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Environmental Considerations for Fleet Management

All PIM content was independently developed and reviewed to be vendor-, product-, and service provider-neutral.


Integrating environmental considerations into a healthcare organizations fleet management program can offer significant opportunities to reduce expenses and enhance safety and quality.

  • Project Talking Points

    The following areas within a fleet management program offer opportunities for environmental improvement:

    • vehicle service / maintenance program
    • vehicle acquisition
    • fleet fuel program
    • courier / delivery system
    • compliance with regulatory guidelines – DOT, AAMI, OSHA
  • Triple Bottom Line Benefits

    Cost benefits: Developing a comprehensive fleet management program, with environmental aspects included, can reduce costs associated with vehicle and fuel purchasing, maintenance contracts, route efficiencies and external courier services.

    Environmental benefits: Effective fleet management can reduce fuel consumption and associated emissions. Alternative fueled vehicles (propane, natural gas, etc.) may also be viable options that offer reduced environmental impact over traditional gasoline vehicles. Safety and infection control for employees through following AAMI standards for infection control, DOT and OSMA standards for transportation of goods.

    Social benefits: Reduced vehicle emissions equate to healthier communities. The less time drivers spend on the roads (through improved route efficiencies) will help to improve staff and community safety.

  • Purchasing Considerations

    • Vehicle service / maintenance contract
      • When contracting for fleet maintenance services, consider including environmental criteria in your evaluation factors.  This should encourage the selection of environmentally conscious contractors and promote your organizations sustainability objectives. It is important to tailor your evaluation factors to each individual acquisition. The contracting team must decide whether environmental considerations should be represented as a stand-alone evaluation factor (e.g., Sustainability) or incorporated into other factors (e.g., Technical Approach, Past Performance, etc.).  Below are a just a few examples of possible factors.
        • Technical approach & staffing plan – Require contractors to address sustainable practices, including the use of green products that will maximize sustainability objectives.  Require contractors to describe any technician training their staff has received for maintaining alternative fuel vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles.
        • Past performance – Evaluate how well the contractor performed previous projects where they have successfully implemented green fleet maintenance practices, including the maintenance of alternative fuel vehicles and the use of green products.
        • Previous experience – Require contractors to demonstrate their experience and capability to provide green fleet maintenance services similar in size, scope, and complexity to the required work
    • Recycling
      • Consider requiring contractors to implement recycling of used oil, spent engine coolant, spent solvent and tires.
    • Reporting
      • Consider requiring contractors that provide green fleet maintenance products to submit regular reports identifying the quantity and type of green products used or delivered during contract performance.
    • Vehicle Acquisition
      • Consider purchasing vehicles that meet the California emission standards.
      • Select the most fuel efficient vehicle available capable of effectively meeting mission tasks.
      • When determining the needs for a vehicle, assess the size of the vehicle required to ensure that the most cost effective vehicle is selected consistent with the vehicle’s mission.
      • Consider hybrid, plug-in hybrid, alternative fuel, all-electric vehicle options.
      • Consider customization of vehicle to ensure capability to carry sterile, clean and soiled items, i.e., laundry and instrumentation.
    • Fleet Fuel Program
      • Utilize fuel vendor’s on-line tools to monitor performance of specific department’s and individual drivers.
  • How-To

