For a company that has literally been gathering water from the ground since 1845, it's only fitting that the private fleet at Poland Spring leaves no stone unturned in its quest to be the greenest truck fleet in Maine. A division of Nestle Waters North America, Poland Spring operates 36 International ProStar day cab tractors and 75 8,400-gal. Brenner stainless steel tankers. Sixty-five drivers operate the vehicles nearly 24 hours a day, with each running about 140,000 mi. a year, mostly within the state of Maine where Poland Spring gathers water from nine spring sites.
Chris McKenna, fleet manager, says the company has seen a reduction in idling time from close to 15% in February 2007 to under 4% in 2009, thanks primarily to the full utilization of Cadec onboard computer systems the company already used in its vehicles. “You get this full breadcrumb trail on a [driver's] day,” McKenna says, also pointing out that the systems have helped the company earn Maine Motor Transport Assn.'s Fleet Safety Award three years in a row. “We couldn't do that without having the onboard recorder.”
The Cadec system was originally purchased several years ago to serve as an electronic logbook, McKenna says. At the time, no one really understood the power that was available with the system. And with diesel fuel relatively cheap by today's standards, there wasn't much clamoring to reduce idling time. But as fuel prices started rising, McKenna began looking for ways to save money.
The improvement in idling time is due in part to peer pressure, he says. “We took a month's worth of data based on idle time and sorted it from worst to first,” he says. “Then, what we did was just post the list on the wall. Nobody wants to be on the bottom.”
Poor performing drivers are provided additional training, including a ride-along by an instructor if necessary. Drivers have bought into the program, in part because Poland Spring began offering a fuel voucher to reward the top-performing drivers. “Our company participates in a profit-sharing program, so we tried to tie it back to them in that way,” McKenna says. “Almost three years into it, not one driver has been disciplined because of idle time.”
Before Poland Spring started using the Cadec system, the company was logging nearly 1,400 hours of idling time a month. By February 2009, that number had dropped to 380 hours, saving roughly 8,000 gals. of fuel and more than $20,000 in 2008 alone.
Now, Poland Spring is using the Cadec computers to track deceleration, speeds, breaking, pre- and post-trip monitoring and more.
Onboard computers are but one area Poland Spring is exploiting to both save money and be a better environmental partner in Maine. On July 1 of this past year, the company passed the 100,000-gal. mark using biodiesel. The company runs B5 biodiesel from retailer C.N. Brown, which purchases a blend from Sprague Energy. McKenna says there have been no cold-weather problems. “I think we've got a real quality product, which is why I think we haven't had a problem,” he says.
McKenna says the fleet, which runs through small Maine towns on its way to the springs, is very conscious of its environmental impact, and as such is constantly looking for any edge it can find. A synthetic oil from Texas-based Royal Purple that was tested on two tractors has allowed Poland Spring to extend oil drains on those vehicles out to 60,000 mi. from 18,000 mi. and showed a 4% fuel efficiency gain. McKenna says the savings could be $10,000 a year for the fleet, cutting oil usage from 2,000 gals. to just 400 gals. a year. That doesn't include the fuel efficiency gain, which could amount to $80,000 a year if the gains hold up across the fleet.