FedEx closes in on 2020 fleet efficiency goal

The logistics giant is closing in on a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, through both retrofits and electric vehicle investments.

Yes, the year in the headline is correct. Delivery and logistics company Fedex Express reports this month that the company has improved its fleet efficiency by 16.6 percent through fiscal year 2011, compared with 2005.

The company's goal has been to squeeze 20 percent more fuel efficiency out of its fleet by 2020, and it seems like FedEx could reach that number rather easily based on the numbers it has already achieved. As a result, it plans to study whether or not to move the bar a bit farther, according to Mitch Jackson, FedEx staff vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability.

FedEx has embraced a variety of strategies to drive better efficiency. For example, 20 percent of its diesel fleet complies with standards set out in 2010 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company also has deployed 43 electric vehicles across its routes and it will almost double that number in the near future -- bring the total number of electric vehicles in its fleet to 130. The new vehicles will be put on the road in the next few months in New York, several metro markets in California, several places in Texas, and in Rockville, Md. There's also a test going on in Chicago.

FedEx is also adding trucks that weigh less than conventional walk-in vans: it is using 114 vehicles that use a Reach composite body and an Isuzu Motors chassis. The design saves up to 35 percent in fuel.

FedEx is also flirting with retrofit technologies that convert standard vehicles into all electric models. It is testing drive trains from AMP, Smith Electric and Freightliner Custom Chassis.

"While we naturally want to improve performance and reduce costs for FedEx, we also want to see all-electric trucks become more affordable and reliable for everyone from your local pizza parlor to other small businesses that deliver," said FedEx's Jackson, in a statement. "This is a strategy for reducing reliance on petroleum-based fuels in a much faster, more inclusive and impactful way."

It should be intriguing to see how much more efficiency FedEx can drive between now and 2020.

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