Trucks at Work

Bit by bit

“Thinking green can no longer be a choice in the business world when looking toward the future. Smart businesses are looking over the horizon, and understand that the risks and opportunity associated with this critical issue must be part of their overall plan to grow and to be successful in the future.” --Lt. Governor John Garamendi, California.

California‘s LG made that comment at an event highlighting national grocery chain Safeway Inc.‘s move to fuel its entire 1,000 unit trucking fleet with biodiesel. And while this is ostensibly being touted for its clean air benefits - reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 75 million pounds annually, the equivalent of taking nearly 7,500 passenger vehicles off the road each year - there‘s also a big energy saving benefit here, as by using B20 in its trucks (a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% regular diesel) Safeway will be reducing petroleum consumption.

Now, sure, Safeway isn‘t cutting diesel use dramatically here, and frankly, if it really wanted to show its “green” chops they‘d go to 100% biodiesel (labeled B100) fuel. But that brings maintenance and performance headaches - especially in cold weather - and supplies of pure B100 aren‘t easy to get on a national basis.

Still, it‘s a start - and frankly, this is the way we‘ve got to start approaching energy efficiency efforts not only in trucking but also as a nation. If we can just cut petroleum use a little bit here and over there, we‘ll see some big gains over time.

Again, let‘s look at Safeway for example. Not only are they switching to biodiesel, the company is participating in the Environmental Protection Agency‘s SmartWay Transportation Partnership, which commits Safeway to establishing a baseline fuel efficiency of its fleet, as well as implement a plan to decrease carbon emissions. Those efficiencies, which include purchasing trailers with large capacity, have saved more than 6.5 million gallons of diesel fuel and decreased carbon emissions by 73,000 tons annually to date.

Under another EPA partnership, Safeway has agreed to purchase 78 million kilowatt hours in the form of wind energy every year for over 50 stores and some 300 fuel stations: the equivalent, according to EPA‘s calculations, to avoiding more than 85 million pounds of carbon dioxide, comparable to planting more than 10,500 acres of trees. Another 24 stores are using solar energy to feed their power needs, while other energy-saving strategies - such as installing new energy-efficient refrigeration technology and freezer systems and utilizing LED (light emitting diode) lighting - are further reducing overall electricity usage for the company.

Pursuing all of these energy-reduction efforts simultaneously is also going to save the $40.2 billion grocer some money, too - how much they won‘t say, but I think over time as diesel and electricity get more expensive, it could be pretty significant.

And don‘t forget one other big plus here - the public relations benefit. “This investment in utilizing cleaner-burning technologies to operate our trucking fleet reflects our strong commitment to protecting the environment,” said Joe Pettus, Safeway‘s senior VP for energy operations. “Our customers care about these types of sustainability issues, and we are proud to be a leader in environmental best practices.”

You can be sure Safeway will tout its “green activities” to its customers and the general public as much as possible - and why not? It‘s another way to get some more mileage out of its conservation efforts - a strategy trucking could put to good use as well, too, I think.