When Gorski Bulk Transport joined the SmartWay Partnership Program in 2010, then under the domain of the US Environmental Protection Agency, it initially did so at the urging of a customer.
“One of our customers who were focused on conserving non-renewable resources had invited all their carriers to get involved with the SmartWay program,” Ted Gorski Jr., president of Gorski Bulk Transport recalled. “We looked at it and realized it was very much in sync with our own ideas and how we operated our business.”
Gorkski, founded in 1957, has always been a fuel-conscious fleet. As a bulk carrier, Gorski operates lightweight, fuel-efficient equipment to maximize the product it can haul each trip and to reduce its fuel consumption. But until it joined SmartWay, it had no way of determining how its practices stacked up against those of other carriers.
“It was eye-opening,” Gorski said of the benchmarking the company did against other SmartWay carriers. “There are some surprises when you start going down that path and comparing yourself to others.”
Through SmartWay, Gorski Bulk Transport, which operates out of locations in Toronto, Windsor and Detroit, learned of new ways to further improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. But from the start, the company realized the key to maximizing the benefits of the program was to involve the drivers in decision-making processes.
“Everybody had their ideas on how to improve fuel economy,” Gorski said. “It seemed that the more we reached out to the drivers in the discussion, the better the results became.”
Not every fuel-saving device or technique that’s in use by mainstream van carriers can be applied by tanker fleets. For example, most of the trailer-related aerodynamic devices in widespread use are not practical on tankers. However, Gorski said that doesn’t mean a tank trailer can’t be spec’d to optimize fuel consumption.
“We’ve looked at tire inflation systems and those have given us a very good return,” he explained. The company also uses flow-through mud flaps on its trailers, which allow air to pass through tiny holes to reduce wind resistance. On its tractors, Gorski now spec’s automated transmissions for optimized shifting and auto shutdown timers and bunk heaters to reduce idling.
“The biggest part for us has been making sure the driver is involved in the process,” Gorski said. “Just putting different features on the truck, unless there is buy-in from the drivers, you are not going to get the same return.”
Since the beginning, Gorski Bulk Transport drivers have been committed to the program and have helped the company meet its objective of continuous improvement. Gorski credits those drivers with the company’s success in the program.
“The driver has to be involved,” he said. “They are our eyes, our ears, our best ambassadors and our best salesmen and they are the ones responsible for keeping the trucks in safe operation on the highway.” Because of this, Gorski has shared the benefits with its driving force; it implemented an incentive program that rewards drivers for fuel-efficient driving.
“I think it’s really important that the drivers who are spending their time on the highway understand that their carrier understands and appreciates what they are doing and that we can reward them for helping the company,” Gorski said.
Gorksi is already running smaller block engines – 13-litre, rather than its traditional 15-litre – to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency. But one of the challenges the company – and other bulk haulers like it – face, is balancing the need for efficiency with the need to get the job done.
Stainless steel tanks are inherently heavy and sometimes it’s necessary to idle when loading or unloading product to power accessorial equipment. Even so, some Gorski drivers have managed to reduce idle time to 5%, Gorski said proudly.
For Gorski Bulk Transport, SmartWay has been – and continues to be – a journey of continuous improvement.
“We have been an ISO 9001-registered carrier since 1999 and part of our culture here is one of continuous improvement,” Gorski said. “I look at the SmartWay program in the same way. It’s not so much about what everyone else is doing, it’s more about how you are doing and how you are moving your own bar forward and improving relative to other carriers. That has always been an important part for us; how can we be true to our business principles and still move the bar forward so that we’re improving and so that we are being good corporate citizens?
“If we are good stewards of the resources we have, then we are going to be an efficient operator and we are going to help our customers get their products to market in a cost-efficient, sustainable manner.”