What’s Taking the Focus Off Alternative Fuel?

Alternative fuel was all anyone was talking about…now things have quieted down significantly. And we know why.

Earlier this year, Work Truck magazine published an article explaining why they decided to rename their Green Fleet Conference, the Fleet Technology Expo. It wasn’t a matter of distancing themselves from environmental and sustainability concerns. It was an honest evaluation of what made the Green Fleet Conference so successful in the years since it launched, and what has happened to change that vision…and it all boils down to the eternal pairing of supply and demand.

The days of $4-plus diesel are not that long gone. Businesses were worried, not only about the price of fuel, but also its availability. In a world that grows increasingly destabilized, fuel shortages and energy efficiency became huge concerns. Every bump up in price impacts the bottom line, so fleets would do everything they could to combat a potential shortage and increasingly higher prices. Hybrids, CNG, LNG, biodiesel…alternative fuels were looked at for their ability to keep the trucks running efficiently. New emissions standards and government regulations also added to the push to find a fuel that was affordable and available.

Fast forward a couple of years and now the U.S. is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas. Fracking has contributed greatly to this, and supply easily satisfies demand. Prices per barrel tumbled, and suddenly, green (as in environment) is taking a back seat to green (as in saving money). Fleets aren’t necessarily looking for a replacement fuel; they are looking for greater efficiencies and cost savings. Alternative fuels still need an infrastructure that will allow trucks to refuel wherever they ship. So fleets, although not abandoning the notion of alternative fuel, are looking to find other ways to achieve their goals. As the Work Truck article notes, “fuel is the second biggest expense right behind depreciation,” so fleets are turning to technology to help them in their pursuit of greater efficiency.

Telematics can help decrease fuel consumption by allowing companies to monitor driver behavior, from sharp turns to excessive speed to excessive braking. These tools also improve efficiency by helping fleets plan and schedule better routes. Engine diagnostic functions enable fleet managers to measure the wear and tear on the vehicle. Proper vehicle selection also helps companies realize efficiencies by making sure they have the right truck for the right job. Last, but certainly not least, fleets are making sure that their trucks are properly maintained by scheduling preventive maintenance service at intervals dictated by the truck utilization. This will allow vehicles to operate at their optimal lifecycle and greatest efficiency.

What is clear is that successful companies are being proactive when it comes to making their fleets more efficient and cost-effective. As alternative fuels become more readily available and emissions standards possible get tighter, these fuels will find greater acceptance. But fleets aren’t waiting for that day. They’re doing everything they can to realize greater efficiencies now… As the Work Truck article states, “being green isn’t easy, but in almost every case, it’s worth the effort.”

Image source: www.worktruckonline.com

Jane Clark

About Jane Clark

Jane Clark is Vice President of Member Services for NationaLease. Before joining the full service truck leasing organization, she served in executive positions with some of the nation’s top staffing and recruitment agencies.

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