TCA chair: Green grows green

Green is the new green, according to Truckload Carriers Assn. (www.truckload.org) chairman Jim O’Neal, who used his first telephone “chairman’s brief” to explore the theme “Green can contribute to the bottom line”

Green is the new green, according to Truckload Carriers Assn. (www.truckload.org) chairman Jim O’Neal, who used his first telephone “chairman’s brief” to explore the theme “Green can contribute to the bottom line." Joining O’Neal on the recent call were Alicia Sawyer of O&S Trucking, Bruce Stockton, vp-maintenance for Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI), and Matthew Payne of EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership (www.epa.gov/smartway).

“As carriers, we have leverage and we should try to use it with OEMs and vendors,” said O’Neal, president of Springfield, MO-based O&S Trucking. “We want to encourage them to find ways to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil.”

“Today people are paying much more attention to environmental sustainability,” noted Payne. “We are seeing more and more companies joining SmartWay because sustainability has become such a big issue. The voluntary SmartWay program is one of those rare incidences where government and private sector goals are aligning to create a true win/win. Fleets are saving money on fuel while helping to reduce emissions at the same time.”

Both O&S and CFI are SmartWay partnership members, CFI since 2005 and O&S since 2006. Both companies also reported seeing benefits from the program. “We are currently installing APUs on all our units,” said Sawyer of O&S. “The goal is to reduce idling to 5% or less. Percentage of idling time was somewhere in the mid-40s.”

At that rate, O&S expects to improve mpg by 3/10th of a mpg and see a payback period on the APUs of 1.8 years. The fleet is also buying aerodynamic tractors spec’d for light weight with low-profile tires and tire inflation systems and has reduced vehicle governed speed from 70 mph to 65 mph. “Our total APU investment was in excess of $5 million,” said O’Neal, “but the payback is less than two years. We expect the APU’s to last through a couple of trade cycles. They will more than pay for themselves.”

“SmartWay has given us the guidance and tools to evaluate various technologies,” offered CFI’s Stockton. “We converted 2,400 tractors to wide-base tires and have also begun converting our trailers to the same. We saw an immediate 2/10th mpg improvement with the tractor changes alone, plus brakes were staying cooler and it is easier for drivers to check tire pressure. There are also just fewer tires to manage. We have actually seen a reduction in tire failures.

“Right now, we are also using fuel-fired bunk heaters,” Stockton added. “We have tested various APUs, but we are still on the fence about them. Our problem is that we can’t figure out how to get them to pay for themselves; there is a second engine to maintain and the APUs we tested required a different maintenance cycle.”

CFI has no-idle zones in the premium parking spots at their facilities, according to Stockton, and plans to provide plug-in AC power for tractors that can take advantage of it at the new facility it is building. “We also see more opportunities to bid on business as a result of our participation in SmartWay,” he added. “We’ve also seen shippers offer bigger fuel surcharges to SmartWay fleets that are making a genuine effort to enhance fuel economy.”

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