Sustainability Spotlight - Fleet Management

November 20, 2020

Yale Fleet Management was organized as an operation in 2009 under the leadership of George Longyear, Jr., Director of Yale Housing and Fleet Management. When Senior Fleet Administrator Ron Gitelman, joined the group in 2011, this small but mighty team of two set forth to position themselves and Yale Fleet Management as industry leaders in Fleet sustainability. Over the past 11 years, they’ve built best practices, set systems in place to track and report emissions, and have been visionary in terms of thinking about how the university can move forward in more sustainable ways to improve fleet efficiency.

We recently had an opportunity to chat with George and Ron about all that they’ve accomplished, and what lies ahead.

How do you feel your work has helped contribute to Yale’s climate goals? 

Yale Fleet Management has been focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in line with President Salovey’s sustainability plan, by introducing fleet vehicles that are low emissions, hybrid, or no emissions. Our team is responsible for purchasing all university vehicles. The university currently owns approximately 535 vehicles, including just over 40 boats. Alternative fuel vehicles make up about 20% of our entire fleet. In fact, Yale policy now states that an alternative fuel vehicle must be considered, if it is an available and viable option, when purchasing a new fleet vehicle or replacing an old one.

We first tested the waters with low emissions vehicles in 2012, but, at the time, the technology wasn’t quite there yet, so when we purchased our first low-emissions cargo van, it proved to be a bit of a flop. The vendor went out of business, it was difficult to maintain, and we knew we needed to rethink our game plan.  Our first leap was into bio-diesel buses, then we moved on to natural gas, then eventually to propane. We currently own 22 propane-fueled vehicles. Propane fuel has the lowest price-point and lowest emissions compared to gasoline. We also have our own fuel center right here on campus, which saves about 70-80 cents per gallon.

As of late, our team’s focus has shifted slightly to technology improvements in electric vehicles. We’re also concentrated on installing electric-charging stations throughout the campus. We currently have 13 stations and plan to install 17 more this year. If the program is successful, we hope to roll out an additional 30 new machines. The 13 original stations will be replaced with new level-two Chargepoint machines, which have the power to fully charge a vehicle in just two to three hours. Yale community members will be able to reserve a charging station time slot through a mobile app.

What role have you and your department played in helping Yale meet its climate goals? 

Prior to 2009, Fleet Management was a completely decentralized operation run by 35 different schools and departments across campus, which was costing the university approximately six million dollars per year. We unified the operation and, once Ron came onboard, in April of 2011, he was given the initiative to seek out the knowledge and resources to take us to the next level of sustainability. It has been a learn-as-you-go process and we have made some mistakes, but we strive to continually grow and develop. Ron has received his Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) certification, and has attended, and spoken at, countless conferences and events.  We are proud to say that Yale is now one of the leaders in sustainability across universities. Among Yale Fleet Management’s achievements are: developing a sustainability certification for NAFA (National Association of Fleet Administrators) and becoming one of NAFA’s first sustainable fleets in the country; winning the NCFSA (National Conference of State Fleet Administrators) environmental leadership award; and receiving an honorable mention in Top Green Fleets USA.

What makes you excited about Yale’s commitment to sustainability? 

Yale strives to be a world leader in sustainability, and to be able to support that effort is huge. Fleet is much smaller than some other areas of the university, but we can still do our part, not only for Yale, but for the country and the world. To know that we can have an impact on our small piece of the pie is exciting.

Why do think Yale’s sustainability goals are important? 

Yale University has taught sustainability for years. Having these goals, and working to achieve them, is a way to practice what we preach and to lead and inspire others through not just our words, but our actions. Our goals are so much bigger than our campus and the New Haven community. We must demonstrate to the world that we are committed to sustainability.

On a more personal level, we must reduce emissions and help contribute to cleaner air for the benefit of our own communities, our families, and our children. Setting a positive example for our children and reducing emissions to ensure that they have a cleaner air to breathe is extremely important.

Any recommendations for how readers can help conserve energy at Yale or at home? 

Always use public transportation when that is a practical option. Using the Yale shuttle system, trains, carpools, or other public transportation helps to cut down on emissions.

Be sure to perform preventative maintenance on your vehicle(s). A car that is well maintained will do well in terms of sustainability.

Lastly, don’t be afraid of hybrid or electric vehicles. More and more are coming out that are as powerful as, or even more powerful than, gas-powered vehicles. Many people still experience what we call “range anxiety”—the fear that an electric vehicle will have insufficient range to reach its destination, leaving the occupants stranded.  As the government continues to install more charging stations across the United States, we hope that will ease some of the range anxiety and impact car buyers’ decisions.