PHILADELPHIA – With more than 1,200 vehicles on the road across the Greater Philadelphia region, PECO said it is pursuing a three-prong strategy to deal with spiraling fuel costs. Through June, the utility said its fuel costs are more than $400,000 more than planned for the year and expects to spend more than $7 million (26 percent) for fuel for the year, according to

Bill Flemming, PECO fleet services manager, said the utility hopes to use new technology to reduce its driving mileage, educate employees about the need to cut back on engine idling, and expand its use of alternative vehicles. Flemming said the strategy would have a dual benefit — decreasing both fuel consumption and associated costs and reducing the company's greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

Flemming said PECO's use of mobile data terminals in some fleet vehicles and GPS technology used by field personnel will allow for more efficient dispatching of the utility's electric and gas crews. Currently, about 100 PECO vehicles have mobile dispatch with more units to be equipped later this year and during 2009. So far, PECO has reduced its total fuel consumption by nearly 14,000 gallons as compared with last year at this time with an ultimate goal of a five percent reduction. PECO's fleet used over 1.4 million gallons of fuel last year.

Flemming said he is also aggressively implementing an anti-idling campaign, educating employees on the impact of unnecessary idling for extended periods of time both on fuel costs and emissions. PECO's fleet services group also will be looking to expand its use of alternative-fuel vehicles. PECO now has 44 hybrid electric Ford Escapes and a demonstration hybrid electric utility lift truck. Since their introduction to the fleet in June 2005, the Escapes have logged more than 1.5 million miles with an average fuel economy of 25.8 miles per gallons.

PECO also uses biodiesel fuel for its 250 lift bucket trucks used by its electric line mechanics, which it introduced to the fleet last fall. The company started using soy-based biodiesel but switched to a blend that recycles fry grease and animal tallow at a reduced incremental cost for the biodiesel fuel. Despite higher costs, PECO has made a companywide commitment to reduce its fleet and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions.