Henrico lessens impact of high fuel costs

By Andy Jenks - bio | email | facebook

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – The high cost of fuel is forcing local governments to re-think the way they do business. In Henrico County, the changes were in place long before the most recent jump in prices.

County vehicles burn approximately three million gallons of fuel a year. A lot of that is used in school buses or fire trucks, but there's another part of the fleet that doesn't need to be so big.

"Basically, this is what we give for administrative vehicles," said Fleet Manager Charlie Gibbens, pointing out a sedan with a 4-cylinder engine.

"We let the departments know, your vehicle is due for replacement, can you do it with a smaller vehicle?" Gibbens added.

About three years ago, Henrico began preparing for the next big spike in fuel prices. Cars with big engines, were swapped out for smaller ones...an effort they call "rightsizing."

"It's a much smaller engine, more fuel efficient," Gibbens said, pointing at the sedan.

Since 2008, the county estimates it has saved approximately $216,000 in fuel; an appealing number, especially when combined with the other savings taking place.

"Everything in the fleet that we drain the oil out of, we save it," said Superintendent of Maintenance Alan Eddleton.

Waste oil from those very same vehicles is used to power the furnaces hanging from the rafters at the county's maintenance garage.

"This is probably the biggest facility in the state of Virginia that heats the whole facility on waste oil," Eddleton said.

By using the waste oil, the county doesn't have to purchase natural gas for heat.

"This is but one example of looking at the way we do things, and doing it differently," said Director of General Services Paul Proto.

The savings amount to a small fraction of Henrico County's overall budget, but as the cost of energy moves higher, it makes the increase a bit easier to take.

"Over the period of time, it really has paid off," Proto said.

There's yet another reason to right size. The county says the more fuel efficient vehicles also tend to be less expensive to purchase. Proto estimated the county has saved $900,000 on the fleet, including fuel and capital expenditures since 2008.

Henrico operates approximately 3,400 vehicles including buses, police cruisers, fire trucks, and those used for administrative purposes.

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