When it comes to Southern California, many people think of perpetual sunshine and Hollywood. In the fleet industry, though, they think of stringent air quality regulations. Similar to other fleets in the region, companies in the motion picture industry face the same challenges with regard to keeping costs down and meeting the state’s strict air-quality rules.
Take Sony Pictures Entertainment for example. The company recently updated its fleet of trucks to meet and, in this case, surpass California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations. The Culver City-based motion picture company recently replaced 29 trucks in its fleet with a mix of new CARB-compliant gasoline and diesel models. Green Fleet magazine spoke with Sony’s Paul Casella, vice president of logistics for the company, about its fleet and how this new generation of “greener” trucks will help the company reduce emissions for more sustainable operation.
Although the deadline to replace its vehicles, or add filter systems to them, is years away, Sony wanted to cut emissions and offer its customers more sustainable transportation options. “The studio is always looking at ways to offer cleaner, greener, and more cost-effective production options to our clients in the industry,” Casella said. “These upgrades to our transportation fleet will help us continue to reduce exhaust emissions in everyday operations, which make a significant difference to air quality in the region.”
The studio replaced its passenger vans as part of this upgrade, and it uses hybrids, primarily the Toyota Prius, in its courier department fleet, helping to reduce emissions in and around Los Angeles. Sony also added clean diesel filter systems on its fleet of generator and camera trucks, which reduces their emissions by more than 85 percent, according to the company.
In 1972, Casella started with Columbia Pictures (which is located on the Sony lot) back before that company was acquired by Sony Pictures as part of its acquisition of motion-picture-related assets from Coca-Cola in 1989. Although Casella oversees the transportation department, he has been responsible for a range of departments throughout his time at Columbia and Sony Pictures, including 14 back lot departments, though he no longer oversees them, and now the courier department, and the “expendable store,” which sells hardware to different productions on the studio lot.
The New Trucks
California’s new CARB truck and bus regulations require companies and other organizations in California that are operating diesel-fueled fleet vehicles to either add a diesel particulate filter (DPF) system or replace the engine (or the vehicle) to meet air quality standards.
Casella said the company remarketed 30 of its older trucks and six of its generators through Hertz before purchasing the new CARB-compliant vehicles. He added that he purchased the new trucks through Donlen, a Hertz subsidiary, which he became acquainted with after remarketing the older vehicles.
The new trucks are Ford F-Series models, primarily F-550s and F-650s. On the F-650, Casella said the company went with diesel models, specifically ones with the Cummins 6.7L ISB diesel engine. The fleet’s administrators chose Allison 6-speed transmissions for those models. Five of the F-650s will be used for set dressing and to haul props, and 15 out of the 29 purchased will be stake bed models. On the F-550s, the company went with 6.8L V-10 gasoline models. Sony uses the stake bed models to tow trailers.
“When shows are out shooting, and they have the wardrobe and makeup trailers out, these are the trucks that tow the trailers,” Casella explained. “They park the trailers at a ‘base camp’ and load the camera, props, grip, and electric equipment, etc. on to the stake beds, which makes them mobile when they’re out on the street.”
Casella said he worked with Marathon Truck Body to upfit the new trucks.[PAGEBREAK]
A Fleet in Flux
The new CARB-compliant trucks are the latest change in Sony’s fleet, but it has gone through a number of transitions over the years. According to Casella, the company redesigned how its fleet operates from the ground up so it’s hub-based rather than set up to travel long distances. Today, the fleet operates primarily within 30 miles of Sony Pictures’ studio lot.
“At one time we had a fleet of 250 vehicles,” Casella said. “We’re not sending our fleet to distant locations as much as we have done in the past, so we redesigned and rebuilt the fleet. Now we’re down to about 100 vehicles [in the transportation department].”
Different departments at the company use fleet vehicles, with Sony Pictures operating vehicles in its transportation department and its courier department. In the transportation department, the company has eight 15-passenger Ford E-350 vans, eight trailers, and 84 power units, either Ford F-550 or F-650 vehicles, and 13 three-axle Freightliner tractors. In its courier department, the company has 19 Toyota Prius hybrid sedans, six Ford E-350 Cargo Vans, one E-350 15-passenger van, one roll-on/roll-off 16-foot container van and two medium-duty trucks (similar to parcel delivery vans) that have 16-foot beds on them.
Beyond the vehicles Sony Pictures owns, the company leases vehicles to expand its fleet on an as-needed basis to help ensure it operates cost effectively. Sony Pictures leases vehicles through three companies, Midway Ford and Leasing, Donlen, and Executive Car Leasing. The studio typically leases to provide vehicles for industry professionals and for creative talent (i.e., “movie stars”) who need a vehicle for a set period of time.
“For certain shows, the cast, crew, or producers request alternative-fuel or other vehicles,” Casella said.
Beyond purchasing vehicles, Casella said Sony leases various types of equipment from Hertz when necessary.
“We actually get all of our specialty equipment from Hertz, such as scissor lifts, forklifts, and condors,” Casella said. “We also get 15-passenger vans, cars, and SUVs from Hertz.”
With the new trucks in place now, Sony Pictures’ fleet is well-positioned with respect to air-quality regulations, and its fleet operations are organized to meet the company’s business needs.
“Our company is the only one in the motion picture industry that is in full compliance with the CARB truck and bus rule,” Casella said. “Our fleet is compliant up to the year 2020.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America
The motion picture industry company’s operations encompass motion picture and television production and distribution in addition to other entertainment-industry-related projects.
● SPE is located in Culver City, Calif.
● SPE’s transportation department is managed by Vice President of Logistics
● The company owns more than 100 vehicles and leases others on an
● SPE leases vehicles through Midway Ford and Leasing, Executive Car Leasing, and Donlen and rents equipment through Donlen’s parent company, Hertz.