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Wanted: Large Green Trucks

May 2014, by Amy Winter - Also by this author

Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air has added this diesel-electric hybrid Hino to its truck fleet, which gets 14 miles per gallon.
Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air has added this diesel-electric hybrid Hino to its truck fleet, which gets 14 miles per gallon.

For Mary Jean Anderson, it is important to maintain an environmentally friendly mentality in all aspects of her company, including fleet vehicles. Known as San Diego’s first certified green plumber, Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air has turned to a greener large truck option — the diesel-electric hybrid Hino COE (cab-over engine).

“We have been waiting a long time for a viable option for a hybrid that is designed to accommodate all of the equipment we take out to the field every day,” says Anderson, who took over the family-owned business in 2004.

With 68 vehicles and growing, Anderson has been serving San Diego County since 1978. Specializing in plumbing installation and repairs for both residential and commercial, the company expanded to include heating and air conditioning services in 2006.

The type of vehicle depends on the type of service: plumbing services use Isuzu diesel NPR trucks, while air conditioning and heating technicians drive Chevrolet Express cargo vans.

“Our carbon footprint is an issue,” says Anderson. “We serve homeowners from North County to South Bay and from the beaches to East County, so it is really important to us to be as efficient and responsible as possible from an environmental standpoint.”

A Warehouse on Wheels

Currently, the Isuzu NPR trucks make up two-thirds of the fleet. Anderson has one Class 5 Hino 195h diesel-electric hybrid, with two more on the way.

With less than a year under its belt, the Hino has already reduced fuel costs for the company. According to Anderson, the company averages a remarkable 14 miles per gallon with the hybrid Hino versus 8 miles per gallon with the Isuzu trucks. Carrying a heavy payload to four appointments daily means fuel expenses can add up quickly for the plumbing service trucks.

“Each of our service vehicles is a plumbing parts warehouse on wheels,” says Anderson. “We carry two water heaters, six different faucets, sinks and a variety of plumbing repair parts — all of which weigh at least a ton.”
Because the hybrid Hinos cost about $58,000 apiece, the company plans to switch out the Isuzus as they reach retirement age.

In addition, the company has also changed the vehicles for its sales team. Opting for a vehicle with better fuel economy, Anderson recently replaced the company’s Ford Ranger trucks with Ford Transit Connect vans with V-6 Ecoboost engines.

Each plumbing service truck contains a 12.5-foot aluminum box on an Isuzu body with a rollup door and step-in where the water heaters and various repair parts are stored. The boxes can be transferred from the Isuzus to the new Hinos, says Anderson.

Hackney Service Vehicles installs the box and shelving on Anderson’s trucks. Hackney completes the upfits on the Isuzus and Hinos at its manufacturing facility in Kansas.

All vehicles are equipped with GPS tracking units. In addition to keeping track of a technician’s driving speed, locating the vehicle and sending maintenance alerts, the GPS units have helped recover two company trucks that were stolen, says Anderson.

A Growing Fleet

As the company has expanded by about four new vehicles a year, more attention has been given to maintenance, says Devin Carel, who oversees the company’s fleet. In fact, the company has gotten 300,000 miles out of some of its Isuzu NPRs, which average 30,000 to 50,000 miles per year.

Originally, the in-house mechanic only worked on the regular vans while the Isuzu trucks had to be sent out for repairs. But now the mechanic can work on all vehicles onsite three days a week, performing preventive maintenance work and light repair work.

“When we buy a new truck, we want to keep it as long as possible,” Carel says.

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