Berjerone Mason has been a FedEx courier in Washington, D.C., for the past 11 years. He begins his
workday at the FedEx station around 5 a.m., checks his truck and sorts
and loads his packages. When the fleet heads out a few hours later,
he's on his own. He'll make some 70 deliveries by the end of the day.
gets good service from his truck. While it looks exactly like every
FedEx delivery van, it is actually one of just three in the Washington
fleet equipped with a hybrid, diesel-electric engine.
FedEx was the first
in its industry to put a hybrid truck on the road and now operates 200
worldwide, with the largest active fleet in North America. Mason was
assigned the hybrid three years ago, and he says he notices the
difference in how it drives.
"Typically, when I was driving
the diesel, I found myself filling up at least twice a week. With this
truck, it's just once every other week, so the gas mileage is a lot
better than the diesel," he says.
United States in good position to lead hybrid truck industry
a month ago, Mason's FedEx truck was among more than a dozen hybrid
trucks on display in front of the U.S. Capitol for an event called
"Hybrid on the Hill Day." The shiny
vehicles - dump trucks, soda trucks, utility trucks, delivery trucks,
school buses and big tractor-trailers rigs - parked nearby make a
statement, says event coordinator Bill Van Amburg, vice president of
CALSTART, a non-profit group promoting
clean transportation alternatives.
"All of the major truck
makers in the United States have now either entered or are about to
enter early low-volume production," he says. "So we have the beginnings
of a marketplace and the beginnings of a pretty robust supply chain,
but we are right on the cusp of market."
According to a new
Duke University report, that market has enormous potential. While Japan took an early lead in the hybrid
passenger car industry, the study finds that the United States - with
hybrid truck manufacturing, assembly or research and development
operations in 30 states - is poised to take the lead with hybrid
Benefits include cleaner air, more jobs, lower costs
Amburg says growing the industry would help cut fuel consumption,
reduce carbon and soot emissions and boost the economy with new
high-tech green jobs.
"We're talking about engineering, energy
storage, lightweight materials, power electronics and system control
software," he explains.
Van Amburg anticipates "tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next 10 years."
companies like FedEx, hybrid vehicles also represent potentially huge
savings in annual fuel costs and also underscore the firm's commitment
to green practices, such as reducing climate-changing emissions.
Industry wants subsidies to get up and running
Formosano is vice president for global vehicles for FedEx Express. He
says the hybrids are significantly more expensive to buy than
conventional trucks, and the company is hoping for some kind of
government subsidy to permit more affordable fleet purchases.
"We would really like to see both federal and state incentives to help us deploy the technology," he says.
would also be a boon to hybrid truck manufacturers, says CALSTART's
Bill Van Amburg, because, as with any new technology, a financial
jump-start can spark demand and help get production rolling.
we can get up to five to 10,000 units per year, we will be at the point
where the technology sustains itself for price and justifies a fleet
purchasing it." But, Van Amburg adds, "We've got to get over those
first numbers and first volumes."
Compared to passenger cars, he
says, "It is not that many vehicles. It's a very doable, very discrete
target that we've laid out."
As for Berjerone Mason, the FedEx driver, he'd like to hold on to his fuel-saving, low-emissions truck for as long as he can.
don't plan on letting it go. They may want someone else to experience
what I've experienced." And, he adds with a chuckle, "If it comes down
to that, I'll have to let it go."