Setting Your Own Direction for a Clean-Fuel Commercial Fleet

May 5, 2016
  • Nate Springer

    Former Manager, BSR

On the few days a year when I get to drive through the American West or across the Great Plains, I envy our commercial drivers. They’re making tens of thousands of trips through emerald forests, over snow-capped mountains, and past golden prairies on daily drives that fuel the U.S. economy. And while they’re under pressure to deliver on time, reduce costs, and increase margins, much of the time they have the freedom to choose their own direction.

Commercial freight more broadly is under another pressure: to use clean technology. To many, it feels like the worst time for this, given wide swings in oil prices and diesel costs at an all-time low. Yet, clean air rules are here to stay, and the world, including the United States, have agreed to global climate goals that will require the freight sector to cut emissions further. Fleet managers are getting questions from customers and regulators that make efficiency and alternative technology even more important for vehicle purchasing. To companies with large fleets, it can all seem overwhelming and out of control.

Today, I’m proud to announce the public launch of a tool for fleet owners to take control and make the fuel choices that work best for them. BSR’s Fuel Sustainability Tool (“Fuel Tool”) was developed with our Future of Fuels initiative members, including fleets like UPS and Walmart, equipment manufacturers like Westport Innovations, and fuel producers like Shell, to help companies make sense of their options for clean technology.

The Fuel Tool was built to simplify sustainability for fleet owners. It gives fleets the ability to measure the average climate emissions for the technology they use or are considering, understand the full range of social and environmental impacts, and implement practices to get the results they want from their fleet and suppliers. The tool provides the missing answers for several important decisions that commercial fleets regularly make. It can be used for:

  • Purchasing vehicles: Most fleets have the tools to understand specifications of their current diesel vehicles or alternative vehicles they might consider. With the Fuel Tool, they can now also compare the climate emissions benefits of these technologies. For example, a fleet owner in Texas might want to replace diesel tractors with compressed natural gas and can use the Fuel Tool to understand the average climate emissions from current trucks in the fleet and those of various natural-gas vehicle options with different efficiencies under consideration.
  • Setting expectations with suppliers: In the emerging world of clean fuel, competing claims by suppliers make it difficult to understand options. With the Fuel Tool, a company can understand the high-, medium-, and low-impact sources of each type of fuel and the practices that avoid the worst impacts. So, a fleet owner might commit to renewable diesel and seek suppliers that can offer sustainably certified canola oil or even lower-impact fuel from used cooking oil.
  • Determining fleet targets: Companies already set growth and cost-reduction goals—and, increasingly, fleet efficiency and emissions targets. The Fuel Tool gives fleet owners the ability to choose the combination of efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles that is best for them. Our partners at UPS see the potential to use it for doing just that. They’re on track to meet their goal of driving 1 billion miles on alternative fuel and advanced-technology vehicles and are beginning to assess their options for the next generation of clean fleet targets. “To achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, fleets are going to have to use lower-carbon fuels. The Fuel Tool can help fleets plan their future fuel purchases to minimize environmental impacts,” said UPS Director of Global Sustainability Patrick Browne.

The Fuel Tool is a tool based on the best available research and standards. It doesn’t—and shouldn’t—override a fleet owner’s own judgment based on experience and the existing data on fleet performance. The tool provides credible and comparable climate and sustainability data, so that fleets can ask the right questions of vehicle and fuel suppliers and know what to expect from clean fuel claims.

We’re not done yet. Please take a moment to download the tool, test it with your fleet planning and fuel purchasing teams, and send us feedback. We will hold a live demonstration of the tool and answer questions at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on June 15, with future events to be planned. Even better: Join UPS, Walmart, and others in BSR’s Future of Fuels to help us build a clean, low-carbon future for commercial freight.

The transition to a clean-fuel economy is underway. For my part, I want to give people the power to make the changes they can control. The Fuel Tool isn’t perfect yet, but it’s one more opportunity to take charge of a future we want.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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