FirstGroup America commits to a smaller carbon footprint

By Kevin Middleton

FirstGroup America commits  to a smaller carbon footprint
Environmental consciousness has a definite effect on corporate policy. Corporate social responsibility programs are transforming forward-looking companies like FirstGroup America, challenging leadership to take a hard look at fuel choices, driving techniques and improved vehicle technology.

FirstGroup America works with clients across the country to encourage safe and reliable vehicles and efficient transportation operations, while at the same time reducing environmental impact.

FirstGroup America established its Environmental Steering Committee to ensure it conducts the most robust environmental impact auditing and compliance standards, and to explore a comprehensive climate change strategy across all its divisions.

The goal is to reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent over the next 12 months and increase waste oil recycling by 3 percent over that same time period.

Even simple changes can have a positive effect in instituting more environmentally friendly fleet operation policies. In addition to diligent routine fleet maintenance, FirstGroup America is equally committed to fuel economy baseline testing to gain greater insight into which environmental efforts have the greatest impact on energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Over the last six months, three FirstGroup America business units had a hand in making substantial changes to the overall transit carbon footprint.

First Transit City of Monroe Transit System, Monroe, LA

Located in northern Louisiana, the City of Monroe Transit System (MTS), the oldest municipally owned transit system in the nation, serves more than 53,000 residents with fixed-route and paratransit transportation. The system has contracted with First Transit for more than 30 years.

In an effort over the last five years to reduce its carbon footprint, MTS has run all its buses on a biodiesel blend, began purchasing buses with particulate filters and low emission vehicle ratings, and introduced its first hybrid vehicles in 2009.
In addition to its commitment to cleaner air, MTS has upgraded its coaches to provide a more comfortable experience. These efforts have paid off with a more than 75 percent passenger increase over five years.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality recently recognized MTS for its robust proactive efforts to prevent pollution, presenting the agency the prestigious 2009 Environmental Leadership Program Municipality Achievement Award.

First Student St. Paul-Minneapolis Area School District
The typical school bus removes an average of 36 private vehicles from the road that would each travel 3,600 miles per year transporting children to and from school. It works to ease traffic congestion, reduce road wear and reduce potentially harmful soot and smog-forming emissions that pollute the local environment.

In and around St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN, First Student transports more than 100,000 students daily to and from school districts as part of Project Green Fleet — a partnership among businesses, government agencies and nonprofits designed to reduce pollution from diesel-powered vehicles. This team has outfitted hundreds of buses with diesel retrofit equipment that will help reduce outdoor pollution by more than 50 percent. First Student has committed to retrofitting more than 500 buses throughout its fleet in Minnesota. More than 40 additional organizations have joined Project Green Fleet in an increased focus on environmental improvement within the Twin Cities.

Greyhound introduces 102 environmentally friendly buses

Greyhound joined the FirstGroup America family in 2007, following the acquisition of Laidlaw. With more than 2,300 buses on the road throughout the United States and Canada, Greyhound carries 22 million passengers each year, covering 6.2 billion passenger miles.

In 2009 Greyhound introduced 102 new environmentally friendly coaches to its fleet. Providing as much as 450 passenger miles per gallon, the new buses are some of the most environmentally friendly coaches on the road.

Clean fuel-burning technology and rigorous engine maintenance improves fuel efficiency throughout the fleet. The nitrous oxide emissions are 50 percent lower and carbon emissions are only 56 grams per passenger, compared to 371 grams for a single-passenger car.

Kevin Middleton, a 30-year transportation industry veteran, joined FirstGroup America in January 2009 as executive vice president of engineering and maintenance to unify safety, maintenance and environmental programs across all divisions.