    1. Vehicle service / maintenance program
      • The organization should have a common maintenance vendor for all vehicles. Fleet maintenance services include activities related to properly maintaining vehicles in your fleet.  Examples of these activities are checking your oil regularly, making sure vehicle tires are at the correct pressure at all times, and measuring the environmental impact of your current fleet maintenance program by collecting data.  Opting to green your fleet maintenance contracts will reduce your organization’s negative environmental impacts.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve vehicle mileage by as much as 40 percent.
    2. Preventative Maintenance
      • Regularly practice preventative maintenance on all vehicle.
        • Ensure that vehicle engines are properly tuned in accordance with the vehicle owner’s manual and internal organizational procedures.
        • Keep tires properly inflated to the recommended tire pressure. Under-inflated tires increase rolling resistance, reduce fuel economy and cause tires to wear more rapidly.
        • Check and replace air filters regularly. Replacing a clogged air filter protects the engine and may increase your fuel economy.
      • Consider using reclaimed engine coolants, re-refined automatic transmission fluid and re-refined oils when cost effective and when it will not void manufacturer’s warranty. Up to 85 percent less energy is consumed in the re-refining of used oil compared to traditional refining of crude oil, so its use reduces the carbon footprint. Studies have found purchasing recycled products is of the same or greater quality as new products, and through economies of scale and innovative contracting, pricing is the same or below the cost of new products.
      • Use the recommended grade of motor oil for your vehicle to increase fuel economy.  Also, look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the American Petroleum Institute (API) performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.
      • Consider using re-treaded tires in your vehicle fleet. Retreads are not only cost effective, but they are also dependable, reliable and safe.
      • Product
      • Recycling
        • Consider requiring contractors to implement recycling of used oil, spent engine coolant, spent solvent, and tires.
      • Reporting
        • Consider requiring contractors that provide green fleet maintenance products to submit regular reports identifying the quantity and type of green products used or delivered during contract performance.
    3. Vehicle Acquisition
      • Look for potential re-use opportunities throughout the system, rather than automatically disposing of vehicles.  This may help prevent unnecessary vehicle purchases.
      •  Consider purchasing vehicles that meet the California emission standards
      • Establish partnership/contracts with vehicle manufactures and local dealerships.
      • Fuel Efficiency
        • Select the most fuel efficient vehicle available capable of effectively meeting mission tasks.  Consider making the acquisition of vehicles rated at less than 20 mpg combined city/highway is prohibited without justification.
        • When a department can demonstrate the following, consider making exceptions to fuel efficiency standards:
          • A vehicle of the type required is not available in a more fuel efficient version
          • The mission cannot be accomplished with a fuel efficient vehicle
          • The fuel cost savings for the projected life of the vehicle will not cover the acquisition price difference.
      • Vehicle Selection
        • When determining the needs for a vehicle, assess the size of the vehicle required to ensure that the most cost effective vehicle is selected consistent with the vehicle’s mission.  For example: Vans -- cargo and passenger, full-size and mini provide a wide range of services including passenger transport (employee & patient), specimen transport, and wheelchair passenger transport.  Not all missions lend themselves to a smaller vehicle.  However, when considering replacement of existing vehicles or establishing a need for a fleet addition, the organization should consider:
          • The size of the vehicle. Smaller vehicles that can perform the mission are preferable to larger vehicles (e.g., sedans or wagons vs. vans; 4-cylinder engines vs. 6 cylinder; Front Wheel Drive vs. 4-Wheel Drive.
          • Configuration of vehicle compartments for separation of clean, sterile, dirty, i.e. laundry and instrumentation.
          • Access: providing easy, unencumbered access to all areas for ergonomic lifting, moving, storing; consider outside access doors.
          • Department fleet mix.  In some cases, larger vehicles are required on occasion.  The department should ask; can my all van fleet meet mission as a sedan/wagon/van combination fleet?  Can we effectively schedule a sedan/wagon/van fleet to meet our needs while reducing costs?
          • Vehicles with high non-highway use are ideal candidates for hybrid replacement.  Often, the improved fuel mileage combined with the reduction in time the driver spends refueling the vehicle results in a return on investment for the more expensive hybrid within the first 3-4 years of use.
          • Utilizing alternative fuel vehicles such as natural gas, propane, ethanol, etc.  Unless your operating area has access to alternative fuel filling stations, these vehicles will not likely be an effective alternative to gasoline/diesel fueled vehicles.
          • Utilizing plug-in hybrids and all electric vehicles.
    4. Fleet Fuel Program
      • The organization should have a common fuel vendor/card.
      • Fuel conservation program
        • Supervisors and drivers should work to ensure that fleet operators use fuel in a cost efficient manner, which will reduce the organization’s carbon/emission footprint and conserve fuel through effective oversight and operation of the fleet vehicles.  Smart cost containment actions not only reduce expenditures, but reduce emissions.
        • Consider acquiring the most fuel efficient vehicles to meet the functional need, monitor the performance of assigned vehicles and ensure drivers operate their vehicles in a safe, cost efficient manner and environmentally friendly manner.
        • Ensure drivers have the tools to complete their assigned tasks.  Outfitting each vehicle with a tire gauge and oil rag, enables each driver to effectively check the tires and fluids on their vehicles.
        • Utilize fuel vendor’s on-line tools to monitor performance of their department’s drivers.
        • Consider requiring drivers to comply with the following standards:
          • Don’t idle unnecessarily. This is the single best strategy to improve fuel efficiency; it is more fuel efficient to turn off the engine and restart it if you will idle for more than 10 seconds.  NOTE:  While idling can reduce engine life and efficiency, frequent starting has little impact on engine components such as the starter motor and the battery.
          • Check tire pressure weekly as under inflated tires can cut fuel economy by 2% per pound of pressure.
          • Clean out the trunk.  For every additional 200 lbs. carried, vehicle efficiency is reduced by 1 mile per gallon.
          • Drive the posted speed limit as driving fast wastes gas. Adhering to posted speed limits helps conserve fuel.
          • Use cruise control during highway driving.
          • Avoid jackrabbit starts.
          • Anticipate traffic flow.  Accelerating and decelerating smoothly is safer, uses less fuel and reduces brake wear.
          • Avoid aggressive driving.  The EPA advises that drivers can save up to 20% in fuel economy by not engaging in aggressive driving.  Time studies show that fast starts, weaving in and out of traffic and accelerating to and from stop lights/signs doesn’t save much time, wastes fuel and more rapidly wears out components such as tires and brakes.
          • Use air conditioners sparingly.  Use of the air conditioner increases fuel consumption by 5-20%. Use the vent setting as much as possible to maintain air flow within the cabin.
          • Don’t top off.  Don’t fill the fuel tank beyond the pumps automatic shut-off.  As a rule of thumb, never completely fill the gas tank, particularly in hot weather. Overfilling results in fuel loss due to expansion/evaporation.
          • Buy fuel in the morning.  Buy gasoline during the coolest time of the day or first thing in the morning when fuel is its densest.  This results in more fuel per gallon/volume.  Consumers are charged based on volume not density.
          • Be price sensitive. Shop at the best price stations. This info may be available through your Fuel Card provider’s website.
          • Define usage of mobile phone/cell phone devices per state and national laws.
    5. Courier / delivery system
      • Consolidate and combine internal routes to maximize efficiency. Ensure that departmental routes are combined where possible, i.e. supply chain, lab, radiology
      • Consolidate and combine external courier routes to maximize efficiency. Significant savings can also be potentially realized if external courier routes can be eliminated and absorbed internally.
      • Consider utilizing a GPS system to direct the appropriate vehicle for delivery.
  • Case Studies

