LONG BEACH, CA - Lengthening the City's street sweeping vehicles by 18 inches does wonders for the environment, and the City's pocketbook. For years, Long Beach has been the only city in the nation using environmentally friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG) sweepers, but they couldn't finish their daily routes without coming in to refuel.

By increasing the size of the fuel tank by 20 gallons to 85 gallons, the next-generation sweepers can now avoid mid-route refueling stops. Redesigning the sweepers to accommodate the larger fuel tank not only saves fuel and money, but also staff time and maintenance costs while improving service delivery.  The Department of Public Works Fleet Services Bureau recently beat out such cities as Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, and Colorado Springs to be named the No. 1 Government Green Fleet in North America.

The judges: Clean Cities New York, a government-industry partnership sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to reduce petroleum consumption in the transportation sector.

The award is based on the following criteria:

  • Fleet Composition and Utilization.
  • Fuel and Emissions.
  • Policy and Planning.
  • Education; Executive and Employee Participation.
  • Supporting Programs such as recycling.

"This award shows how innovative green decisions continue to benefit the City of Long Beach in many ways," Mayor Bob Foster said. "Not only does this benefit the environment, but it saves taxpayers' money as well."The City of Long Beach has been using alternative fuels for more than 30 years, starting with compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles in the 1970s.

Today, the City's fleet contains several hundred vehicles powered by CNG, LNG, propane, electricity and biodiesel, in addition to a growing number of hybrid vehicles. Hydrogen-powered vehicles are planned. Approximately 60 percent of the City's refuse fleet is powered by LNG, with the goal of powering all of the fleet with LNG by 2010. In the meantime, the other 40 percent of the refuse fleet is equipped with particulate traps that improve air quality. In addition, the Fleet Services Bureau provides a host of environmentally sound business practices, including:

  •  Emphasis on preventative maintenance (monitoring tire pressure, replacing filters).
  • Service "hubs" allow vehicles to be serviced close to where they are used, eliminating unnecessary trips and associated fuel use and "wear-and-tear."
  • Recycle everything, including engine coolant, brake fluid and oil.
  • Staff training is a priority.

Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Reduces dependency on foreign oil.
  • Reduction in the City's carbon footprint.
  • Cleaner air is associated with multiple heath benefits, including lower asthma rates.
  • Meeting or exceeding regional, state and federal environmental regulations.

Even the vehicle lifts at the shop are environmentally friendly. Using above ground lifts eliminates the possibility of hydraulic fluid leaking into the ground in the event of an accident. In addition, the Fleet Services Bureau was ranked No. 22 of the top 100 fleets in the nation in 2008, a dramatic improvement from being No. 60 in 2007.

"There are 38,000 municipal fleets in the United States, so being ranked 22nd in the nation is a great honor for the employees at Fleet Services and a testimony to our efficiency," said Carlos Velasquez, Acting Manager of the Fleet Services Bureau. "We are proud of our top rankings, but are always looking for more cost-efficient means of operation with the ultimate goal of being the No. 1 top rated fleet in the nation."