With more than 85,000 vehicles and 20,000 pieces of wheeled work equipment, AT&T's Fleet Operations' primary strength centers on its people. Providing company drivers with a world-class fleet remains paramount for a company known for offering world-class communications service.
"AT&T connects people to their world, where they work and live, and we pride ourselves on doing it better than anyone else," said Jerome Webber, vice president of fleet operations, AT&T Services Inc., based in Dallas. "Fleet Operations is a critical component of this, as we are on the ground in communities across the nation providing service to our customers."
AT&T Fleet Operations, as of April, employs approximately 550 management and non-management employees, who provide end-to-end administration of company vehicles that primarily support AT&T's Network Services organization, including Installation & Maintenance, Construction, and Central Office Operations. Vehicles are also used by other departments throughout the company, such as Mobility, Logistics, and Sales.
AT&T's fleet comprises a range of vehicle types, including light utility-bed trucks, vans, light aerial lift trucks, medium/heavy trucks, passenger cars, pickups, and wheeled work equipment. The majority of vehicles are manufactured by Ford and General Motors.
AT&T Strives for the Best Service for Customers
The company's geographic reach is global, as AT&T provides services in all 50 U.S. states and more than 160 countries. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation's fastest 3G network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high-speed Internet, and voice services to about 300 million people around the world, according to the company.
"We proudly offer the best wireless coverage worldwide and offer the most wireless phones that work in the greatest number of countries," Webber said.
The company, which has 294,600 employees worldwide, also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse and AT&T • DIRECTV brands. The company's suite of Internet Protocol (IP)-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world.
AT&T Fleet Operations is one of several internal organizations - including Global Strategic Sourcing, Supply Chain Operations, Purchasing, and Supplier Diversity - that comprise AT&T Supply Chain and Fleet Operations.
"Our employees take pride in what they do and are dedicated to serving their clients to the best of their ability every day," said Webber.
Fleet Operations Strategizes to Better Manage Costs
Proactively managing costs and efficiencies is also vital for the success of the fleet department, allowing management to standardize policy, better utilize technology, and implement the integration of efficient alternative fuels.
"AT&T Fleet Operations also has a strong focus on results. We work hard to measure results and make sound business decisions based on those results," Webber said.
The organization strives to maximize fleet utilization by right-sizing the number of company vehicles. The team painstakingly analyzes all vehicle options, ensuring the perfect fit is selected for the job at hand.
"We want the right mix, in the right place, at the right time," Webber explained. "Develop a strategy and set goals that work for your company. It's about taking steps in the right direction, not determining a one-time, one-size-fits-all solution."
And, as is true with many organizations, there is an ongoing need for capital to fund replacement vehicles, so the fleet team continually works toward containing costs by making its fleet as efficient as possible.
"AT&T Fleet Operations is in the process of standardizing vendors, policies, methods, and procedures corporate-wide to decrease variation and leverage synergies throughout the organization," Webber said. "Fleet standardization will allow us to develop consistent practices and procedures that will decrease operational variability, reduce costs, and improve service levels throughout the corporation."
AT&T Fleet Lowers Fuel Costs & Decreases Fleet Emissions
Since fuel-related costs are extremely variable, during the past year, AT&T stepped up investigating ways to minimize its dependence on imported oil by investing in alternative-fuel vehicles, implementing an idle-reduction program, and utilizing GPS technology.
"With such a large fleet, it is essential we develop and implement a long-term strategy that benefits both the bottom line and the communities where we operate," Webber said. "Specifically, our fleet strategy is guided by the need to reduce our dependence on imported oil, insulate our exposure to volatile gas prices, and reduce our environmental impact in our service communities."
In June 2008, AT&T made an initial investment of 105 alternative-fuel vehicles, including 25 CNG vans, 65 electric hybrids - Ford Escape and Toyota Prius models - and 15 hybrid-electric conversion work trucks. The company deployed these vehicles in geographic locations to allow them to observe the vehicles' performance in all weather conditions and traffic patterns. Through the trial, management found a mix of vehicles worked best for AT&T's fleet.
Using the knowledge gained in 2008, management made a significant, long-term commitment to alternative-fuel vehicles, and in March 2009, AT&T announced a $565 million investment over the next 10 years to deploy approximately 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles.
