Gas guzzlers disappearing from Army's shrinking fleet
December 5, 2012
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 5, 2012) -- In the past few years, the number of Army non-tactical vehicles has been declining and the number of fuel-hungry vehicles has been declining as well.
Non-tactical vehicles include cars, trucks, tractors and special-use vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances not meant for combat operations.
In 2009, the peak year, the Army had 82,860 non-tactical vehicles, according to Edward J. Moscatelli, chief, Transportation Branch, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. His office develops the Program Objective Memorandum requirements and has oversight of all non-tactical vehicles in the Army.
Of those 82,860 vehicles, 10,941 were Army-owned, 70,348 were Government Services Administration-leased, and 1,571 were commercially leased, he said, adding that the commercially leased vehicles are ones not available from GSA and are usually cost-prohibitive for the Army to purchase.
Since that peak year, there has been a significant drop in the total number of vehicles.
While the final figures for this year are not yet in, Moscatelli projects the current total at approximately 74,000, of which 10,800 are Army-owned, 1,130 commercially leased and 63,000-GSA leased. He is closely looking at those numbers and thinks there are 5,000 more that can soon be eliminated.
As for gas guzzlers, Moscatelli said that there are a lot fewer of them as the Army turns to smaller, more efficient vehicles, including high-mileage gas or diesel, hybrid and electric. Large sedans and sport utility vehicles are restricted and require individual approval based on mission requirements.
The cost of buying, leasing and maintaining the fleet has dropped significantly as well. The Army's annual vehicle budget is now about $200 million a year, down from about $251 million in that peak year of 2009, he said.
The declines in cost, number of vehicles and the increase in fuel efficiencies are especially significant, Moscatelli said, because the Army is the second-largest user of commercial vehicles in the federal government, surpassed only by the U.S. Postal Service.
The push for more efficient vehicles started in 2008, he said, when the Army began requiring commands to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles than the ones being replaced.
On May 24, 2011, President Obama signed a memo: "Federal Fleet Performance," which required annual reviews of all non-tactical vehicles to determine which ones were mission required and whether or not the size, type and model was appropriate for those missions, he said.
"As part of the annual review, we started looking at eliminating vehicles that were underutilized or not really needed," he said. "For example we might eliminate a vehicle that's driven less than 10,000 miles a year unless other criteria warrant its retention; police and emergency services vehicles are based on the number of responses to incidents during the year and response times. There's a whole checklist we go through to validate the vehicle requirement. The uses of shuttle services on installations are being optimized with the intent of removing 10 passenger vehicles from service for every shuttle bus put into service."
Commands are provided policy guidance when vehicles are due for replacement, he said. To do this, the Army command fleet managers and installation fleet managers were established in 2008. "Vehicle requirements start at the lowest unit levels and work their way up," he said, referring to the review process, which includes easy-to-use guidance like checklists and decision trees.
The Army's challenge is to reduce fossil fuel by 2 percent a year from the 2005 baseline until the goal year of 2020. Moscatelli said the Army is on track to exceed the goal and the preliminary reports for FY12 indicate that the Army's aggregate reduction will be close to 17 percent in comparison to the baseline target of a 14 percent reduction.
Additionally the Army must increase the amount of alternative fuel used each year by 10 percent from a 2005 baseline through 2020 or 159.4 percent. The Army has already achieved that goal, as alternative fuel use is currently over 1,156 percent higher than it was in 2005.
Although that goal has been met, Moscatelli stated "the Army will continue using fossil fuels if the premium required for alternative-energy vehicles is too high. Sometimes it makes better sense financially to use a less expensive, more efficient gas or diesel-powered vehicle, especially if it gets, say, 45 miles per gallon and is a low Green House Gas emitting vehicle."
"The Army will continue to transition to alternative energy vehicles as they become more affordable and as industry develops economical replacements for the medium and heavy vehicle fleet," he continued. "But we will always have a composite fleet made up of hybrid, fossil, electric, and other technologies, because certain types of fuel are simply unavailable in some regions around the world."
Moscatelli provided an example in the U.S., where it would make better sense using fossil fuel, albeit with good gas mileage.
"Say you're a recruiter in the middle of Wyoming," he said. "You wouldn't want to be in an E85, CNG or LPG sedan if the fuels were not readily accessible. You might have to drive a long way to find a gas station that has it and therefore lose any benefits gained by consuming the alternative fuel."
E85 is 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline; CNG is compressed natural gas; and LPG is another type of fuel using liquefied petroleum gas.
"We look at other things too, like usage. If a vehicle will be driven in the city or on an installation where, say, the speed limit is 35 mph or less, it might make sense to purchase a hybrid because it will run using its battery and electric motor. However, if the vehicle will be driven in excess of 45 mph for more than 50 percent of the time, the engine would kick in a lot more and you'd lose the hybrid advantage, especially if you pay a heavy premium for the hybrid."
Moscatelli said it sometimes makes sense for installations to operate more shuttles. As environmental stewards the Army has a requirement to reduce the carbon footprint and the pollution from privately-owned vehicles used by the workforce, once they arrive on an installation. Shuttle services provide mass movement of personnel between facilities reducing the need to use individual POVs.
While energy savings are important, Moscatelli said mission always comes first. "If the Army reduces the recruiting force by, say, 400 recruiters, then we can probably eliminate a couple of hundred cars," he said. "On the other hand, if the Army needs 400 more recruiters, we would have to get additional vehicles, even though it cuts into our energy and cost-savings goals."
He added that those extra cars would not be bigger than mission requirements. "A recruiter needs room in the vehicle to carry prospective enlistees so we'd look at seating capacity requirements. If there were multiple vehicles available to the recruiter, perhaps one of the vehicles might have a larger ratio of cargo space to passenger space to haul around boxes of recruiting supplies."
Moscatelli said the old days of more is better are gone, but the mindset is often still there. He said there still needs to be a culture shift.
There is another way the Army is looking to get more bang for its buck, by shuffling its fleet around.
"We're trying to move more vehicles away from Army-owned, to GSA-leased," he said. "GSA's replacement cycle is about three to five years, based on when it's most advantageous to sell on the secondary market. That's their business model."
"The life of Army-owned vehicles averages 13 to 15 years," he said. "That means more maintenance dollars have to be spent and it also reduces our opportunity to get more energy-efficient vehicles that much sooner as the technologies mature."
Moscatelli said these are exciting times for energy-saving vehicle technologies.
One of many examples, he said, is that the Army is looking at leasing more electric vehicles, and making money from them. "When not in use, they'd be connected to the grid so utility companies could use their energy, say, during a brown out. They would be authorized to draw down to 80 percent of the vehicle's capacity. And the good part is that the Army would collect a monthly stipend from the utility company, even when the extra energy isn't used by them."
"That would be a win, win situation for the Army, the taxpayers, the utilities and the utilities' customers," he added.