As numerous municipalities, trucking companies and bus lines struggle to contain costs and improve margins, an increasing number are discovering the benefits of going green — an approach that can directly benefit not only the environment, but the bottom line as well. The challenges in today’s economy are clear: Grow sales, contain costs, increase profitability, expand margins and anticipate regulatory changes.
For municipalities, the pressure to “go green” extends well beyond government mandates to also include end users who are demanding that the products and services they consume reflect a more eco-centric approach. The good news is that much of the transportation field has already moved in this direction and is proactively taking positive steps to reduce its carbon footprint.
Topping the list is an obvious choice: Reducing fuel costs. Small improvements in fuel economy translate into large savings. That’s why many municipalities are already embracing a range of tactics including re-designed vehicle aerodynamics, the use of more fuel-efficient tires and the adoption of idle-reduction technologies. Collectively, these approaches alone can cut fuel consumption by approximately 20 percent according to some industry experts.
At the same time, some bus operators have taken energy efficiency to the next level by using ultra-low sulfur diesel or biodiesel. Many have purchased cutting-edge, emissions-lowering technology to substantially reduce particulate emissions. Others have converted to propane — and captured attractive government tax credits in the process. Another rising technology now available is a modified approach to the Global Positioning System, which permits municipalities and operators to reduce unnecessary idling as well as closely monitor road speed and braking patterns. The net result is that one major operator has already reported a five percent savings on tire wear and an eight percent improvement in fuel economy thanks to enhanced GPS.
Renewed emphasis on maintenance facilities and maintenance equipment
Opportunities to “go green” and reduce costs in transportation also extend well beyond the vehicles themselves, to the very structures that house them and the equipment used in servicing them. The goal, of course, is to improve the conservation of energy, water and materials while simultaneously reducing the level of waste, byproducts and pollution. For example, many maintenance facilities are increasingly using low mercury, high energy-efficient recyclable bulbs. Others are employing special coatings on windows that allow solar energy into building interiors while simultaneously blocking infrared and ultraviolet components that convey unwanted heat. Another innovative approach being used in such locations as New York City harvests rainwater, which is then recycled as “gray water” and used in commercial washers at both bus and subway car maintenance facilities.
At Stertil-Koni, the leader in heavy-duty vehicle lifts, we’ve taken green technology to new heights in both mobile column lifts and in-ground lifts. Our highly-regarded Earthlift is the first hydraulic green mobile column lift in the industry. Its columns are made with components that are 98 percent recyclable, and the Active Energy Retrieval System allows operators to achieve 35 percent more lifting cycles at maximum lifting load. What’s more, the on-screen display highlights the AERS system, enabling the operator to see savings in realtime. Earthlift also uses a closed hydraulic system that contains biodegradable oil and the batteries are 100 percent recyclable.
Many maintenance facilities also utilize in-ground lifts. That’s why Stertil-Koni pioneered the introduction of our U.S.-patented Ecolift, with lifting capacity up to 90,000 pounds. It’s the industry’s original ultra-shallow, full-rise in-ground axle engaging lift. In addition, Ecolift uniquely combines high pressure, low volume hydraulics and only requires 3.5 gallons of fluid per scissor — and nothing is buried. This lift ensures sizeable cost savings on construction and installation and can be utilized in existing workshop pits and even at locations with high water tables.
In sum, the transportation industry has made tremendous progress in terms of going green. From fuel and vehicles to monitoring, maintenance, facility design and lifting equipment, the progress is substantial and the savings impressive. What’s equally exciting is how new and emerging technologies will soon be incorporated into our industry to further support both the environment as well as improve the bottom line.
By JEAN DELLAMORE