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Clean Fleets’ bench gets deeper

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
July 11, 2011

As part of an effort launched by the White House earlier this year aimed at reducing U.S. oil imports by one-third in the next decade, President Obama unveiled the National Clean Fleets Partnership.

As reported on this site, this effort is designed to help large companies i.e. Big Shippers reduce fuel usage in their fleets by meshing electronic vehicles, alternative fuels, and fuel-savings measures into their daily operations, according to the White House. The two defined goals of this effort, said the White House, are to:
-reduce fuel through the use of more efficient vehicles and technologies, including hybrids; and
-replace gasoline and diesel powered vehicles with advanced technology vehicles or those that run on alternative fuels like electricity, natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, or propane.

The five initial “charter” members of Clean Fleets include: AT&T, FedEx, PepsiCo, UPS, and Verizon, whom collectively represent five of the ten largest fleets in the U.S. and own and operate more than 275,000 vehicles, according to a White House fact sheet. And the planned and current near-term petroleum reduction strategies under the National Clean Fleets Partnership will account for the deployment of more than 20,000 advanced technology vehicles and annual petroleum displacement in excess of more than 7 million gallons.

Now, those five charter members have a little company, with last week’s announcement that six more (mostly) shippers are on board: Coca-Cola, Enterprise Holdings, General Electric, Ryder, Staples, and Osram Sylvania.

That brings the total membership to 11—not a bad number for such a new effort, I think.
More importantly, though, is what happens with the National Clean Fleets Partnership from here. While the program is still clearly in its infancy, it already has buy-in from these 11 shippers whom are really all household names that we all know and easily recognize.

The White House is smart to aim high and bring the big dogs in first with this. Hopefully, it gains a ton of traction and the little ones will follow.
And while shippers are benefiting from the recent decline in diesel prices, the truth is the average price per gallon still remains about a dollar higher than last year’s price. That is—and should be—alarming, whether you are a shipper or carrier or neither.

This decline is likely not lasting; we all need to recognize that and not have blinders on whenever prices become a bit more tolerable or digestible. But like I have said before, it is human nature to pretend it is all good. It is so not all good, and our energy situation has the potential to get truly ugly in the coming years should the industry collectively sit on its hands and not take any meaningful action.

This is what makes Clean Fleets promising. Its core objective is to reduce fuel use and achieve greater efficiency and cost-savings for the nation’s largest commercial fleets.
Multiple freight transportation and energy experts have told me straight-up that this plan is the right thing to do. There are challenges—largely of the financial nature—to be sure, but it provides the mechanism for increased collaboration among carriers, one told me.

Another one noted that the large companies involved all bring scale to the table, which has long been a drawback to more widely accepted usage of alternative fuel and energy vehicles.
It is very much in the early innings with Clean Fleets, but the team looks pretty strong. Let’s hope they get some runners on base and keep things moving.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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