The initiative has two components. First, over the next five years, Fleet Operations will replace approximately 8,000 gasoline-powered service vehicles with vehicles powered by domestically available compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG vehicles emit approximately 25-percent fewer emissions than traditional gasoline vehicles.
"To date, this is the largest commitment to CNG vehicles by a U.S. company," Webber said.
AT&T will also work with natural gas service providers to build up to 40 new fueling stations to support the fueling needs of this commitment. Additionally, over the next decade, AT&T will replace about 7,100 passenger cars with alternative-fuel models.
During the initial phase of deployment, gasoline-powered vehicles will be replaced with hybrid models. As technologies evolve, additional alternative-fuel models will be considered.
"This not only benefits our company's bottom line, we are hoping to signal demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles to be built in this country," Webber said.
Finding the Right Alternative-Fuel Vehicles for the Job
AT&T is working with several key domestic suppliers to upfit vehicles with CNG technology for fleet use. Webber and his team thoroughly researched all alternative-fuel vehicle options, conducting cost analyses in combination with job requirements.
"We were very selective in choosing which types of alternative-fuel and more fuel-efficient vehicles to deploy and where," Webber said. "We're exploring multiple fuel-saving and emissions-reducing solutions suited for diverse driving situations and locations."
During its alternative-fuel research, the fleet team assessed:
■ Commercial availability.
■Vehicle acquisition costs.
■Greenhouse gas emissions.
■Associated tax benefits.
■Average miles per gallon.
■Average cost per gallon.
Team members also researched additional infrastructure requirements, such as mechanic training, equipment, inspections, and refueling stations.
To further get a grip on unnecessary fuel costs, AT&T implemented an idle-reduction policy and installed GPS technology in its vehicles. The idle-reduction program is expected to reduce both fuel costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The company encourages drivers to follow fuel-saving tips, such as avoiding fast acceleration and hard braking, keeping tires properly inflated, and reducing cargo weight.
According to a vehicle idling calculator, if all AT&T 2008 fleet drivers fleet avoided idling for just 10 minutes a day, the company would reduce petroleum consumption by nearly 2 million gallons and reduce direct GHG emissions by approximately 39.6 million lbs. per year.
AT&T utilizes GPS technology to determine the most straightforward service routes. Nearly all technician vehicles are equipped with GPS capabilities, representing 65 percent of the company's fleet or about 56,000 vehicles.
Use of this technology has provided increased visibility into business operations and allowed Fleet Operations and its clients to uncover opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce costs, such as:
■Better management of technicians' miles driven per day.
■Improved processes in place for work center returns.
■Improved inventory management.
■Reduced travel time and costs with real-time dispatching.
"We've also helped develop a Daily Best Fuel Price tool that allows drivers to check the cheapest fuel stations within their assigned routes," Webber said. "Pricing information is updated every seven minutes, so drivers get the most accurate pricing information."
Results from Alt-Fuel Vehicles Will be Significant
The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) estimates overall use of alternative-fuel vehicles, compared to conventional vehicles, will cut its fleet fuel consumption by 49 million gallons over the 10-year deployment period. Reducing fuel consumption will also reduce CO2 emissions by more than 211,00 metric tons over the same period, the equivalent of removing the emissions from more than 38,600 traditional passenger vehicles for a year.
Fleet Operations estimates the following benefits from its alt-fuel vehicles:
■CNG vans are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by around 25 percent compared to traditional gasoline vans.
■Electric-hybrid vehicles are expected achieve up to a 39-percent improvement in fuel economy, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 29 percent.
"We'll continue to track metrics such as fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, operating costs, performance, and driver satisfaction for each vehicle," Webber said.
AT&T Offers Assistance to the EPA
Late last year, AT&T joined efforts to develop cutting-edge approaches to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by offering assistance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is currently evaluating the provisions of the Clean Air Act that may be applicable to regulating GHG emissions. In the filing with the EPA, company officials advised federal regulators of the potential for AT&T - and the information and communications technology (ICT) industry at large - to help limit emissions while expanding the potential for economic growth.
From decreasing energy-intensive travel to providing centralized data management, AT&T is actively working to assess the role that ICT products and services can play in reducing emissions and increasing energy efficiencies.
"We also conserve natural resources through waste reduction, recovery, and recycling efforts," said Jerome Webber, vice president of fleet operations, AT&T Services Inc.