Wal-Mart Plans Fleet Efficiency Gain From Both Improved Vehicle Technology And Operational Improvement


Wal-Mart Stores is aiming to increase total fleet efficiency by 100% from 2005 to 2015. It has already exceeded its 2008 interim goal of a 25% increase, according to Wal-Mart’s Senior Vice President of Transportation, Chris Sultemeier.

Total fleet efficiency is a combination of driving and operational efficiency combined with vehicles efficiencies. Of the current 25%, about 20% is probably due to vehicle technology and 5% to operational improvements. Projecting forward to the 2015 goal, about 50% could come from vehicle improvements and  50% from operational improvements,  Sultemeier said.

Part of the improvement is through improved fuel economy, and part of it is through eliminating empty miles—excess miles. Wal-Mart has improved packaging to make truck loading more efficient. One of the key statistics is that Wal-Mart has shipped 150 million more cases and yet driven 90 million less miles.

To achieve its recent efficiency gains, Wal-Mart has installed diesel APUs on all its trucks, and applied aerodynamic skirting. Wal-Mart has begun working with super single tires. It is also testing nitrogen-filled tires and an automatic filling procedure to keep a constant tire air pressure.

"On the other side, probably the key is getting more on the trailers. When we talk about efficiency, if you can take miles off the road, that’s huge—that’s bigger than things we can do around the equipment." Said Chris Sultemeier

In terms of vehicles, Wal-Mart is pursuing four lines of investigation: hybrid assist technology; full hybrid technology including all-electric drive; LNG; and biofuels.

"We don’t know how we get to 100%. We have technologies on board and things happening that we think provide a path to 100% efficiency [improvement]. If we could get 50% of our efficiency through pure equipment, I would consider that to be very successful."  Said Chris Sultemeier

Hurray for Wal-Mart and for the rest of us. After a leader like Wal-Mart improves fleet efficiency, a lot of other companies will follow suit. 

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