Green Fleets Across America 2012

May 5, 2012

By Brittany-Marie Swanson for School Bus Fleet

Lansing, Michigan - Green action plan reduces carbon footprint

Five years ago, family-owned Dean Transportation made a commitment to minimize its carbon footprint by adopting green initiatives targeting idling, garage and office operations, power consumption and more. Since then, the company has reduced its environmental impact by approximately 10 percent each year.

“We are investing heavily in emissions-reducing devices — diesel particulate filters and auxiliary power units/heaters. And, all of our new buses are using the diesel exhaust fluid,” says Patrick Dean, director of development for the company.

The company has also partnered with the EPA to retrofit all its pre-2004 bus models with diesel oxidation catalysts, which reduce pollution. All of its vehicles are equipped with Zonar GPS to track vehicle speed and idling.

“We are also investigating the use of electric vehicles … and doing some research on propane and CNG buses,” Dean adds. The company currently operates four hybrid-electric school buses (Thomas Built Buses C2es).

Even more impressive, company headquarters and Dean Transportation’s West Michigan headquarters are both approved for their environmental efficiency and responsibility by the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities (SERF). SERF is currently reviewing the company’s new training and education facility in Lansing that was constructed using repurposed wood, as well as energy-efficient lighting and heating/cooling elements.

But Dean says the company’s most important focus is on training.

“One of the hallmarks of our business is our training program,” he explains. “We’re teaching our staff how to reduce their fuel consumption by developing good driving habits, and also what they can do to monitor their tire pressure, speed and acceleration, all in an effort to reduce fuel use.”

Moreover, the program includes training on managing special-needs students, responding to student health emergencies (such as allergy attacks and EpiPen use) and behavior management.

“Being a family business, everything we do is centered on family,” Dean explains. “When we talk about our company and our culture and everything that we want to be about, we focus not only on the employee, but also their family.”

Dean Transportation employees are encouraged to participate in the company’s community outreach efforts, such as volunteering at Michigan’s Special Olympics. And each fall, the company recognizes one of its drivers and one of its office locations for their commitment to the environment.

“All fleet service records are paperless,” Dean adds. “Technicians use laptops to enter work orders and conduct vehicle write-ups. Dean is also implementing paperless filing systems in all of its operations centers.”

Dean has also made his own efforts to cultivate a positive impact on the environment.

“I serve as a board secretary on our local Clean Cities coalition, which is called the Greater Lansing Area Clean Cities,” he says. “[One of the coalition’s] goals is to reduce the carbon footprint of fleets throughout the mid-Michigan area.”

In 2009, the Clean Cities Coalitions of Michigan gave Dean Transportation its Corporate Clean Transportation Leadership Award.

While its green efforts are many, Dean says the company’s main focus will always be on student safety.

“We pride ourselves on the customer service that we provide — from a management and also from a school bus driver/school bus aide standpoint — to parents and our community,” he says. “At the end of the day, our mission is to safely transport kids, and anything that deviates from that mission, we take seriously.”