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Our fleet of 18,927 collection vehicles provides reliable, essential service to our customers while reducing our environmental impact.
By the end of 2021, 57% of WM’s collection fleet had been transitioned to compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, avoiding the use of millions of gallons of diesel fuel per year and comprising the largest heavy-duty natural gas fleet of its kind in North America. Over half of our CNG vehicles use dairy or landfill biogas, including gas captured from our own landfills. In California, Oregon and Washington, 100% of our natural gas fleet runs on RNG.
For every diesel-powered truck we replace with natural gas, we reduce our annual fuel use by an average of 8,000 gallons, an equivalent of 14 metric tons of GHG. CNG vehicles are quieter than diesel trucks and emit nearly zero particulate emissions, which helps improve air quality.
WM has invested $2.5 billion in CNG vehicles, and an additional $550 million in fueling infrastructure. Our goal is to create a near-zero-emissions fleet fueled almost entirely with renewable fuel. With these efforts in mind, WM is working toward a science-based target to cut fleet emissions by 45% by 2038, against a 2010 baseline. We are well on our way to achieving this goal, having already reduced collection and support fleet emissions by 43%. We’ve achieved these reductions through logistical efficiencies, transitioning to natural gas vehicles, and by increasing our use of renewable fuel.
Inside WM’s Natural Gas Fleet
Vehicles receive natural gas fuel through our network of WM owned and operated fueling stations. In the case of facilities like WM’s Skyline RNG Facility, a natural gas fueling station was installed directly adjacent to where landfill gas is captured and processed, creating a closed loop through waste collection, conversion into energy and use as fuel for collection trucks.
Natural gas vehicles fueled with RNG offer many environmental benefits by reducing NOx emissions by as much as 97%, diesel particulate matter by as much as 94% and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by as much as 80%, compared to the diesel vehicles they replace. The use of RNG also incentivizes improved management of existing waste streams, which can lead to water and air quality benefits beyond the production of RNG.
In 2019, we began using RNG captured from dairy and hog operations as an additional source of fuel. Converting waste manure to RNG is a win-win: it reduces methane emissions at a dairy farm and reduces vehicle emissions from trucks on the road. Dairy RNG also delivers a significantly lower carbon intensity than diesel or even landfill RNG, meaning that fewer emissions are associated with its production and consumption than other fuel types. WM is also piloting a project to use biodiesel where CNG fuel is not available or practical, allowing us to further reduce our fossil fuel-derived diesel use.
Improving the Efficiency of Our Network
Beyond using cleaner fuel, we are decreasing the amount of fuel we consume via logistics solutions, including route optimization technology that allows us to reach customers while traveling the shortest possible distance. Efficient routing translates into reduced fuel consumption and associated emissions, while also improving the quality of our service by limiting delays.
Credit for much of this progress goes to our WM Way initiative, which helps streamline routes. WM Way technology includes DriveCam®, a video recorder mounted on the windshield of collection vehicles that is automatically activated by sudden movements. Where appropriate, managers watch videos with drivers to coach them on safer and more fuel-efficient driving techniques, such as proper acceleration, deceleration and efficient speeds. We also use an anti-idling program to reduce fuel consumption. Through this program, all collection vehicles built after 1998 can program idle shutdown timers to five minutes, in accordance with the American Transportation Research Institute’s Compendium of Idling Regulations.
Driving Toward Zero Emissions
While RNG vehicles have helped us significantly reduce fleet emissions, we continue to look for ways to further reduce our impact. For example, while zero-emissions, battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are increasingly available for many passenger and commercial applications, weight limitations present a challenge for our heavy-duty collection trucks. Current battery technology requires these trucks to carry multiple batteries to complete their routes, which adds weight. Our Class 8 collection trucks are limited by legal weight limits on roadways that determine how much various types of trucks can carry. In order to carry enough battery power and comply with these limits, WM would need more trucks on the road to provide the same level of service.
These limitations, combined with the cost of the trucks to date, have been an impediment to the adoption of this technology. However, as battery technology continues to evolve, we expect electric vehicles to become more compatible with our needs.
WM works with major domestic and international vehicle original equipment manufacturers to identify state-of-the-art zero-emissions truck and compaction technologies for our fleet. We began operating our first electric-powered collection truck in 2020 in Southern California and are continuing with pilot vehicles and programs throughout the United States, evaluating new vehicles and technology to provide the best service to our customers while reducing our vehicle emissions in the communities where we live and work.
Beyond these initial vehicles, we continue testing alternative energy collection and support vehicles from nearly every major manufacturer, working with them to provide feedback on truck performance. By experimenting with a broad range of solutions, we expect to find the technologies that allow us to be successful and ultimately operate with zero emissions in the communities we serve.