Green Operations

Long Beach Garners #1 Government Green Fleet Title

March 2009, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

It's a startling fact: in the Los Angeles basin more people die as a result of air pollution-related illnesses than in car accidents. The City of Long Beach, Calif., fleet takes pride in doing its part to reduce harmful vehicle-created emissions.

With a history of running environmentally friendly fleets dating back to the 1970s and a continued commitment to their cause, the City earned the No. 1 place in the 2008 "Government Green Fleet" award.

"All of us at the City of Long Beach Fleet Services Bureau were ecstatic upon learning we were to be awarded the No. 1 Green Fleet in North America," said Carlos Velasquez, acting manager, Fleet Services Bureau. "We were elated to hear we received this honor, but also tempered at knowing we can and must do more."

The City of Long Beach began employing cutting-edge fleet technology in 1970 with the purchase of 50 compressed natural gas (CNG) Ford Rancheros. In the '80s, the City invested in CNG police patrol cars and trucks, and in the '90s, moved on to employ CNG refuse trucks. The City continues to rely on CNG vehicles and, since 2000, has added liquefied natural gas (LNG) units such as street sweepers, refuse trucks, and pothole trucks to its fleet, in addition to gas-electric hybrids and biodiesel-fueled beach tractors.

"Long Beach was the first city in the country to use LNG sweepers as part of its fleet," Velasquez said. "LNG vehicles burn clean natural gas and replace diesel-burning engines that produce particulate matter and leave a much heavier carbon footprint. LNG engines also require less internal maintenance because of the clean-burning properties of natural gas. The public has benefited by much cleaner air, reduced costs in maintenance, and steady, low prices of natural gas."

Partnerships are Key to Being 'Green'

In all, nearly half the City's 1,700 vehicles are powered by alternative fuel and produce fewer emissions than traditional counterparts. To consistently increase this contingent of environmentally friendly vehicles, Long Beach Fleet Services employs a strategic vehicle replacement program. As vehicles become more expensive to maintain than replace, Fleet Services meets with city agencies to encourage the choice of either alternative-fuel or hybrid replacement vehicles.

"Fleet Services has great cooperation and partnership toward being green with other departments within the City and has been able to become the No. 1 Green Fleet in America by the synergistic understanding from the public and the various city departments," Velasquez said. "We believe it is vital that a statistical analysis showing the return on investment of hybrid and alternative fuels be displayed to our departmental customers during fleet review meetings. Emphasis on the long-term gain of fuel efficiency, less maintenance, and less impact on the environment helps our customers make green decisions."

Thus far, this replacement strategy has worked. For instance, the city's Environmental Services Bureau will replace its entire refuse vehicle fleet with cleaner-burning LNG by 2010. In addition, the city's street sweepers are mostly converted to LNG, significantly reducing their carbon footprint and resulting in more breathable air.

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