SCHAUMBURG, IL – Tackling the challenge of “greening” medium-duty trucks was the focus of one of the conference sessions at the 2012 Green Fleet Conference, with the NTEA’s Fleet Relations Director Bob Johnson presenting a plan truck fleets can follow to successfully meet their sustainability goals.

The goal of the plan, Johnson said, is for the fleet manager to determine his or her fleet options and match them to the correct fleet application. He outlined several major factors to consider in the plan, including duty and drive cycle, capital investment, ROI, vehicle availability, and fuel availability.

To start, he suggested that the fleet define the drive cycle for its vehicles. To do so, he said the fleet manager needs data. He noted that many fleets have multiple drive cycles, for example in urban, suburban, and rural areas. One tool fleets can use that Johnson identified is from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and is called Fleet DNA, which calculates the kinetic energy requirements for a vehicle. When combined with the NREL DRIVE program, using this tool can match a vehicle to the energy model developed by Fleet DNA based on known drive cycles.

The next stage in the planning process is to match available technologies to objectives. Johnson emphasized that “one size does not fit all” applications in a fleet. Fleets must take into account operational and financial considerations when it comes to selecting a vehicle and related technologies. Operational considerations include possible range limitations, payload factors, and vehicle flexibility.

Next, cost considerations include the initial vehicle acquisition costs, infrastructure costs (he cautioned not to overlook the costs of training and new equipment when evaluating infrastructure) alternative-fuel costs, possible regulatory non-compliance costs, and the overall return-on-investment for a specific alternative-fuel vehicle.

Overall, the plan to green a truck fleet involves many factors. Johnson said that although you want to green your fleet, you always want to reduce your operating costs. He added that fleet managers always have a responsibility to the fleet as well as the environment.

By Greg Basich and Lauren Fletcher

Changed spelling of Johnston to Johnson, 10/5/2012, 10:14 a.m.