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The smart way to go GREEN

TORONTO, Ont. - There are many ways to go green, and many reasons for doing so according to a panel of fleets, shippers and environmental agencies that gathered at the Ontario Trucking Association's (...

TORONTO, Ont. –There are many ways to go green, and many reasons for doing so according to a panel of fleets, shippers and environmental agencies that gathered at the Ontario Trucking Association’s (OTA) annual convention.

But perhaps the most compelling reasons for reducing emissions were presented by major shippers, Sharp Electronics and Volvo Logistics – both members of the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership, a voluntary program that requires its members to reduce their environmental footprint.

“(SmartWay) is voluntary, but if you want to do business with Sharp it has become a requirement,” said Sharp’s Chris Colla, noting 98% of the company’s total tonnage is now transported by SmartWay members. “We feel it’s a social responsibility for our company.”

Colla also said requiring its carriers to be SmartWay members provides leverage for the manufacturer when dealing with environmentally-conscious retailers such as Wal- Mart.

“It has helped us in our business relationships with companies like Wal-Mart because this is very important to them as well,” Colla said.

Jessica Ford of Volvo Logistics echoed that sentiment, which has become an increasingly popular rallying cry in the shipper community.

“If you want to move Volvo freight, you have to be environmentally aware,” she told carriers in attendance.

As members of SmartWay, fleets must develop a plan to reduce their emissions through improved fuel efficiency. Just how they choose to meet their self-imposed targets is up to them. Some fleets on the panel chose to equip their trucks with idle-reduction systems while others revamped their terminals to consume less energy. Since the program’s launch in 2003, Cynthia Meyer of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said SmartWay members have collectively reduced their fuel consumption by 35 billion gallons and prevented 350 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the air. The annual reduction in CO2 attributed to SmartWay equals the removal of 680,000 cars from the road, she pointed out. But the number that really grabbed the attention of the fleet managers in attendance was that member carriers have together saved more than a billion dollars in fuel and maintenance.

Meyer said the average truck in the SmartWay program realizes a US$2,000 savings each year. Just how you decide to get there is up to you, and some member fleets were on-hand to share a few ideas.

Spec’ for fuel efficiency

Julie Tanguay, president of L. E. Walker Transport, said her company begins the pursuit of its SmartWay targets before even taking delivery of its new trucks. Her fleet initially ran both the aerodynamic Freightliner Columbia as well as its not-so-aerodynamic sibling, the Classic. The Classic was spec’d mainly to please old-school drivers who prefer the traditional modeling, but Tanguay said those trucks did little to improve driver retention.

So the fleet did some benchmark testing and found that the aerodynamic Columbia was in fact 10% more fuel efficient than the Classic model. Since conducting its test, Tanguay said the fleet has begun phasing the Classic out of its fleet.

The fleet is now spec’ing only aerodynamic tractors. It has also focused on driver behaviour, after finding there was a 35% fuel mileage gap between the fleet’s best and worst performers.

Turn the lights down

J. D. Smith & Sons looked at more than just its mobile assets when it set out to improve its environmental performance. Brian Death, general manager of the company, said the company upgraded the HVAC system at one of its terminals while retrofitting the lighting system at others.

Death said the company initially used 16-20 natural gas space heaters to warm a two-year-old terminal. The company replaced the thermostat with sensors that could provide heating only during the 16 hours when people were actually working there.

“We had initial resistance,” admitted Death. “We had to work through that. We didn’t tell our people enough about the project ahead of time and they heard ‘They’re turning the heat down’.”

In fact, the company only reduced the heating during the eight hours when nobody was there. In the first year, the company saved $27,000 in natural gas costs. It cost $18,000 to implement the changes, for a payback period of just eight months, Death said.

As for the lighting retrofit, J. D. Smith & Sons replaced 400-watt high-pressure sodium lights with fluorescent bulbs at three of its facilities. The average light level was unchanged and in fact, it was preferred by employees, Death said, noting the fluorescent bulbs generated a more natural light.

The company saw its electricity bills plummet about 30% after the retrofits, saving the company $75,000 in electricity per year. The cost of the upgrades was $197,000 providing a 2.6 year payback.

However, Death said the company slashed its electricity consumption by 745,000 kilowatt hours, reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 221 tonnes of C02.Combined, the two programs reduced CO2 emissions at J. D. Smith & Sons facilities by nearly 400 tonnes per year.

The company has been rewarded for its efforts with a Transport Canada Green Supply Chain Award.

“Our employees were certainly happy about this, particularly the younger ones,” Death said.

Slowing down

Claude Robert, owner of Robert Transport, says his fleet’s environmental efforts begin with reduced speed.

“If we want to save fuel, it starts with speed whether we like it or not,” he insisted. Robert still manages to find time to drive his own truck on occasion and he says he personally has realized an 80-litre fuel savings when slowing to 55 mph (88 km/h) between Montreal and Toronto. That equates to a savings of about $80 per trip compared to driving the posted speed limit.

“If you want to save fuel, you have to reduce speed,” he insisted.

John Smith, president and CEO of Bruce R. Smith, said his company began using on-board computers to monitor driver speed as well as idle-time and hard braking. Drivers were graded using a point system and those who racked up too many points were re-trained while drivers scoring well were rewarded.

