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GSA Vehicle Fleet

Q

Looking at the GSA vehicles, I notice large pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans, and some full-size sedans. I also notice UCAR Security personnel driving around in a new behemoth-sized SUV. It is understandable that pickup trucks may be necessary for field project deployments, and that the shuttle vans need to be large to accommodate many passengers. But there are many instances of single/double passenger transportation, where a small vehicle will suffice. For those instances, why are there not more fuel-efficient, cleaner vehicles in the fleet?

Other questions:

What is the average MPG of the current fleet?

For those vehicles that are designed to run on flex-fuels (E85) or compressed natural gas, are they actually being run on alternative fuels?

Are there any plans to replace older GSA vehicles with hybrids?

Answered on April 21, 2009

A

As noted by the questioner, the composition of our vehicle fleet is driven (no pun intended) by program needs usually necessitating larger vehicles. It is true that there are times they are underutilized. However, to avoid underutilization we would have to double the size of our fleet. This would be costly and an inefficient use of resources.

As for the alleged "behemoth" Security SUV, it is actually a mid-sized crossover Dodge Journey and is needed for safety. Most security work is performed in the dark of night and long after most UCAR employees are safely at home and off the roads. Security officers drive over 60,000 miles a year on poorly lit, poorly maintained, sometimes unplowed, and isolated back roads. Officers almost always ride solo. This makes the need for a larger, safer vehicle doubly important, especially during white out blizzard conditions at 2 a.m. in the middle of winter. The modestly sized vehicle has other critical uses. It is used to assist and transport stranded employees and motorists. It carries emergency supplies, road signs, radios, lights, loudspeakers, battery chargers, and virtually anything else that might be needed in an emergency. The decision to employ a mid-sized crossover vehicle is the least that can be done to assure the continued safety and well-being of our late night security officers.

Transportation Services is attempting to increase its alternative fuels fleet. Currently, 34% (14 out of 43 GSA vehicles) are alternative fuels vehicles. We have 13 bi-fuel gas/ethanol (E85) vehicles and one electric hybrid vehicle (EHV). At present, we do not recommend use of ethanol in E85 vehicles because of inherent inefficiencies of this biofuel. Ethanol production is energy intensive compared to gasoline, and demand for the fuel has pushed up prices for food with corn ingredients. However, the development of second-generation biofuels made from waste products and non-edible plants is promising, and we hope to fully utilize our growing E85 fleet in the future. We plan to increase our EHV fleet as these vehicles become more readily available through the GSA leasing program. The UCAR fleet averages 17.3 miles per gallon.

Steve Sadler, Director, Safety and Site Services
Jean Hancock, Manager, Transportation Services