ST. LOUIS. The 4th annual Green Truck Summit being held here this week kicked off with a keynoter by a top policymaker, but the program shifted into high gear when a sustainability expert for a name-brand green fleet explained how businesses can select and incorporate environmentally sustainable vehicles into their operations without thwarting established fleet management practices.

But first a positive tone was struck for how public-private cooperation will continue to further reduce air pollution from transportation sources without hampering—and perhaps enhancing—economic activity by Dr. Kristina Johnson, the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Under Secy. for Energy. Johnson discussed the DOE’s commitment to the further development of green truck technology, including how federal economic stimulus funds have been applied in the form of developmental grants to truck manufacturers and suppliers.

That the National Truck Equipment Assn. (NTEA), which created the Summit and is partnering this year with CALSTART to present the event, is itself reflective of the growing public-private cooperative trend in the green arena.

Another indicator was that the Summit organizers presented their first-ever Green Truck Leadership Award to Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI). The congressman was cited for “his outstanding contributions in promoting advanced alternative fuels technologies for work trucks.” Peters recently authored the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act.

It was also announced at the Summit that NTEA is forming a new affiliate division to be called the Green Truck Assn. (GTA). NTEA president Andrew Outcalt said GTA will “keep members up to date with regulatory and industry developments while expanding and improving the market for green-truck applications.”

The win-win pitch on going green was delivered by Ken McKenney, sustainable fleet—technical engineering lead for Verizon Communications. According to McKenney, implementing a successful and lasting “sustainable” (green) fleet program requires everything from top-level corporate support down to real-world evaluation of available technologies.

“While a fleet manager may feel pressured to incorporate green technology,” he stated, “they should not purchase vehicles to meet a [green] quota; purchase them based on [available] funding alone; or purchase them based on a sales pitch. The real goal has to be to reduce emissions—not to make quick, uninformed decisions.”

Forming a strategy is crucial, McKenney continued, and to do that requires an understanding of existing equipment drive (duty) cycle, configuration, operating environment, weight requirements, and equipment power demand. “Only after considering all this data can one or more technologies be properly matched to a fleet.”

McKenney said two other key factors not to overlook are maintenance facilities and the techs who staff them. He advised determining if any changes will have to be made to buildings (such as fueling) to accommodate a green vehicle type and/or will adjustments have to be made to training programs to bring techs fully into the loop.

“There are also three key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure a green technology’s benefit or viability to a given fleet: actual emissions reduction; reduction in petroleum fuel consumption; and cost/return on investment.

Once one or more green vehicle solutions are determined, McKenney advised incorporating them into the fleet as a percentage of each year’s planned turnover of aging equipment. “A typical fleet replaces some vehicles annually to preserve the age of the fleet.”

He gave several examples of how this approach would pan out including this one: A fleet that replaces 10% of its annual vehicles to be replaced with green vehicles might see its purchasing budget rise 5% to cover the added cost of the new technology. But it would reduce its carbon footprint by 3% in one fell swoop—and would likely reduce its overall fuel consumption as well.

“The idea is to purchase [vehicle] quantities that are sustainable and sensible, including in terms of fleet age,” summed up McKenney. “Be green for the right reason.”