Challenge prompts automotive fleets to reduce CO2 emissions

The results are in, and they look pretty good for a carbon dioxide-reducing challenge sponsored by Wheels Inc.

The Des Plaines, Ill.-based automotive fleet leasing company today said that its inaugural EcoWheels Green Driver Challenge, which enlisted 2,970 corporate fleet vehicle drivers, prevented tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

The ten-week program got pledges from drivers "whose actions are equivalent to saving 4,640,520 pounds in carbon dioxide emissions, or the equivalent of 341,787 trees having been planted," officials said in a statement.

The exact amount is near impossible to measure. However, the EcoWheels Challenge Web site provides some clarity. It provided those who signed up a checklist of activities with estimates for each energy-saving measure. The list included checking tires to ensure proper inflation, reducing idling time, planning routes in advance of any trip, accelerating more gradually and leaving excess cargo.

"It is clear that our drivers are excited about the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and operate their vehicles more efficiently while still carrying out the duties of their respective jobs," said Dan Frank, president of Wheels Services. "The drivers took action that made a significant contribution to the preservation of our environment while at the same time reducing their fuel consumption and expenses."

Forty-one different corporate fleets participated, including SimplexGrinnell, a Boca Raton, Florida-based fire suppression and emergency communications company.

"The EcoWheels program demonstrated the significant impact our employees can have by making simple changes in driving habits and embracing the importance of conservation and environmental protection," said Jim Spicer, president of SimplexGrinnell.

The results encouraged Gail Watson, fleet manager, Nationwide Insurance, who said, "We actively search for opportunities to improve our operating efficiency and to reduce waste, and participating in this challenge shows that you don't need to be in manufacturing in order to make sustainability a priority."

Wheels officials said they will continue to share information with customers so fleet drivers "can make smart, environmentally sound driving decisions year-round." The framework of the challenge is relatively simple, and its recommendations can be adopted by drivers in any size fleet.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.