Green is the new green, according to Truckload Carriers Assn. chairman Jim O'Neal, who used his first telephone “chairman's brief” to explore the theme “Green can contribute to the bottom line.” Joining O'Neal were Alicia Sawyer of O&S Trucking, Bruce Stockton, vp-maintenance for Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI), and Matthew Payne of EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership.
“As carriers, we have leverage and we should try to use it with OEMs and vendors,” said O'Neal. “We want to encourage them to find ways to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil.”
“Today people are paying much more attention to environmental sustainability,” noted Payne. “We are seeing more and more companies joining SmartWay because sustainability has become such a big issue. The voluntary SmartWay program is one of those rare incidences where government and private sector goals are aligning to create a true win/win. Fleets are saving money on fuel while helping to reduce emissions.”
Both O&S and CFI are SmartWay partnership members and both have seen benefits from the program. “We are currently installing APU's on all our units,” said Sawyer. “The goal is to reduce idling to 5% or less. Percentage of idling time was somewhere in the mid-40s.”
At that rate, O&S expects to improve mpg by 3/10th of a mpg and see a payback period on the APU's of 1.8 years. The fleet is already also buying aerodynamic tractors spec'd for light weight with low-profile tires and tire inflation systems and has reduced vehicle governed speed from 70 mph to 65 mph. “Our total APU investment was in excess of $5 million,” said O'Neal, “but the payback is less than two years. We expect the APU's to last through a couple of trade cycles. They will more than pay for themselves.”
“SmartWay has given us the guidance and tools to evaluate various technologies,” offered Stockton. “We converted 2,400 tractors to wide-based tires and have also begun converting our trailers to the same. We saw an immediate 2/10th mpg improvement with the tractor changes alone, plus brakes were staying cooler and it is easier for drivers to check tire pressure. There are also just fewer tires to manage. We have actually seen a reduction in tire failures.
“Right now, we are also using fuel-fired bunk heaters,” Stockton added. “We have tested various APU's, but we are still on the fence about them. We can't figure out how to get them to pay for themselves; there is a second engine to maintain and the APU's we tested required a different maintenance cycle.”
CFI does have no-idle zones in the premium parking spots at its facilities and plans to provide plug-in AC power for tractors at the new facility CFI is building. “We also see more opportunities to bid on business as a result of our participation in SmartWay,” Stockton said. “We've also seen shippers offer bigger fuel surcharges to SmartWay fleets that are making a genuine effort to enhance fuel economy.”