5 ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a municipality fleet

greenhouse gas emissions

Municipal governments all over North America are taking a stand against public fleet emissions. This should be no surprise: transportation accounts for 29% of America’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and Canada’s transportation sector released 165 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021 alone.

If you’re one of the many city leaders looking to reduce your fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions, you should know that success is entirely possible—as long as you plan for the future.

This guide explains everything that you need to know about reducing greenhouse gas emissions for your municipal fleet.

Successful case studies for reducing municipal fleet greenhouse gas emissions

Many municipalities have already undergone the process of reducing fleet emissions. However, it may be helpful for those just starting their journeys to evaluate successful examples of fleet greenhouse gas management.

These three case studies can help you define the next steps and assist with the brainstorming aspect of your project.

1. City of Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works

The City of Milwaukee was ready to make a change in the composition of its fleet. Beginning with the Department of Public Works, a division of numerous fleet vehicles, organizers planned to use natural gas to reduce city reliance on traditional fuels.

Milwaukee officials quickly placed twenty-one compressed-natural-gas refuse haulers and added two new fueling stations to accommodate the shift. Today, public works drivers say that they feel better and have more energy after their shifts, and the city has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 1,800 tons per year.

2. Georgia's Cobb County Government

Located on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, the Cobb County government was particularly interested in reducing its environmental impact while maximizing its organizational budget. The municipality commanded more than 2,400 vehicles in 2017 and was ready to use biodiesel and plug-in EVs to reduce reliance on traditional fuels.

The Cobb County government transitioned 504 vehicles (or 21% of its fleet) to ones capable of running alternative energy sources. Doing so averted over 450 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere while saving $358,000 in fuel, maintenance, and ownership costs.

3. NYC Clean Fleet Initiative

The City of New York remains one of North America’s largest urban centers and one of the earliest adopters of sustainability initiatives. This municipal organization was quick to explore methods of displacing conventional fuels, particularly alternative options for large work vehicles.

To test the waters, NYC relied on nearly 1 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel to power its city trucks. This proved to be a successful endeavor: the city saw a 60% reduction in greenhouse gases within a few short years. Organizers also saw a reduction in harmful pollutants, including particulate matter (34%), nitrous oxide (10%), and carbon monoxide (12%).

Five methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from city fleets

With these case studies now top of mind, let’s look at five different strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by your municipal fleet.

1. Switch to alternative fuel

Many municipalities switch to alternative fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Common options include ethanol, natural gas, biodiesel, and propane, though hydrogen remains a promising, if nascent, option.

If you’re willing to transition to EVs, you can also use electricity to power your fleet.

2. Purchase EVs

The EV is the future of public fleets and the most sustainable way to reduce greenhouse gases emitted from your city. That said, you need to plan well to implement EVs effectively; carefully consider your needs and wants before breaking ground.

Ask yourself:

  • How much do we have to spend on EVs?
  • Who is in charge of EV initiatives at my organization?
  • What sort of groundwork do we already have in place?

Don’t forget to think about charging infrastructure as your planning process continues.

3. Reduce fuel waste

Fuel waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Idling cars, vehicles stuck in traffic, and diesel-based work vehicles all produce a gigantic amount of greenhouse gas—all to the detriment of our environment.

You can reduce idle times by creating more streamlined and effective itineraries. Map routes correctly to save more fuel and keep drivers away from high-traffic situations.

4. Improve energy efficiency

In addition to improving the effectiveness of your fleet, you should also consider improving its efficiency. This includes boosting your driver’s yearly training requirements or working with telematics to optimize vehicles and reduce drag.

If you’re unsure where to begin with energy efficiency, consider consulting with an environmental, social, and governance professional. This highly trained expert can provide additional clarity and help design a way forward for you and your organization.

5. Rightsize your fleet

Rightsizing refers to the strategic process of adjusting a fleet to a more manageable size. You may need to sell or repurpose vehicles with low utilization rates or purchase more vehicles to reduce equipment stress.

A peek at your fleet metrics may be helpful for this process. First, take note of the drive time, mileage, and fuel efficiency of each vehicle. Then, adjust your fleet so few, if any, vehicles are under- or overutilized.

How Sourcewell can help your city fleet reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Sourcewell has helped hundreds of government organizations adapt their municipal fleets for a greener future. In addition to its free resources and EV infrastructure partners, it offers competitive cooperative contracts designed to expedite the procurement process.

It also provides:

No matter the size of your municipal fleet, Sourcewell is prepared to help you find solutions that can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

See how easy it is to smoothly adhere to any greening initiatives using Sourcewell’s cooperative purchasing program. Streamline the process by choosing from hundreds of suppliers already on contract. Sourcewell’s procurement experts competitively solicit and award contracts on behalf of 50,000 participating agencies in North America. Check out our contracts here.