University of Vermont

University Communications

University of Vermont Unveils First Green Certification Program in Commercial Transportation Industry

Release Date: 06-22-2007

Author: Jeffrey R. Wakefield
Email: Jeffrey.Wakefield@uvm.edu
Phone: 802/656-2005 Fax: (802) 656-3203

On June 21 the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension unveiled a green certification program targeted to a transportation sector that carries more travelers each year than the airlines, or Amtrak and commuter rail combined: the motorcoach industry.

The program is the first in the commercial transportation sector to recognize and encourage, via an official certification program, excellence in environmental performance and practice.

UVM Extension awarded the first Green Coach Certification (GCC) to Lamoille Valley Transportation of Morrisville, Vt. Lamoille Valley offsets all of its carbon emissions, averages over 250 passenger miles per gallon and runs its entire fleet of school buses and luxury motorcoaches on a blend of biodiesel. LVT saw a significant increase in sales after it began promoting its green practices to customers.

"We’re proud to be recognizing LVT’s strong commitment to the environment, stimulating growth in Vermont’s growing green business sector, and helping launch a program that could significantly reduce carbon emissions in our state and outside it," said Douglas O. Lantagne, dean of UVM Extension.

Vermont is home to another motorcoach company, Bristol Tours of Bristol, Vt., that also helped inspire the creation of the GCC program, Lantagne said. Bristol pioneered the use of biofuels within the motorcoach sector, the first company in the state to do so and one of the first in the nation.

UVM also officially certified the motorcoach serving as the transportation for the Udall Foundation Legacy Bus Tour. The tour, which will make a two-day stopover in Vermont, is carrying 13 fellows from the Tuscon-based Udall Foundation, named for the late Arizona Congressman, on a 54-day, cross-country eco-journey covering 8,606 miles to highlight both the foundation’s contribution to public service and to inspire others to become engaged.

The Udall bus, operated by LVT for the tour, is perhaps the country’s greenest motorcoach: a first-of-its kind Motor Coach Industries J4500 LX coach model equipped with a 2007 clean-diesel Caterpillar engine running on biodiesel and using carbon offsets.

A national pilot
In addition to providing a Green Coach Certification to Lamoille Valley Transit, the university also announced a UVM Extension pilot program — designed by Extension staff Lisa Chase and David Kestenbaum — that will make GCC certifications available to motorcoach operators across North America.

The American Bus Association, North America’s primary industry association, provided guidance to the university as Chase and Kestenbaum developed the GCC concept.

"The American Bus Association is pleased to see the University of Vermont recognize that motorcoaches are part of America's energy and environmental solution,” said Peter Pantuso, president of the ABA. “Each full motorcoach takes up to 55 cars off the road, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, saving fuel and cutting our reliance on foreign sources of energy. We look forward to working with the university as they bring this program to fruition."

Other groups, including the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Foundation, and Clean Cities/Virginia are also supportive of the program.

After the pilot program is incubated at UVM, the university anticipates it would be handed off to an independent group that would act as the certifying body, Lantagne said.

UVM researchers think the program could achieve the kind of success for the motorcoach industry that organic food certification programs have for organic products, expanding awareness and driving up sales. "The program will allow consumers interested in green transportation to connect with the greenest providers," said Kestenbaum.

Under the current program model, UVM anticipates permitting motorcoach operators to become eligible for various levels of certification. To enter the program at the base level, motorcoach companies will be asked to demonstrate they are doing at least one of the following: running an EPA 2007 compliant engine; averaging more than 148 passenger miles per gallon; running on a B20 or higher blend of biodiesel a minimum of 80 percent of the time; running on an E85 or higher blend of ethanol 80 percent of the time; offsetting their carbon emissions through an endorsed carbon-trading program; or using hybrid electric motors.

Research surrounding the effectiveness of the GCC pilot is being conducted as part of a “signature” project in sustainable tourism by the new University of Vermont Transportation Center. The UVM Transportation Center is a sponsor of the Udall bus and is also supporting real-time emissions research being conducted on the bus throughout its journey.

Expanding to other sectors
Chase and Kestenbaum view the popular and widely dispersed motorcoach industry, which carried 631 million urban, suburban, and rural passengers in 2005, as a promising sector that will allow them to test a more ambitious certification program: ecolabels for other forms of commercial transportation.

After the GCC program is up and running, Chase and Kestenbaum hope the model will expand to a larger universe.

"Given Lamoille Valley Transportation's success, and the receptivity of the entire motorcoach industry, we have every reason to believe the program will catch on," said Kestenbaum.

If that happens, the certification program could be expanded to other sectors, such as transit fleets, taxi services, rail, and the airline industry, according to Chase and Kestenbaum.

For more information about the Green Coach Certification program, contact David Kestenbaum at the University of Vermont at (802) 782-4753 or david.kestenbaum@uvm.edu.