April 7, 2011

County Fleet Goes Big on Idle Reduction, Ethanol Use, Fuel Efficiency

We're cutting our fuel use, and we're doing it safely-everything runs at peak performance. We're never going to leave our people hanging or compromise their safety.      
Mark Tolman; Fleet Manager; Canyon County, Idaho

With a population of about 200,000, Canyon County, Idaho, may not be very big. But its recent successes in reducing petroleum use are enormous. About two years ago, Canyon County Fleet Manager Mark Tolman puzzled over a problem shared by countless public officials throughout the country: How would he provide a high level of service to his community in the face of shrinking budgets?

Tolman worked with Treasure Valley Clean Cities to develop a strategy that made better use of his existing fleet resources while also embracing new technologies and fuels. He convened a "utilization team" that sought the input of vehicle drivers in every county department. He also purchased fleet-management software that allowed him to better track and scrutinize fuel use, vehicle utilization, idling time, and employee mileage reimbursements.

Armed with the new data, Tolman trimmed the county's fleet from 325 vehicles to 220. He developed a new replacement schedule that incorporated E85 and hybrid vehicles into the fleet wherever possible. He started filling tires with nitrogen. And the Fleet Department installed two new 12,000-gallon fuel tanks (one for gasoline, one for ethanol) and a blending dispenser that allows workers to specify the level of ethanol in the fuel they use.

Before Tolman's project began, he knew fuel was being wasted in idling patrol cars in the Sheriff's Department, but once he had the hard numbers in front of him, "It was just shocking," he said. Each patrol car was idling for up to five hours per day, using about 1 gallon of fuel per hour of idle time.

Canyon County fleet workers installed idle-reduction equipment on nearly all of the more than 60 patrol cars in the sheriff's department, eliminating 36 "ghost miles" and 100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per day for each car. "We're cutting our fuel use, and we're doing it safely-everything runs at peak performance. We're never going to leave our people hanging or compromise their safety," Tolman said.

The Canyon County Fleet Department is eliminating an estimated 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year and improving its vehicles' fuel economy by 4 mpg to 6 mpg.

"Using technologies that are already widely available, we realized immediate cost savings to Canyon County," he said. "We are maintaining a top-notch fleet, trimming our budget with minimal disruptions to ongoing operations, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, shrinking our environmental footprint, and serving as an example for other fleets."