Fleetowner 5971 Fiat Chrysler Cng Tractor

Green Fleet of the Month: FCA Transport

Jan. 7, 2016
Michigan private fleet makes large commitment to CNG

Back in the early days of American automobile prowess, power was the buzzword that drove the American automobile business. That has changed over time, though, and now consumers are looking as much for automotive value and fuel efficiency as anything. And automotive companies try to reflect that value as well.

That is why a recent announcement from FCA U.S. is so significant. The company said that it has converted its entire Detroit truck fleet over to compressed natural gas power. Some 179 tractors at the location, one of three FCA Transport facilities, have been switched from diesel power to cleaner burning, more cost-effective natural gas power. FCA Transport is the  transportation subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobile NV, which builds such iconic American auto brands as Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram.

“It’s a competitive advantage,” says Marty DiFiore, head of FCA Transport. “When we define competitive advantage, it’s first a business case and for us [this move] will result in a 35% reduction in [net fuel costs].”

The other advantage, DiFiore says, is that the truck fleet will now emit 27% less CO2 than the diesel-fired units over the same 16 million mi. it drives each year.

The Detroit fleet, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hauls 25% of FCA U.S.’s inbound truckload parts to assembly plants in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Ontario (Canada). It employs 405 drivers among its 518 employees. While FCA Transport also has facilities in Toledo, OH, and Windsor, Canada, those fleets will not be switching to CNG at this time.

“We want to get this one right, and once we make it right, we [will be in a position] to make a decision on the other facilities,” DiFiore says.

Across all three locations, FCA Transport has 325 Class 8 power units. In Detroit, the majority of the vehicles haul 53-ft. dry vans loaded to 80,000 lbs., although there are a few 53-ft. drop deck trailers.

FCA Transport is leasing the Peterbilt day cabs powered by Cummins 12L ISX G natural gas engines from Element Fleet Management. Each vehicle is equipped with Allison automatic transmissions and feature four 40-gal. stacked vertical CNG fuel tanks located back of cab. The CNG system was supplied by Agility Fuel Systems.

“That capacity allows us to get to our furthest destination and back without refueling,” DiFiore says, noting that about 20% of the company’s runs are 540 mi. round-trip; the remainder are shorter local and city routes. The vehicles have an effective range of over 600 mi., Agility says.

“The issue we needed to consider was the balance between range and weight,” DiFiore says. “We needed a solution that covered a range of about 640 mi. without taking product off the truck.”
Agility trained FCA Transport drivers and mechanics on the systems. The fleet upgraded an on-site 36,000-sq.-ft. facility to handle CNG maintenance and will conduct all maintenance with its in-house technicians, DiFiore adds.

The company installed an on-site fuel­ing station. Built by TruStar Energy, the station has six Ariel compressors and dispenses CNG at 40 gasoline-gallon equivalent per minute. It is the largest private fast-fill station in North America, TruStar says.  

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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