid technology like Eaton's HLA (Hydraulic Launch Assist) is ideally suited for municipal vehicles that make multiple starts and stops, such as refuse trucks. The regenerative braking system captures and stores a vehicle's kinetic energy, which is then used to help accelerate the vehicle.
Minimizing the impact of worn tires is another good strategy for municipal fleets. Since 2005, when Toronto began installing Goodyear Unisteel G287 tires with DuraSeal technology on the steer axles of its 300 waste hauling and recycling vehicles, tire replacement has been significantly decreased. DuraSeal's gel-like compound built into the inner liner of a tire seals punctures in the tread area up to ¼ in. in diameter.
Besides its heavy truck fleets, the New York City Parks Dept. and Toronto have both made a lot of progress in greening their light-duty sedan and SUV fleets.
For vehicle manufacturers, the next frontier is to build alternative-fueled commercial pickups and vans, the work trucks of many municipal fleets.