In 2020, Terminix set an important goal: transition its entire sales fleet to hybrids by 2023. Although the pest control company has a clear-cut sustainability roadmap, like so many other things, supply chain issues have forced a few detours. Nonetheless, the company continues to push forward on this goal and is developing additional strategies to be good environmental stewards as well.
Adopting a Hybrid Sales Fleet
Sales vehicles comprise about 20 percent of the entire Terminix fleet. The original goal laid out in the 2020 Corporate Sustainability Report was to transition 400 of the 2,000 units to hybrids in 2021. While the company did begin replacing their Ford Focus sales vehicles with the Toyota Prius hybrid starting with model year 2021, things didn’t turn out quite like they’d planned.
“We wanted to order more units but because of the OEM allocations, weren’t able to transition as many vehicles over to hybrid as we wanted to,” said Kate Tooley, director of fleet strategy & operations at Terminix.
Fortunately, supply chain issues didn’t totally derail Terminix’s goal. The company still plans for hybrids to make up the majority of its sales fleet by model year 2023. “There may be a few left to transition in 2024 based on lifecycles, but 90% should be fully transitioned by 2024,” Tooley said.
Terminix hopes to add battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) to its fleet in the future but chose hybrids in the near-term to get a jump start on reducing emissions.
“We wanted to move quickly and be able to target a vehicle with a good reputation that has been on the market for a while,” Tooley said. “With EVs, questions about infrastructure made it too slow to transition quickly and start seeing emissions reductions right away. Adding hybrids to the fleet saves costs, extends longevity for some vehicles, and sets the groundwork for a transition to BEVs.”
So far, the transition to hybrids has reduced the company’s carbon output by one million pounds. By the end of this year, the company anticipates that reduction to be 5.7 million pounds.
“We owe it to our teammates, customers, and shareholders to do everything we can to improve the environment. The team we have assembled at Terminix understands this responsibility and is focused on finding solutions that meet the needs of our stakeholders while improving the communities we serve” said Jim Summerville, senior VP supply chain for Terminix.
A Simple Transition
The transition to hybrids also proved seamless — and beneficial — for drivers.
Prior to the change, field employees were putting in requests to switch to a hatchback model, which would make it easier to access their sales materials. Replacing the Focus with the Prius provided the opportunity to fulfill those requests. “The Prius meets the needs of our sales professionals in the field while working toward our environmental goals,” Tooley said. “We also added a four-wheel-drive model in the Northeast region because they weren’t able to drive the previous model in inclement weather.”
Once the hybrids arrived, getting drivers up to speed happened quickly.
“We had to do some initial orientations letting drivers know they have to push the button to start the vehicle, that they don’t need to charge them, and that they can fill up at gas station – just basic learning curve types of things,” Tooley explained. “We haven’t had any pushback against the car.”
While drivers didn’t offer much criticism, they did offer some helpful suggestions. “We made some changes to the trim level on the 2020 order versus the 2021 order based on driver feedback,” Tooley said. “The 2021 models now have intermittent wiper blades and a spare tire.”
Some drivers even gave the hybrids a rather enthusiastic welcome, posting photos on their LinkedIn pages with captions like, “Want to drive one of these? Come work for us!”
Adding Hybrid Trucks to the Lineup
This year, Terminix is adding Ford Mavericks to its hybrid fleet for use by its service managers. The company has ordered 90 model-year 2022 trucks; a few have been delivered and they anticipate they will hit the field in the second quarter.
“Managers in the field have lower upfit vehicles, so it gave us the flexibility to pilot hybrid pickups,” Tooley said. “If the Maverick meets all of the requirements, we will plan to order more for model-year 2023 and bring in that hybrid to our field fleet, not just sales.”
While the company would also like to transition to hybrids or EVs for the work trucks service technicians drive, they haven’t been able to land on a model that meets their needs. “The viability for a work truck is extremely limited, but the EV work trucks also don’t have the bed space to upfit with the tools and materials technicians need in the field,” Tooley explained. “Everyone is afraid of the range of EVs and whether they’ll be able to meet their service needs. The current EV capabilities will allow us to meet our routes; it’s just a matter of finding one we can put our equipment in.”
Although supply chain issues pushed the timeline out on transitioning to hybrids for salespeople and service managers, the detour wasn’t an entirely negative one. “Even though our plans changed due to supply chain issues, it gives us space because the EV market isn’t quite where we need it to be yet. The delays actually give the market time to mature and for better trucks to be developed,” Tooley said.
Other Sustainability Steps
The delay had another silver lining: It’s giving Terminix time to rethink the way services are delivered — and the changes they’re considering would both lead to sustainability gains and spec’ing trucks differently.
Terminix offers services in four categories: pest, termite, wildlife, and mosquito control. Each service type requires different equipment and therefore, a different truck upfit. In the current model, if a customer needed both pest control and termite exclusion, it would require two trips to the service location. Terminix is looking to streamline this model by offering all services from a single truck. The new model would eliminate trips, thereby reducing emissions even if the truck isn’t an EV. But it would also change the way the company specs hybrid and EV models.
“Our original objective was to transition the majority of our fleet over to hybrid. However, due to possible changes to our service delivery model we pivoted to exploring other vehicle options. As a result, we are evaluating the current OE landscape to determine whether a hybrid or EV exists that will meet our requirements,” Summerville said.
Up Next: BEVs
Although the current focus is hybrids and a viable EV solution hasn’t surfaced yet, Terminix still has plans to increase the use of battery-electric vehicles in the next few years.
“Our next big challenge is looking at which EVs we can incorporate in our fleet, like corporate support vehicles — either low-upfit trucks or crossover SUV or sedan vehicles,” Tooley said. “There’s a bigger market for that type of vehicle on the EV side, so we’re looking at feasibility studies for that and what infrastructure we’d need at branches or employees’ homes. I’m excited to start working through it.”
Summerville said they’re looking forward to seeing what options emerge with time. “As we look at the EV market and what would meet our needs, we continue to work with OEMs and provide feedback on what we’d like to see in the future,” he said. “As the technology continues to evolve, it’s going to open up opportunities for us. We will remain focused on our ES&G strategy and continually evaluate our fleet makeup in light of the advances in hybrid and electric vehicle technologies. Everything we do in this area is going to have a positive impact on our teammates, customers, and shareholders.”