Fleetowner 4539 Anheuser Buscha

Plenty of horses

Oct. 13, 2014
Power, torque output of natural gas engines is more than capable of handling heavy loads for Anheuser-Busch

Long ago, the original form of horsepower in the shape of Clydesdale horses delivered Budweiser beer to thirsty customers. No more. Anheuser-Busch, makers of the iconic Budweiser and many more brands, switched years ago to a more effective means of delivery. Now, the company is going a step further and finding an even more efficient way to make deliveries in the form of natural gas power.

Anheuser-Busch is converting its entire Houston brewery fleet over to compressed natural gas vehicles—66 tractors in all—as part of a company-wide effort to reduce carbon emissions by 15%  in its logistics operations (from network planning, transportation and warehousing) by the end of 2017.  This deployment, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2015, is part of that initiative and follows a successful trial of two CNG tractors this year.  It is the first complete facility conversion by Anheuser-Busch.

Ryder is supporting the company’s push by supplying the tractors on a lease basis. Ryder says the vehicles, Freightliner Cascadia 113 tandem axle day cab models, feature a Cummins Wesport ISX12 G engine, which is expected to emit 23% less greenhouse gas compared to a diesel engine.

The trucks are equipped with 169 diesel gallon equivalent tanks and use the Quantum fuel system.  As a result, the fleet, which will ship 17 million cases of beer in the third quarter alone, is expected to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by some 2,000 tons per year with the deployment. Ryder will also handle maintenance of the vehicles under terms of the lease agreement.

“The next generation CNG engine technology paired with support from state incentive programs contributed to our ability to take such a significant step in fully converting our Houston fleet,” says James Sembrot, senior director-transportation, Anheuser-Busch. “Houston is a strategic choice due to the central location to our facilities and distribution radius, as well as its proximity to fueling stations.”

The leased vehicles will be maintained by Ryder at the firm’s Houston service facility. It is the largest single deployment of natural gas vehicles to date, Ryder says, and the first time the lessor has worked with Anheuser-Busch, which owns a 47.2% share of the U.S. beer market.

Anheuser-Busch operates 14 local breweries, 17 distributorships, and 23 agricultural and packaging facilities in the U.S. Nationally, Anheuser-Busch’s fleet numbers about 550 vehicles.

“We’ve been piloting two of these tractors since January doing trips to Dallas, slip-seating drivers to get as many miles on them as we could,” Sembrot told Fleet Owner. “It didn’t take long once we started testing these trucks to see that the technology was viable. And with the exception of a few maintenance [changes] … the drivers who we have driving them said they have seen no difference [compared to diesel models] except for the fueling procedure.”

What makes this initiative interesting is that Anheuser-Busch’s Houston fleet is a dedicated operation, which is handled by J.B. Hunt.  Sembrot says that Anheuser-Busch will lease the vehicles and J.B. Hunt employees will drive.

The Houston facility typically delivers product to wholesalers within a 250-mi. radius, allowing each of the vehicles to return home nightly. Sembrot says the company has signed an agreement with Questar Fueling, which operates a compressed natural gas fueling station about 3 mi. from Anheuser-Busch’s Houston facility, to supply the fuel.

Sembrot says that the tractors have had no problem pulling the heavier loads to wholesalers in 53-ft. trailers, which usually weigh-out before cubing out.

“We definitely think we are a leader, especially as a heavy-haul shipper,” notes Sembrot. “I think we’re on the front end and that’s a good thing.”
 

About the Author

Brian Straight | Managing Editor

Brian joined Fleet Owner in May 2008 after spending nearly 14 years as sports editor and then managing editor of several daily newspapers.  He and his staff  won more than two dozen major writing and editing awards. Responsible for editing, editorial production functions and deadlines.

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