How the Smithsonian Cut Fleet Oil Consumption by 44 Percent

AP file photo

The institution’s 1,500 vehicles are used for law enforcement, bus service, animal transport and more.

This is the fifth in a series of sustainability case studies developed by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

The Smithsonian Institution’s fleet department motto is, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” It’s an expression that comes up frequently when discussing the dramatic transformation of how the organization manages its fleet today.

The Smithsonian operates a range of facilities, including museums, zoos, animal research and educational centers, as well as office space in more than 80 countries. Its 1,500 vehicles are used for law enforcement, shuttle bus service, animal transport, construction and maintenance, and other purposes.

Following an independent review in 2006 that highlighted a number of critical shortcomings, the Smithsonian began consolidating all fleet operations and introducing  a fleet management information system and vehicle telematics to collect data to enhance tracking and management.

These tools allowed the Smithsonian’s fleet managers to:

  • Monitor real-time vehicle use and fuel consumption.
  • Reduce vehicle idle time by 40 percent.
  • Automatically track and schedule preventive maintenance so vehicles can be repaired before problems escalate, reducing unscheduled maintenance by 15 percent.
  • Reduce the number of vehicles and deliveries between facilities by optimizing routing.  
  • Gather information on driver behavior to promote more fuel-efficient driving.

With more information at their fingertips, fleet managers could make more informed decisions and identify opportunities to cut costs. As a result, the Smithsonian has reduced its light-duty vehicles 18 percent, from 600 to 490, and along with other measures, reduced petroleum consumption by 44 percent since 2005.

As agencies come under increased pressure to reduce costs, cut energy use and limit greenhouse gas emissions, they could learn from the Smithsonian’s early efforts in these areas.

Read the full case study here