Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

6 Ways to Save Fuel Now

July 2010, by Tariq Kamal - Also by this author

The future is bright for work trucks. Advances in vehicle technology and alternative fuels hold the promise for a new era in which the light- and medium-duty workhorses of the American economy are no longer the fossil fuel-burning smog machines they once were.

Meanwhile, fallout from the recent economic crisis has forward-thinking fleet managers and business owners stuck in neutral. Tight budgets have forced them to keep trucks in service well beyond their projected lifecycles. And for many of those in a position to cycle in new trucks, the upfront cost of greener vehicles remains prohibitive.

"On average, we'd buy two dozen new vehicles a year," says Doug Flesher, fleet manager for Golden Valley, Minn.-based Wessin Transport Inc. "We haven't bought a new vehicle since August 2007. And for the class of truck we're running, basically a 12,000 GVW, there's no hybrid that fits our needs that's cost-effective. Even if we wanted to convert to something like compressed natural gas, [our vehicles] are just too old."

The good news? There are a number of strategies you can implement immediately to improve the fuel economy of your gas- and diesel-powered work truck fleet.

1. Downsize for Savings

If you're adding to your truck fleet this year but don't have an extra $20,000 to $40,000 to invest in the hybrid version or can't wait for the ROI, what are your alternatives?

Jason Mathers is project manager for corporate partnerships at the Environmental Defense Fund in Boston. He recently published a white paper, available as a free download at, that details the green initiatives of several large, medium-duty truck fleets. He says that vehicle selection is the first step toward reducing fuel costs.

"The biggest environmental decision a fleet manager can make is deciding which vehicles to add to your fleet," Mathers says. "It's the same for fleets of 10,000 or 15."

Mathers' paper profiles companies such as Farmington, Conn.-based Carrier Corp. For years, the HVAC systems manufacturer relied on the cargo space afforded by Ford E-250 service vans. The company wanted to build a more fuel-efficient fleet and maintain its partnership with Ford. Its solution was to convert part of the van fleet over to F-150 pickups.

"You may not think of F-150s as environmentally friendly," Mathers says, "but if it's more efficient and does the job, you're moving in the right direction."

Even downsizing one vehicle can yield substantial savings for your fleet:

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