Ryder, Coke, GE Among 6 Firms Joining Obama's Green Fleet Program

Ryder, Coke, GE Among 6 Firms Joining Obama's Green Fleet Program

Image courtesy of Ryder.

Six companies that collectively manage nearly 1 million vehicles have joined President Barack Obama's new program aimed at making the nation's largest private fleets more fuel efficient.

In joining the National Clean Fleets Partnership, Coca-Cola, Enterprise Holdings, General Electric, Osram Sylvania, Ryder and Staples will identify, test, adopt and share fuel reduction strategies and technologies. Already the new partners have a deep bench of collective practices to draw from, including extensive deployment of alternative fuel vehicles.

"It will give us the ability to expand beyond our role in advancing natural gas to look at other technologies, specifically electric," said Scott Perry, Ryder's group director of vehicle supply management. "We think there's going to definitely be a focus on that and being able to play a broader role in educating our customers, vehicle technology development and infrastructure, and broader market and industry awareness."

The Clean Fleets Partnership was launched in April by President Barack Obama, with AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, UPS and Verizon as founding members that together operate about 275,000 company vehicles. It builds upon the Department of Energy's popular Clean Cities program, which takes a local approach to reducing fuel consumption through its nearly 100 coalitions of governments and companies. 

Ryder has interacted with various Clean Cities efforts for the last two years in Tuscon, Salt Lake City and Southern California, including a $38.7 million project with the Southern California Association of Governments Clean Cities Coalition that will deploy 202 heavy-duty natural gas trucks to the region.

"It becomes a bit cumbersome trying to manage those relationships at the state level," Perry said. "That's one of the benefits Ryder saw was being able to leverage a national relationship with DOE that filters down to the coalitions to take advantage of some of those local programs. It brings consistency at the national level and gives us the benefit of having those local relationships."

Founding partner AT&T also has worked with the Clean Cities program at both the local and national levels since the company announced in 2009 that it would spend as much as $565 million to add some 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles to its fleet by 2018, according to Katie Dugan, associate director of AT&T's alternative fuel vehicle program.

"Program leaders have served as expert resources to AT&T on the complex task of deploying a large fleet of CNG (compressed natural gas) vehicles, including how to encourage the development of public refueling facilities available for our growing CNG fleet," Dugan said in an email.

We've covered many of these new and founding members extensively over the years for their green fleet initiatives. Many commitments are big and bold, such as GE's pledge to buy 25,000 electric vehicles over the next five years for its own use, as well as for its customers. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, operates the nation's largest hybrid electric delivery fleet, while Enterprise Holdings has for several years topped our list of large alternative fuel vehicle fleets in GreenBiz.com's annual State of Green Business report.

To join the National Clean Fleets Partnership, companies must own or contractually control more than half of their vehicles, provide baseline data and sign a contract that commits partners to work with DOE to identify, test and adopt fuel reduction strategies and technologies. Partners will assemble a fuel reduction strategy with a Clean Cities account manager, who may also recommend fuel providers and equipment manufacturers.

"We'll be working with DOE resources and trying to identify where we are today in our efforts in petroleum reduction," Perry said. "(We'll) benchmark those and set goals for implementation for some of those supporting strategies."

Image courtesy of Ryder.