By Jason King
PG&E has been ranked as the top vocational fleet in the United States by FleetOwner Magazine’s 12th Annual Fleet of the Year Awards for demonstrating innovation and excellence in its fleet operations.
While the fleet operation supporting PG&E, one of the nation’s largest public utilities, is huge and complex, its mission can be summed up as ensuring efficiency and advancing sustainability. From there, things get complicated and therefore innovation at work must be more the rule than the exception, according to Dave Meisel, PG&E’s senior director of transportation & aviation services.
“There is no ‘one-size-fits all’ strategy for our fleet operations, especially given that our service territory is comprised of every climate and topography in California. That’s why,” Meisel said only half-jokingly, “if it has wheels on it, we probably have one.”
PG&E fields close to 14,000 vehicles comprised of 156 distinct sets of specs. That’s not counting the jet and fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters that make up the fleet’s ‘air wing.’
“We run a lot of complicated vehicles, and their maintenance and repair needs are pretty broad,” said Meisel. “And because we run the largest utility fleet in the country and do so in California, we are both required and expected to be as environmentally sustainable as possible.” Indeed, PG&E operates one of the greenest fleets in the nation, with more than 3,400 alternative fuel vehicles, powered by natural gas, hybrid drives and electricity.
“When we look at specs, especially for alternative-fuel vehicles, our premise is that first and foremost they must meet the needs of our operation,” Meisel said. “Then we look at their environmental contribution and cost of operation.
And PG&E ends up saving more by going green.
“One of the most innovative things we’ve done was to develop the hybrid-electric bucket truck,” he said. “That began with a discussion on how those trucks were idling six to seven hours a day. By working with Altec, we electrified all our Ford F-550 units and cut idling to zero. We paid a premium, but our analysis showed that we’d save so much fuel that payback would come in just three years.”
The utility also has invested in green infrastructure. Besides 32 CNG and LNG fueling locations, PG&E has installed more than 100 electric-vehicle charging stations and is putting in place over 30 more.
Nominations for FleetOwner’s “Fleet of the Year” awards are not sought by the recipients nor are they linked to any industry association or influenced by any outside group. Instead, candidates are identified and researched over the course of the calendar year by Fleet Owner’s editors, who then determine the Fleet of the Year winners and runners-up. The awards recognize one fleet each from the for-hire, private and vocational segments of the trucking industry whose executives have concretely applied innovative thinking to substantially enhance key aspects of their respective trucking operations.
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