It's all part of the package at Alpine Waste & Recycling. “We offer recycling and composting services, and now we're replacing our fleet with trucks powered by cleaner-burning compressed natural gas (CNG),” says Shannon Smith, general manager of fleet operations. “These vehicles burn domestic fuel, which helps our country become more energy-independent, and they're saving us money as well. CNG will continue to be a part of our long-term business model.”
Headquartered in Commerce City, Alpine Waste & Recycling is the largest privately held commercial waste and recycling collection company in Colorado. The first in its market to offer commercial composting services, Alpine was also the first company in its industry in Colorado to add natural gas-powered trucks to its fleet of 60 heavy-duty route collection vehicles.
Alpine purchased its first Mack TerraPro Natural Gas truck in 2009 and has been converting its fleet ever since. The 16 Mack CNG models now in the operation are powered by Cummins Westport ISL G engines, and are equipped with Allison automatic transmissions. Alpine plans to finish converting its entire fleet of trucks to natural gas models within three years.
“These CNG trucks cost about 20% more initially than comparable diesel models,” Smith says, “but they're saving us about $1,200 per truck monthly, and we intend to operate them for 10 years. Those savings come from fuel costs and because they run cleaner, something we have verified with oil analysis, we can extend service intervals longer than usual.”
Smith goes on to explain that Alpine sets maintenance intervals based on engine hours because its trucks spend more time stopped than they do moving. An average commercial route, for example, includes 110 stops over just 50 mi. in 11 hours. A residential route could include 45 stops per hour.
In addition to fuel cost and maintenance savings, Smith says that Alpine drivers are satisfied with the performance of the Mack TerraPro natural gas model's power.
“The trucks develop about 95% of the horsepower of a similar diesel engine,” he reports. “We're also more than a mile above sea level and we haven't had any trouble pulling weight at higher altitudes.”
Alpine is also realizing savings of $140,000 a year in labor costs by operating an onsite fueling station for the CNG trucks. Partnering with California-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp., the company built a 26-pump natural gas fueling station where its trucks can be refueled overnight without requiring personnel to monitor the process.
One challenge with its CNG trucks that Alpine is addressing, Smith relates, is securing training for its maintenance staff.
“It's really something the industry is experiencing,” he says. “When you convert to CNG trucks, you have to think about training and certifying technicians to work on these vehicles. Classes that are available are very popular and are filled quickly, but our suppliers and dealers are helping us meet that challenge.”
Each year, Alpine handles more than 300,000 tons of waste. In 2011, the company estimates that its recycling and composting efforts conserved nearly 168,000 cu. yds. of landfill space along with large amounts of trees, water, oil, gasoline and electricity. Its efforts have not gone unnoticed. Among numerous other honors, the Colorado Association for Recycling has named Alpine as the state's most outstanding business for its recycling/diversion program.
For its fleet, Alpine is investing in the environment as well as saving on operating costs. Founded in 1999 as a single-truck operation, the company has turned its focus into a full package of programs, and is now enjoying annual revenue growth rate of more than 40%.