Run to green

Dec. 16, 2014
CNG, Software combine to provide benefits for food distribution fleet

There are any number of ways a carrier can reduce costs, particularly fuel costs. As Kirkwood, NY-based Willow Run Foods found out, natural gas is just one. Seeking a more comprehensive approach, the fleet combined natural gas vehicles with fleet management software and a compensation-based driver pay approach to achieve green success.

Willow Run Foods offers food distribution for fast food chains throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, servicing clients such as Wendy’s, Arby’s, Quiznos, and Popeye’s with a fleet of about 100 tractor-trailers. Late in 2013, the company kicked off its “alternative transportation project” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The project has been buoyed by $1 million from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). That money has helped in the leasing of 15 heavy-duty compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks from Ryder.  In addition, upgrades to Willow Run’s on-site maintenance facility, operated by Ryder, have been made.

The carrier is hoping to cut approximately 500 tons of emissions annually through a diesel fuel reduction of some 175,000 gals. The $100,000 per year savings should more than offset the higher costs associated with the CNG trucks.

The heavy-duty trucks, with a 500-mi. driving range, will be mostly used in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey.  Each vehicle costs $234,000, about $80,000 more than a typical diesel heavy-duty truck, the company says. NYSERDA is providing about 75% of the price difference.

The Kenworth CNG trucks feature 150 diesel-gallon-equivalent fuel tanks and are powered by 11.9L CNG Cummins engines.

“We could not have accomplished this environmentally responsible project without the funding from NYSERDA,” says Terry Wood, president & CEO of Willow Run Foods.

With the trucks in place, though, Willow Run Foods needed a software system to manage them. Having already implemented Cadec Global’s Mobius TTS fleet management system in 2009, it was a natural fit to go back to Cadec for a new solution.

“Willow Run Foods is a long-time partner of ours, and we’re proud to be a part of their CNG initiative,” says Angela Shue, chief customer officer, Cadec Global.  “Helping our customers get the information they need from our solution to help them run their fleets is our top priority.  We’re glad to help with their environmental goals.”

The fleet installed Cadec’s PowerVue, a flexible Software-as-a-Service system.  The fleet is using the software to track the CNG vehicles’ fuel consumption as well as other fleet data such as driver behavior and productivity, and vehicle operation.

“Adding CNG vehicles to Cadec PowerVue was an easy and seamless process,” notes Len Basso, vice president-operations, Willow Run Foods. 

“PowerVue is tracking fuel mileage for both types to help us assess if it makes sense to add more CNG vehicles to our fleet in the future,” explains Basso. “With PowerVue we have the ability to separate the data of the CNG and diesel vehicles, enabling us to track the differences between the two types of fuel.”

The PowerVue software also monitors things such as on-time deliveries and speeding events. Because Willow Run pays its drivers based on an activity-based model that includes variables such as percentage of on-time deliveries, cases delivered, miles driven and idling time, the company needed data across a broad spectrum.

“To manage a fleet well, just having an onboard computer isn’t enough,” says Basso. “The data we get from   [PowerVue] provides us an unbelievable amount of business insight that allows us to not only run our fleet efficiently but remain profitable, which is difficult to do in the food distribution industry.”

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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