Fleets considering alternative fuel vehicles face two daunting concerns right from the start: cost premiums and an understanding of what’s involved in both spec’ing and maintaining an alternative fuel vehicle. Fortunately, there are companies such as Penske Truck Leasing that can demystify the entire process.

“When we look at the green fleet strategy, it is sort of broken out into two different areas; the biggest one is really the customer,” says Drew Cullen, vice president-fuels and telecommunications for Penske. “Making sure the customer’s vehicle is specified correctly for the work needed” is the main objective. A large part of that, of course, centers around fuel economy. “We look at the type of operation, the geography, and the terrain,” says Cullen. “And we [give] the customers the options that make the most sense for their operation.”

Penske was recently awarded a 2013 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay Affiliate Challenge Award for its work in initiating and executing programs that recruit, promote and market activities that support EPA’s goals to reduce emissions and improve freight efficiency. Among the documents Penske submitted in support of its application was its continued hosting of educational events for customers via webinars and one-on-one education, strategy and recruiting sessions, and the ongoing recruitment of customers to join SmartWay.

Penske, which offers full-service lease and contract maintenance with a fleet that numbers some 215,000 vehicles, also works with customers to help them establish miles per gallon and emissions benchmarking among other fuel-saving programs.

“When you look at the aerodynamics of a vehicle or trailer, depending on how the vehicle is run [changes the specs],” notes Cullen. “If they are an over-the-road fleet, we might suggest an APU, for instance.

“There is a lot of interest in natural gas [right now],” he adds. “Particularly with natural gas vehicles, there is a lot of information out there. Some of it is very bad; some of it is very good. What we want to do is use our knowledge” to get the customer the correct information.

TOP OF MIND

One of the first questions asked of any fleet considering alternative fuel, particularly natural gas, is where the vehicles will be fueled. Most vehicles will be fueled at a third-party location, says Cullen, although some fleets will put in infrastructure to support their operations.

“The next thing is the incremental cost over that of diesel vehicles. Those aren’t an insurmountable challenge,” he continues. “We have the tools, applications and knowledge to help our customers and provide compelling solutions to them.”

Fleets can take advantage of Penske’s programs to avoid the maintenance issues of alternative fuel vehicles. This even includes electric trucks. Office supplies retailer Staples outsources its maintenance through Penske on a fleet of electric vehicles, even though the lessor does not provide the vehicles. To meet the needs of Staples, Penske trained its technicians to handle electric vehicle maintenance. Leasing can provide big advantages to fleets, from the flexibility it offers to quickly add capacity as needed to the ability to reduce concerns related to maintenance. And Penske is there to provide those services and answer any questions along the way.

The second big piece of the puzzle, says Cullen, is Penske’s own internal operations. Things such as waste management policies and lighting come into play and help make Penske’s operations as green as possible.

“We look at energy usage on a location- by-location basis,” says Cullen. “From that we can learn even more about how to make our buildings more efficient.” Whether it’s implementing its own green strategy, or executing that of a customer, Penske Truck Leasing leaves no stone unturned in the quest to be green.