Clean Fleet Partnership Saves Fuel Costs, Builds a Greener Reputation

United Site Services joins partnership to encourage putting more alternative-fuel work trucks on the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Clean Fleet Partnership Saves Fuel Costs, Builds a Greener Reputation
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To help reduce fuel consumption by corporate truck fleets through the use of alternative fuels and other fuel-economy strategies, the Clean Cities coalition program — sponsored by the United States Department of Energy — created the National Clean Fleets Partnership (NCFP).

The NCFP initiative helps companies interested in fuel conservation network with like-minded businesses. It also provides technical assistance, tools and resources to help companies develop fuel-conservation strategies. The program leverages the strength of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions that include nearly 18,000 participants.

Thanks to the NCFP initiative, corporate fleets averted the creation of nearly 369,000 tons of greenhouse gases in 2015 alone and saved the equivalent of 152 million gallons of petroleum. In addition, 101,677 alternative-fuel and advanced-technology vehicles have been deployed as a result of the program.

United Site Services (USS), national provider of portable restrooms, temporary fencing and other site services, joined the NCFP in November 2016. With more than 85,000 customers served annually, USS’s membership in the program is noteworthy. To find out why the company joined the NCFP and what it hopes to gain from participating in this initiative, Pumper spoke with Kevin Podmore, vice president of fleet and strategic sourcing for USS.

Pumper: Why did USS get involved with this program?

Podmore: I knew about the program from my previous employer, which was heavily involved. USS wanted to get in on the ground floor with a fleet-sustainability strategy and this program provides a great network to tap into — folks with lots of experience in the marketplace. They can help us achieve an immediate impact on our fleet and help us develop a long-term strategy.

Pumper: How many vehicles does USS own?

Podmore: We have a fleet of about 2,000 vehicles, which includes vacuum trucks for portable sanitation waste, high-volume pump trucks, fence trucks, and pickup and delivery trucks. We’ve got a pretty diverse fleet.

Pumper: Does that make it more difficult to develop a fleet-sustainability strategy?

Podmore: No. It allows us to tap into the knowledge of more truck manufacturers than if we had just one of two different makes of trucks. It’s easier to go after emerging technologies when you have a diverse fleet.

Pumper: How does the program work?

Podmore: After you become a partner in the program, which is voluntary, you gain access to valuable information, such as the names of suppliers for compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) vacuum trucks, for example. Or databases that show locations of CNG fueling stations. If we decide to put an alternative-fuel truck into our fleet, we can check with the NCFP for testing results or get the names of other companies that are running similar platforms. For us, the bottom line is that this is the most cost-effective way to find alternative-fuel strategies and vehicles.

It also gives us another group of folks with whom we can network and bounce ideas off of. There are a lot of lessons learned that I can apply to our fleet quite quickly. Some companies in the partnership have more than 25,000 vehicles, so there’s a wealth of experience out there.

Pumper: Couldn’t you do all this without the NCFP?

Podmore: Yes, but it would be time-consuming. There are a lot of enterprises out there trying to sell different technologies. You don’t want to be a test bed for somebody’s good idea. The program gives us access to proven, sustainable technology that other fleets already are using successfully. You’re drawing from their experiences from day one.

Pumper: Can you provide a concrete example?

Podmore: Sure. Our goal is to start with hybrid fuel trucks in the state of California. With the NCFP and truck providers, we’re diligently working out exact specifications for those trucks. It’s more challenging working with vacuum trucks because they use PTO, but the partnership gives us a good head start on what we’re looking for.

Pumper: Does the program require any kind of financial investment?

Podmore: No.

Pumper: Does USS have companywide goals for reducing emissions?

Podmore: We’re on the ground floor of what I’d call a comprehensive sustainable-vehicle strategy. And as we pilot new technologies, we need to figure out what works best for our fleet. At that point, we will benchmark and set some concrete goals for fuel and emissions reductions. There’s no question that it’s doable.

Pumper: How would USS go about converting its fleet?

Podmore: We would incorporate it into our normal vehicle procurement and replacement cycle. By working with partners within the NCFP, we can be more diverse with what we order when it comes to fuel types and chassis manufacturers.

Pumper: As the country’s largest portable-sanitation-services company, do you feel a particular need to be at the forefront of fleet sustainability?

Podmore: We do. When you look across the industry, it’s already considered sustainable because we’re all about water conservation. This is just another parallel avenue. As an industry leader, we want to show smaller companies that it’s possible to have an alternative-fuel fleet and still maintain a high level of customer service day-in and day-out.

Pumper: Is it more important for this industry to embrace initiatives like this, given that it’s a steward of precious natural resources?

Podmore: Absolutely. Using portable restrooms saves 45 million gallons of freshwater annually. Building a culture of sustainability in any organization should be the norm, not viewed as something we have to do. It’s just good business sense to do the right thing for our environment.

Pumper: What do you envision for vacuum trucks in 10, maybe even 20 years?

Podmore: I think we will continue to see growth in the market for alternative-fuel trucks: CNG, hybrid and electric vehicles. I also think that we’ll see more tanks and truck chassis being built with composite materials, which will allow for higher-capacity tanks with lower gross-vehicle-weight ratings.

Pumper: Are there other fuel-reduction technologies the industry should be adopting?

Podmore: Yes — optimized routing software. We do more than 12 million services annually and so not just for miles driven, but for every mile not driven, there are cost and fuel savings as well as emission reductions. That helps companies work and drive smarter for customers.

Pumper: Do you encourage other portable sanitation companies to get involved in this initiative?

Podmore: Yes. I think there’s savings there, even with small fleets. And when customers see that your “green” strategies align with your corporate goals, you become the vendor of choice. I think we’re going to see more of that.
Overall, it’s a great program. The more that folks from the portable sanitation industry get involved, the better off we are as an industry.


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