AltWheels offers fleet managers cost-saving tips

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Gas prices may be below $4 a gallon for the moment, but costs still are having a dramatic effect on consumers, producers and haulers. Some companies, however, have found ways to keep their costs down. AltWheels, the largest event of its kind on the East Coast, will hold its annual Fleet Day on Monday, Sept. 29, at Staples world headquarters in Framingham, Mass., for companies, automakers and others to share the wealth of information and opportunities on best ideas for saving energy consumption and the environment.

AltWheels Fleet Day also provides a chance this year for participants to test-drive more than 27 types of alternative fleet vehicles, from small electric scooters to Class 7 hybrid trucks. “Reducing consumption has always been about both saving the environment and money,” says Alison Sander, founder and executive director of AltWheels. “The cost savings have really highlighted the need for sharing this information as a way to keep companies large and small in business as gas prices soar.”

Fleet managers and others from across the Northeast will converge for the one-day event to share best practices and show off their successes. On display will be dozens of vehicles, including hybrids, plug-ins, fuel-cell vehicles, ethanol and biodiesel trucks, compressed natural gas vehicles and idle reduction technologies, among others.

“Nowhere on the East Coast can fleet managers kick the tires of so many alternative green vehicles, large and small, that help save businesses money,” Sander says. “Dozens of businesses attend each year in order to learn from others about the latest technologies and which green approaches work best. Whether small personal transport vehicles or large tractor trailers, participants can see and drive technology that is in use and helping the bottom line and the environment.”

Staples, host of this year’s event, says it has saved millions of dollars through a number of fuel reduction initiatives across its delivery truck fleet. In the fall of 2006, for example, Staples says it worked with Isuzu to reconfigure its delivery trucks to limit top speeds to 60 miles per hour; as a result, fuel efficiency has improved by an average of 15 percent, resulting in a savings of more than 540,000 gallons of diesel in 2007 alone. In early 2008, the company says it started test-piloting a hybrid diesel-electric delivery truck developed by Izuzu and Enova, which is estimated to further reduce fuel use compared to a standard delivery truck and which will be on display at Fleet Day.

“Staples is committed to operating our business sustainably, not only to help the planet, but to be cost-effective,” says Mike Payette, fleet equipment manager for Staples North American Delivery. “By achieving greater fuel efficiencies over time in our delivery fleet, we’re helping to reduce our environmental impact and our fuel costs now and into the future.”

The Massachusetts Port Authority is a longtime sponsor of AltWheels Fleet Day and a leader in environmentally sustainable practices. Its Logan Airport shuttle bus fleet, powered by CNG since 1995, will exceed its 12 millionth clean mile this year. Recent replacements of model year 2001 Logan Express buses at Framingham and Braintree resulted in significant emissions reductions of particulate matter (1.42 tons per year) and nitrogen oxides (45.69 tons per year), as well as a 20 percent fuel savings annually.

Massport also offers incentives at Logan to promote the use of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles. Examples include the limited “front of line” taxi pool privileges offered to hybrid taxis, a 50 percent reduction in ground access fees for alternative fueled limos and hotel shuttles, and reserved parking spaces for hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles in Logan’s garages.

“Massport’s goal is to become a leader in sustainable practices, not just among airports and seaports, but in the business community at large,” says Thomas J. Kinton Jr., Massport’s chief executive officer and executive director. “Participation in AltWheels Fleet Day provides an opportunity to share ideas with others who have similar a similar mission.”

Hosts, sponsors and attendees from across the region include Fortune 500 companies, automakers and corporate fleet managers, as well as municipal, state and university fleet managers. For a full list of sponsors, co-hosts and schedule, go to www.altwheels.org/fleetday08.html.