Idling Reduction in the City of Williams Lake
Danny Moxey, like many other smaller local government employees, takes on more than just the City of Williams Lake’s (the City) fleet. He is also in charge of all the City’s buildings and lights as Deputy Director of Municipal Services. However, he understood why it was important for the City to reduce emissions from the fleet and took the time necessary to do so. As he put it, “Poor air quality and escalating fuel costs were the major drivers that pushed us to take action to green our fleet. It is important for us (the City) to be proactive and take a leadership role in reducing GHG emissions in our community.
Policy Approval and Implementation
The process started by getting approval from City Council to move forward. “We held meetings with Council to explain the purpose of the policy and receive support and endorsement,” said Danny. Council approved a Vehicle/Equipment Idle Free Policy in April 2006. It applies to all City equipment and vehicles, including transit vehicles. The policy sets procedures for vehicle warm-up and field operations, and limits or eliminates idling, depending on the operating circumstances. Various exceptions to the general rules are also spelled out.
Danny knew that staff and fleet operators would need to help implement the policy and their buy-in would be critical to its success. “Meetings were held with staff to discuss strategies and bring forward ideas for implementing the policy. Articles were also run in the local newspapers explaining it to the community. "Idle-free" signs were installed at key locations for city vehicles, including City Hall, the Public Works Yard, and the Recreation Complex.”
“We also held an Idle Free Workshop and luncheon at City Hall with the Williams Lake Business Community to explain the initiative and our successes. We had representatives from the Ministry of Forestry, local school district, and local sawmills in attendance as well,” said Danny. The Williams Lake Air Shed Roundtable also made a presentation about the importance of taking these actions.
Danny reports that the Fraser Basin Council, the E3 Fleet program, Fleet Challenge, and Natural Resources Canada were key sources of information that he has relied on to develop and implement the policy.
“This is probably the best thing you can do for the environment without costing you any money and at the end of the day it will save you money.”
Vehicle/Equipment Idle Free Policy for Council's approval, there were no guidlines on vehicle start-up and warm-up procedures. “This has improved our equipment operation especially in cold weather operations,” said Danny. Not only has it reduced the City’s GHG emissions, “It also reduced our operating costs. We now use less fuel and are able to extend our service intervals due to reduced vehicle and equipment downtime. We are finding less contamination in lube oil samples and have realized an average 20% savings in maintenance costs.” In some vehicles, these savings have been as high as 50%. This success comes despite an average January temperature of -10ºC.
Monitor to Change Behaviour
Monitoring the operation of vehicles and equipment was easy. “We could easily visually monitor the operation of equipment. As the old habits of idling began to change,” said Danny, “the staff began to police themselves.” Danny attributes the ongoing success of the program from its very early stages to the positive attitude of equipment operators.
The City has also installed a new fuel storage and dispensing system in the Public Works Yard. It allows for more effective fuel management and helps the City better monitor the success of their green fleet programs.
Barriers and Breakthroughs
The first major challenges that the City ran into were related to winter snow equipment operations and cold weather starting and warm-up periods. “All the equipment has block heaters and the heavy duty equipment, such as loaders, has transmission heaters to help speed up warm-up times and reduce premature failures,” said Danny. Since instituting the Idle Free Policy, Danny sees more people cleaning windows rather than running the equipment until the snow and ice melts off. “After initial warm-up the equipment is warmed up while driving at low RPMs and slower speeds. We now see units being shut down over coffee and lunch breaks.”
Another change involved vehicles that must operate with their emergency lighting turned on. The City has been switching over these vehicles to a dual battery system and now specifies this features for all new vehicles. "This allows for full day operation of emergency lighting without idling the vehicle or running down the main starting battery,” explained Danny. Training operators on the new equipment was a key part of changing their work habits. The City is also switching to the latest LED technology for all its vehicle lighting systems.
Fleet Reduction - a related initiative
One day, “We looked around at our vehicles and saw so many sitting around all the time,” said Danny. After a careful review of the fleet Danny realized that the City had quite a number of energy inefficient vehicles or ones with minimal usage. “So we held an Obsolete Equipment Auction with the local auctioneer and disposed of the them.”
The City made $44,000 from the auction just by getting rid of unncessary and GHG intensive equipment and vehicles. The money went into the equipment reserve and will help fund further energy-efficient equipment purchases.
Along with this fleet right-sizing, City Council has committed to purchasing hybrid vehicles whenever possible. It has already acquired a hybrid Toyota Highlander and two hybrid Honda Civics. These vehicles have an automatic idle stop feature and an innovative air conditioning system that uses an electric compressor to keep occupants comfortable when the engine is stopped.
Costs of Implementation
“The capital cost of the idling reduction program has been very modest. All new equipment specifications include dual battery systems and the LED lighting is being changed over as failure of old units occurs,” said Danny. The City was also supplied with information packages and some Idle Free signage from the Fraser Basin Council.
The City made use of the Provincial Government’s rebate of $2,000 for each hybrid vehicle purchase and $2,000 from Transport Canada’s EcoAuto Program.
“Less equipment is left idling in the Public Works Yard or on the works site,” said Danny. Fuel consumption comparisons after one year have shown an average of 20% savings in fuel usage. This means that the City has reduced GHG emissions by approximately 63,600kg. Vehicle maintenance costs have also gone down by approximately 20%. “Working conditions in the Public Works Yard have improved due to fewer GHG emissions, less noise pollution, and very few complaints of diesel smell in the building from exhaust gases being drawn into the HVAC system.” No doubt this will result in fewer health impacts from GHG emissions as well.
“There is also more awareness in the community that idling generates harmful emissions, wastes fuel, reduces engine life, is revenue negative, and can easily be minimized,” Danny said about the effects felt throughout the community.