Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize: How FedEx Express Leads on Fuel Economy

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In FY15 — five years early — FedEx Express surpassed its goal to boost fuel efficiency across its 50,000-strong vehicle fleet. Given the fleet’s size, this was an important win not just for FedEx but the entire industry. Mitch Jackson, Vice President, Environmental Affairs & Sustainability, sat down with Russ Musgrove, Managing Director of FedEx Express Global Vehicles to shed light on how FedEx reached that goal and discuss its vision moving forward.

Mitch Jackson (MJ): How is FedEx Express showing innovation and leadership on vehicle-related fuel use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

Russ Musgrove (RM): We have a defined, high level strategy — Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize. Our first priority is to reduce overall mileage by optimizing routes so that our entire vehicle fleet travels the minimum miles needed to deliver our services.

But reducing overall mileage is just the first step. Replacing vehicles is next, so we’ve also introduced more efficient models with 4 cylinder, sub 3 liter diesel engines — which are much more fuel efficient — and maximized fuel economy by reprogramming vehicles to run at optimal levels for their weight and load.

Excitingly, we’re also focused on new technology — the Revolutionize phase. We’re looking at electric vehicles, fuel cells and hybrids, among others.

MJ: In FY15, FedEx Express has already surpassed its goal of improving vehicle fuel efficiency by 30% between 2005 and 2020, five years early. Were you surprised at the speed of progress?

RM: I was terrified of that goal when we set it in 2008. Most of the technology needed didn’t exist at the time. But with all hands on deck, we achieved it.

First we balanced the fleet, matching the right truck to the right route. We also embraced new policies in efficiency and became an industry leader in adopting new technologies. Since starting the Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize program, we’ve saved more than 137 million gallons of fuel and avoided almost 1.5 million metric tons of CO2e emissions.

MJ: Looking ahead ten years, what kind of vehicle fleet do you foresee for FedEx Express?

RM: It becomes more difficult now, because the technology to achieve the next goal doesn’t exist today. We’re back where we were in 2008.

In major metropolitan cities, we’re moving toward electric vehicles and starting to make connections with utility companies. We have a couple of thousand routes that could be run with electric vehicles, but right now there’s no manufacturer with the capacity to help us scale up to that anytime soon. And it’s going to take manufacturers to do this. Fleets can’t produce the vehicles on their own. We’re also focusing on hydrogen fuel cells, which can help expand the zero emission range for electric vehicles.

MJ: Thanks Russ. Your team has taken what I call the License to Optimize, and shown how to use technical expertise and creative energy to find new ways to change what’s possible. I commend you and your team for doing that.