Widely recognized for its innovation, Fort Wayne, Ind., began looking for ways to improve environmental performance about six or seven years ago. Last year, the operation placed 3rd in Government Fleets' Green Fleet Awards last year.
“We decided to go toward B20 biodiesel and E85 ethanol blends because we're located in an agricultural area and they were available,” says Director of Fleet Management Larry Campbell. A local chain of BP stations had begun offering E85. “Blends also saved us money because we didn't have to do much retrofitting of existing vehicles. It was more a question of checking and maintaining the existing fuel systems to handle them.”
All diesel vehicles — 100 large dump trucks, 100 pieces of assorted construction equipment, 30 fire trucks, and assorted pickup trucks and vans — use B20 most of the year and B5 in winter.
As a typical municipal fleet, drivers do very little long-distance or highway driving. It's almost all on city streets, where hybrids perform best. They're used for water meter reading, parking control, engineering inspections, and other jobs with a lot of stop-and-go driving.
“When we first estimated the fuel savings, we felt it would justify the $3,000 to $4,000 premium we'd pay for each vehicle,” Campbell says. “But now, not only are gas prices higher than we estimated, we're also getting better mileage than we expected. I started out showing the drivers how to drive hybrids efficiently, and they've become competitive about the gas mileage they're able to achieve.
“Some of the hybrids have been driven more than 100,000 miles by now, and their maintenance and repair records are really good. We've been really pleased by their safety records, too.
“We've also started buying some GM hybrid pickups, and the crews like these because they can plug tools and equipment into the power outlets on jobsites,” Campbell says.
Using a state grant to cover the difference in cost, the department worked with Navistar and Enova to add a hybrid-electric utility truck to its fleet. The truck, which is used to plow snow, patch potholes, and pick up leaves, was put into service in 2008. So far, it's 17% more fuel-efficient than its nonhybrid counterparts.