FedEx, UPS and 3 Other Transport Leaders Commit to Cleaner Fleets

FedEx, UPS and 3 Other Transport Leaders Commit to Cleaner Fleets

Five leaders in green transport and logistics -- AT&T, PepsiCo, United Parcel Service, FedEx and Verizon -- have become charter members of a national effort to reduce use of diesel fuel and gasoline with cleaner, greener fleets.

The National Clean Fleets Partnership, an Obama Administration initiative announced last week, is a public-private venture designed to help big companies reduce fuel consumption through the use of more electric vehicles, alternative fuels and fuel-saving measures.

The charter members members operate five of the 10 largest corporate fleets in the United States. Together, the five companies are responsible for some 275,000 vehicles. Though none has a completely green fleet, all five firms have made headlines for their work in integrating electric or hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels and fuel efficiency strategies into their operations and for setting ambitious goals to reduce emissions.

As GreenBiz.com has reported, rivals FedEx and UPS are also arch-competitors in their pursuit of sustainability, particularly regarding their fleets; AT&T and Verizon have taken steps to reduce the environmental tread of their vehicles; and PepsiCo's Frito-Lay has added all-electric delivery trucks to its fleet, in addition to taking other measures.

Three of the five firms also are longtime members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program to help companies cut fuel consumption, costs and greenhouse gas emissions. PepsiCo, UPS and FedEx are SmartWay participants, with the two logistics firms being charter partners.

In the National Clean Fleets Partnership, the Department of Energy will provide participating companies specialized resources as well as technical expertise and support in efforts to further reduce fuel use and increase efficiency.

The new partnership is part of the DOE Vehicle Technology Program's "Clean Cities" initiative. It is also a part of President Obama's larger campaign to increase the country's energy security by reducing reliance on foreign oil. Ramping up energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption are key to the push that began when the president took office. The announcement of the Clean Fleets Partnership on Friday capped a week in which the president delivered a much-anticipated speech on energy security and his administration issued a challenge to American entrepreneurs to help bring next-gen energy technology to market.

"Even though America uses 25 percent of the world's oil, we currently have only about 2 percent of the world's oil reserves," Obama said, speaking about the Clean Fleets Partnership at a UPS customer center in Landover, Md.

"Even if we used every last drop of all the oil we have, it wouldn't be enough to meet our long-term energy needs. So, real energy security can only come if we find ways to use less oil -- if we invest in cleaner fuels and greater efficiency."

Noting that the federal government has doubled the number of clean energy vehicles in its fleet, Obama added:

"In the next few years, we're going to switch the entire fleet over. And I'm here at UPS because it's not just the government getting in on the action. Companies like UPS, FedEx, AT&T, Verizon, and PepsiCo -- firms with some of the largest fleets in the country -- are switching to more efficient vehicles. And through our Clean Fleets Partnership, driven not by government, but by business, more companies are going to be switching to electric and alternative vehicles, too -- not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it's good for their bottom lines."

Current efforts and near-term plans of the five companies will put more than 20,000 advanced technology vehicles on the road and result in an estimated annual petroleum displacement of more than 7 million gallons, according to the White House.

Amid the administration's energy news, Deutsche Post DHL announced its latest bid to reduce fleet emissions in the U.S. Deutsche Post DHL CEO Frank Appel traveled to Manhattan to present the first vehicles in what is to become an all-green DHL fleet serving New York City. DHL Express intends to have 30 American-made, battery-powered electric vans and 50 hybrid trucks on the city streets by September.

In addition to the government, truck-makers, industry groups and NGOs are collaborating with businesses to improve fleet efficiency and cut the environmental impacts of trucking. Eaton Corp. has worked with FedEx, UPS and PepsiCo among other firms to develop hybrid electric trucks. The Environmental Defense Fund is partnering with firms to help green medium duty trucks, the vehicles considered the workhorses of delivery fleets in the U.S. And in October 2009, the Rocky Mountain Institute and trucking industry leaders launched the North American Council for Freight Efficiency in an effort to double trucking efficiency by modifying operations and employing existing technologies.

In a recent interview with GreenBiz Senior Writer Adam Aston, UPS Chief Sustainability Officer Scott Wicker detailed his firm's environmental commitments. Speaking of his company's multilevel strategy to green its fleet and reduce emissions, Wicker offered a comment that also applies to broader industry efforts:

"There's no silver bullet," he said. "All the alternatives are more expensive up front, but promise advantages in the long run that we have to explore."

Image credit: Office White House photo by Pete Souza via WhiteHouse.gov.