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How to make your company fleet more environmentally friendly Featured

10:00am EDT April 28, 2011
Mike O’Connell , Director of Fleet Capability, Frito-Lay North America Inc. Mike O’Connell , Director of Fleet Capability, Frito-Lay North America Inc.

It’s all about the green at Frito-Lay North America Inc., but in this case, it’s not just money we’re talking. Instead, the snack-food company has taken green to its company fleet and made efforts to make those trucks and its delivery processes more environmentally friendly.

One of the biggest initiatives that they’ve implemented is electric delivery trucks, but they look at many different ideas when deciding what’s best for their fleet.

“[We] figure out what applications really deliver the best results, and we call those out and find the best of the best initiatives and pilot those and implement them into our fleets,” says Mike McConnell, the company’s director of fleet capability.

Pilot programs are critical to figuring out what works for your organization. McConnell suggests first looking at whether an idea meets guidelines from SAE International, a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries. The organization focuses on lifelong learning and voluntary consensus standards development.

Then look at what works best with the routes your trucks take. So if your trucks do a lot of highway miles at high speeds, aerodynamic products are likely the best options. But on the other end, if they’re in the city mostly and do a lot of starting and stopping, the electric vehicles are good solutions. You may need to employ a combination of efforts depending on the different fleets you have.

“What we’ve learned is there is not one size that fits all to improve the fuel economy and sustainability of a fleet,” McConnell says.

It’s also important that you make you sure you test any initiative you want to implement. McConnell says Frito-Lay pilots its programs before rolling them out.

“The suppliers will all give you data, but their data could be skewed depending who they tested it with and how the truck was used, so we like to do our own in-house testing and we do a lot of that,” he says.

His pilot launch for the electric vehicles included 21 trucks in Canada, Texas, New York and Ohio. When doing a pilot program, it’s important to be rooted in data.

“We know cost of maintenance, cost of fuel, cost per mile — we have a lot of benchmarking and internal scorecards,” he says. “On any project, we’ll look at what those key performance indicators are and say, ‘OK, what are we looking for, what are the thresholds for this being feasible or not,’ and we’ll monitor that.”

Lastly, you have to look at how much payback you’ll get in terms of environmental impact and return on investment compared to how many dollars you invest.

“What we found is in the past, there have been tradeoffs where you have to spend money and not get a big return,” McConnell says. “We really have to be able to find win-win situations where we can make a significant improvement in our environmental footprint while actually getting great payback on the investment associated with the technology.”

For example, they looked at hybrid technology, and while many companies are investing heavily in that arena, it didn’t make sense for Frito-Lay because their drivers are stopped a lot when they’re in selling and delivering to customers.

For Frito-Lay, the biggest initiative that can deliver on both is electric vehicles for routes that are 100 miles or less. While there is an increased ticket price for the vehicles themselves, they can eliminate all the fossil fuel associated with the vehicle, and then the cost difference between electricity and diesel creates a significant pay back on that investment — the company reduced its fuel consumption by 8 percent and grew the business.

McConnell says, “It’s a pretty significant impact if you think about it, especially with the volatility of fuel prices now a days.”

HOW TO REACH: Frito-Lay North America Inc., (800) 352-4477 or www.fritolay.com

Find plan that fits you

You can make a difference in the environment even if your business does not have a fleet of thousands of vehicles taking the road each day. That’s the message from Jason Mathers, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. The nonprofit organization helps businesses find solutions to environmental challenges.

“Anything an employee is doing for the company on behalf of the company, the emissions associated with that are part of the environmental footprint,” Mathers says. “Just because you’re not able to easily track something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

Figure out what impact your company does have in terms of the number of vehicles you put on the road and how much they are used. Encourage your employees to be better drivers by not speeding, idling or hauling unnecessary weight in their vehicles.

“You’re talking about vehicle efficiency and routing, driver behavior and all these things that have a very significant return on investment,” Mathers says.

If you do have fleets, look at the vehicles you have and whether a more fuel-efficient model could do the same job.

“If you can take a modest step over your entire fleet, that can add up to a significant impact,” Mathers says.

HOW TO REACH: Environmental Defense Fund, www.edf.org/greenfleet