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Green Fleet of the Month: Timely delivery

Dec. 7, 2016
Postal Service provider dives into natural gas

Its unofficial creed states “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” To help accomplish this, the U.S. Postal Service relies in part on contractors to move mail, regardless of conditions. Carriers such as Postal Fleet Services are dependable partners in making that happen. But just like their for-hire cousins, these fleets are guardians of the environment as well as the mail, and for Postal Fleet Services, that means the use of alternative fuels.

Based in Saint Augustine, FL, the company operates over 700 commercial units, including trailers, with a mix of straight trucks and semis. The fleet’s routes include local runs of less than 100 air miles, regional runs of 100 to 500 air miles, and long-haul runs of over 500 air miles. The trailers are owned by the fleet, while the straight trucks and tractors are leased. Drivers are all employees.
This investment in compressed natural gas (CNG) is the company’s first foray into alternative fuels. According to Owner Don Dorris, the fleet “relied chiefly on the expertise of Ryder, which has a substantial history of operating alternative-fueled vehicles.”

Postal Fleet Services took delivery of 20 of the vehicles earlier this year. The trucks are supporting operations in Orlando (FL), Lafayette (LA), Jackson (MS), and La Vergne (TN). Most of the trucks are Freightliner Cascadia models, although Dorris says there are also a few Mack and Volvo tractors. Each is running the Cummins ISX 12 G engine.

The choice to use CNG came down to convenience. “CNG is a more accessible alternative fuel than [liquefied natural gas],” Dorris notes. Maintenance is being handled by Ryder. “[The vehicles are] on a full-service lease basis. The shortage of qualified mechanics is comparable to the shortage of commercial drivers, [so] we leave maintenance to the professionals at Ryder. They do an excellent job maintaining our fleet.”

Fueling is handled offsite at public stations. Dorris says the fleet’s bet on natural gas is a long-term investment.

“Postal Fleet Services foresees a future wherein commercial fleets will receive increased business opportunities operating environmentally friendly without interrupting our current operational excellence,” he says. “With the current cost of diesel, it is more difficult to substantiate a cost-effective program. But looking long term as diesel prices increase, CNG will be a more cost-efficient alternative to diesel.

“Thus far, CNG performance is meeting expectations, and we are excited to be on the forefront of the alternative fuel movement,” Dorris adds. “Postal Fleet Services recognizes the benefits of natural gas and as technology improves, maintenance training progresses, and infrastructure is built, our alternative fuel platform will develop into a sustainable future.”

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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