FedEx Talks Fuel Economy, Sustainability at Green Fleet Conference

By Greg Basich, Contributor
Oct 11, 2012 9:00 AM ET

SCHAUMBURG, IL - FedEx has improved fuel economy by 16.6% and is on track to meet its goal of reducing fuel consumption by 20% from its 2005 baseline, said Mitch Jackson, Environmental Affairs & Sustainability, during a keynote speech last week during the 2012 Green Fleet Conference.

Jackson started with a 30,000-foot view of how FedEx approaches sustainability efforts. He said the focus at FedEx is to make its business and the world more sustainable and efficient.

The three key areas the company focuses on are:

- practical environmentalism
- improving global access to goods and services
- a focus on tangible, long-term projects that benefit the environment and society rather than programs that provide a one-time benefit.

The company's overall program is called EarthSmart, which focuses on sustainability in range of areas, from its fleet to a company-wide recycling program and LEED certification for its facilities.

In its fleet, Jackson said the company has focused on a few specific areas. To start, FedEx has incorporated a small but growing number of hybrid and all-electric vehicles into its fleet. The company has 364 hybrid-electric vehicles and 130 all-electric vehicles in service. The company said it has seen 70 to 80% operational savings on EVs but that the up-front cost for these vehicles is still high. For its hybrids, FedEx has seen a 42% improvement in hybrid fuel economy but a cost premium.

Next, FedEx is replacing its diesel trucks with clean diesel versions that are between 70% and 100% more fuel-efficient. By late 2013, the company expects to have 11,000 of these clean diesel vehicles in service, which is approximately 35% of its U.S. pick-up and delivery fleet.

Lastly, FedEx has a routing and dispatch program in place called ROADS, which is designed to make its couriers more productive in addition to reducing fuel use.

Another area the company has focused on is leading industry-wide efforts to put regulations in place that help improve efficiencies. Jackson gave an example of the commercial vehicle fuel-economy regulations that are to take effect in 2014.

"DOT put out standards in 2010 on a ton-mile basis for improving fuel economy for commercial vehicles," Jackson said. "That will be a win-win for everybody. It was that aspect of leadership. We pushed it, but it took the collaboration of other companies."

Jackson also discussed the company's approach to training its drivers. Training focuses on helping drivers operate their vehicles more efficiently by avoiding sudden stops and fast acceleration. The company's delivery trucks currently have devices installed that automatically shut off the engine to prevent idling. In addition, by policy, FedEx's drivers can't leave a truck idling. They have to leave the vehicle and secure it before making deliveries.

Although FedEx has focused on hybrid and electric technologies for its fleet, Jackson pointed out that a strategy that incorporates many different solutions is the way to go.

"We've been looking diligently to reduce our reliance on petroleum fuel," Jackson said. "There is no single solution going forward for transportation. We have to quit being against everything that we're not specifically for."

Greg Basich writes for HDT sister publication Green Fleet magazine

Related Stories:

9/21/2012 - FedEx, Nissan Expand Testing of Electric Nissan e-NV200

4/19/2012 Package Delivery Fleets Obtain Hydraulic Hybrids for Evaluations

11/13/2011 - FedEx Express Orders 'Reach' Aero, Lightweight Walk-In Vans from Utilimaster, Isuzu