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Government vehicle drivers to see changes in fleet   

Master Sgt. Arie Stegall, Medical Department Activity-Alaska Critical Support Division noncommissioned officer in charge and driver of one of the three hybrid electric vehicles in Fort Wainwright’s garrison fleet, demonstrates features of her unique government vehicle. (Photo by Sheryl Nix/Fort Wainwright PAO)
Master Sgt. Arie Stegall, Medical Department Activity-Alaska Critical Support Division noncommissioned officer in charge and driver of one of the three hybrid electric vehicles in Fort Wainwright’s garrison fleet, demonstrates features of her unique government vehicle. (Photo by Sheryl Nix/Fort Wainwright PAO)

By Sheryl Nix
Fort Wainwright PAO

Attention government vehicle drivers:  Change is coming.

But change can be a good thing, according to Tobyn Read, Fort Wainwright Directorate of Logistics non-tactical vehicle fleet manager, particularly when the change is both the right thing to do and legally required.

Government vehicle drivers have already begun to see changes in the type of vehicles allocated, but more is coming, according to Read. “The fleet is drawing down,” he said. “Everyone is more budget-conscious. We are cutting vehicles based on real mission requirements as opposed to perceived requirements or wants – that’s the biggest thing.”

To comply with federal law, the fleet must be leaner, meaner and much more fuel efficient. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 specifies the federal fleet, including the forts Richardson and Wainwright garrison fleets, must reduce fuel consumption by 30 percent in six years, or by five percent per year.

“It’s a significant reduction,” Read said. “I’m not a bunny hugger or tree hugger by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the right thing to do for the environment. Plus, it’s the law by executive order and act of Congress.”

In addition to drawing down the fleet, Read expects continued changes in the types of vehicles that make up the current 289-vehicle garrison fleet to help work toward federal requirements.

The Army recently procured more than 500 hybrid electric vehicles and forts Richardson and Wainwright already have some in their inventories.

Read said the Wainwright garrison fleet currently has three HEVs and 37 alternative fuel-capable vehicles which include both E85, or ethanol, and biodiesel capable vehicles. Fort Richardson has 51 HEVS and AFVs combined, according to Scot Halliburton, Fort Richardson Transportation and Motor Pool chief and Garrison fleet manager.

Meeting the greenhouse gas and fuel reduction requirements could be challenging, but Read is up to the challenge. “It’s time to think differently,” he said. Replacing older, larger and less fuel- efficient vehicles with more cost-effective and ecologically-sound models, as well as HEVs and AFVs, will make that challenge much more possible.

Each year, military installations receive a list of vehicles that, due to age and mileage or other factors, must be replaced.

Based on last year’s numbers, Read anticipates replacing approximately 30 vehicles during fiscal year 2010.

As old vehicles go away, Read acquires vehicles that work toward meeting the mandated fuel and emission reduction and increased mileage requirements.

“As many hybrids as I can get in, I will,” he said. “The more of those I get in, the easier it is to meet our greenhouse and fuel reduction requirements. There will be some that I can’t get in a hybrid, but I can lease alternative fuel vehicles.”

While there is currently no E85 or biodiesel fuel available in the Anchorage or Fairbanks areas, forts Richardson and Wainwright fleet managers plan to be ready when it arrives.

“When the Army or the vendors bring the fuel here we can start using it,” Read said. “We will be ready for the technology when the technology catches up to us.”

Read plans to downsize every vehicle he can this year. Could this mean the end of Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes at Fort Wainwright?

Absolutely, according to Read.

“We have to downsize our fleet and we have to move to AFVs and hybrids,” he said. With very few exceptions, the Department of the Army is no longer approving the procurement or allocation of Class IV vehicles, or large sport utility vehicles, so Read said that requests for them will not be approved.

“They are a dinosaur that is going away. Not may go away – they are going away,” he added. There are alternatives for these vehicles including smaller SUVs, all-wheel-drive vans and sedans. Need, not want, is the name of the game now.

“The one thing that we have to make clear is that any vehicle that is replaced this year is going to be based solely on mission requirements,” Read said.

The biggest challenges he anticipates are changing mindsets and the effectiveness of the HEVs in extreme cold weather.

Since they are relatively new to Wainwright, it is not clear how they will do during the winter in Alaska’s Interior.

Master Sgt. Arie Stegall, Medical Department Activity-Alaska Critical Support Division noncommissioned officer in charge and driver of one of the three HEVs in the Wainwright garrison fleet, is ready for the challenge of winter with her new government vehicle.

“I’m anxious to see how it will do,” she said. “I don’t expect it to handle any differently. It actually might be better.”

Stegall, a Reservist on temporary duty assignment to Bassett Army Community Hospital from the 7243rd U.S. Army Hospital in Las Vegas, Nev., said she was impressed with the Ford Fusion from the first moment she saw it, and heard it.

“I had never been in a hybrid before,” she said. “It’s very quiet.”

The engine only comes on when it’s needed and she only fills the gas tank up once a month.

“It’s very safe,” she said. She loves the features of the car, including back-up sensors and comfort features. “I like the way the dashboard lights up and tells you everything. It’s a very user-friendly vehicle.”

While some government vehicle drivers might be resistant to trying one of the hybrids, Stegall insists that seeing, or in this case, driving, is believing.

“You can’t say you don’t like something until you try it,” she said. “I’ve tried it and I like it. I want one.”

Change is coming to the federal fleet, and in many instances, is already here. But, Read is ready to help customers adjust to the changes.

“I would love to educate them on the requirements – the legal requirements – that are out there because I don’t want anyone to be surprised about what’s coming,” he said. “It’s mostly an education issue.”

For more information on changes in the federal fleet program at Fort Richardson, call Halliburton at 384-1433.

For more information on changes in the program at Fort Wainwright, call Read at 353-1134.