  • Cross References: LEED

  • Cross References: GGHC

    • GGHC (v2) Construction: Sustainable Sites Credit 4.3: Alternative Transportation – Low Emitting and Fuel Efficient Vehicles.
    • GGHC (v2) Operations: Transportation Operations Credit 1.2: Alternative Transportation – Low Emitting and Fuel Efficient Vehicles.
  • Education Resources

    •     Consider driving training school

    •     Commercial driver’s license training

    •     AAMI standards conveyance of instrumentation

    •     Infection standards for conveyance of sterile, clean & soiled

  • More Resources

    • The Sustainable Facilities Tool offers useful sustainable guidance and tools for a variety of topics, including fleet maintenance.  
    • SmartWay Transport is the US Environmental Protection Agency’s flagship program for improving fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution from the transportation supply chain industry.
    • The EPAs Green Vehicle Guide provides information on vehicle emissions, advanced technologies, alternative fuels, plus tools, videos and expanded information on the SmartWay light-duty vehicle program.
    • Fuel offers resources on fuel efficiency, alternative fuel vehicles and information about EPA ratings.
    • U.S. Department of Energy’s Sustainable Federal Fleets program offers access to the latest information, applications and resources related to fleet efficiency.
    • Sustainable Cities Institute offers resources on fleet management maintenance and repair.
  • PIM Descriptors

    Chemicals, Energy, Supply Chain

    Level: Intermediate

    Category List:

    PIM Attributes:

    • Optimize Operations
    • Repair or Optimize Existing Systems (fix what you have)

    Improvement Type:

    • Operations
    • Operations and Maintenance


    • Buildings and Grounds
    • Engineering/Facilities Management
    • Purchasing/Materials Management/Supply Chain
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