“We found there were a few individuals who couldn’t control their speed and before that, we thought they were some of our best drivers,” he said. While governing speed will help prevent speeding on major highways, speed limiters do nothing to prevent speeding where the limit is less than 100 km/h, he pointed out.

In its own studies, L. E. Walker found that the Columbia’s fuel mileage improved 5-8% when speed was reduced by 5 mph. Even just a 1 mph reduction in speed achieved a 1-1.5% fuel mileage improvement, noted Tanguay.

Reducing idling

Most of the carriers represented on the panel had employed some form of idle-reduction technology. L. E. Walker’s Tanguay said her fleet tried both auxiliary power units (APUs) as well as IdleAire (available at some US truck stops, the IdleAire system fits into a truck’s window and provides heating, cooling and power).

The IdleAire system costs $1.80 per hour. Based on 2,500 hours of use per year, Tanguay said the system can deliver a savings of about $2,032 per truck compared to idling. While Tanguay said the system works well, the biggest challenge is availability. Truck stops offering IdleAire are few and far between and often the IdleAire stations are occupied.

Lynda Harvey of Natural Resources Canada’s FleetSmart program, noted there have been rumours of IdleAire coming to Canada, but so far there are no Canadian locations. She pointed out the Canadian government does not fund IdleAire, while the company receives funding south of the border from the EPA. She added the Canadian government conducts full-cycle emissions cost-modeling when doling out funding, and there’s some concern the electricity used by IdleAire may cause more greenhouse gases to create than what is saved through reduced idling.

of the fleets on the panel, including L. E. Walker, use APUs – with mixed results.

Jeff Bryan, president of Jeff Bryan Transport, said driver education is important if you hope to realize a payback. This was evidenced by one driver he saw cruising down the road with his APU running “so he could charge his laptop.”

When properly used, Bryan said APUs can deliver a 27-month payback. Twenty-eight per cent of his trucks are equipped with APUs and those trucks deliver a 9% improvement in fuel mileage, he noted.

“APUs are a standard spec’ on our trucks,” said Rob Penner, vice-president of operations with Bison Transport. He said despite some “maintenance issues,”Bison realizes a payback of about 20 months on its APUs.

Robert said reliability issues were a concern at first, but he admitted the most recent generation of APUs appear to be much more dependable.

Smith warned carriers to purchase an APU that is backed by an extensive dealer network. He also suggested fleets should continue monitoring idling on APU-equipped trucks to ensure they’re being used properly.

Super-single savers

Super-single, wide-base tires are another way to achieve a fuel reduction, according to Robert, who could not say enough good things about them. His company operates about 800 wide-base tires and he said they have experienced no problems with them.

Robert said his fleet is realizing a 5-6% fuel mileage improvement with its super-single tires. Both Robert, and Bryan agreed drivers who have driven the super-singles also rave about the improved ride.

However, the benefits of super-singles are not yet available to everyone, as skeptical governments in many jurisdictions continue to slap weight penalties against companies that operate them.

“Our challenge is the restrictions,” said Bison’s Penner. “We have 25 trucks on the program but most of our fleet is set up to run all of Canada and we can’t give up the weight.”


Surprisingly, the Eaton VORAD system was also raised as a key to maximizing fuel efficiency. First spec’d as a safety tool, the fleets on the panel all agreed it had an unexpected side benefit when it came to fuel mileage.

“We used it for collision avoidance at first but it’s been very beneficial to our fuel program,” said Penner, noting the system allows drivers to spend more time in cruise control. The VORAD system features adaptive cruise control, which detects when vehicles are too close to the front of the truck and then decelerates the truck.

Bryan said his company has achieved a 2% fuel economy improvement on trucks fitted with the VORAD system.

“Drivers are more inclined to let the truck back off in traffic,” he pointed out. “It’s been a really good surprise and the drivers love it.”

Automated transmissions

Most of the fleets represented on the panel are now using automated transmissions to some extent.

“It does not save fuel at the top end, but it did raise our fleet fuel efficiency,” said Bison’s Penner. Bison equips all its highway trucks with automated transmissions and Robert and Jeff Bryan Transport have also made the switch to auto-

mated gearboxes.

“We haven’t saved any fuel but it’s easier to hire drivers,” explained Bryan.

Robert agreed: “There has been no fuel savings but it brings the driver’s attention back to his work. I would not buy anything else.”

FleetSmart’s Harvey made note of a recent study that showed while automated transmissions deliver a negligible improvement in fuel mileage, they do receive less wear and tear and they widen the prospective driver pool.

The panel’s discussion was so convincingly in favour of auto gearboxes, that L. E. Walker’s Tanguay said she’d be taking a close look at automated transmissions based on the panel’s experiences.

Don’t forget the trailer

The panel also discussed its experiences with trailer fairings. By now everyone who drives in Quebec or Ontario has seen Robert Transport’s trailer side skirts. Robert said a fully-skirted trailer with wheel covers can achieve 9 mpg hauling 44,000 lbs.

“It is possible, we tested it,” he confirmed. He admitted that heading into winter, “We are going to have problems in some situations and repairs will be necessary. Education is required.”

Bison has also tested belly fairings on trailers, and Penner said the fleet experienced some snow and ice build-up in the winter. But he admitted “they work”and said the company is looking at fitting its reefer fleet with the fairings.

Smith said the fairings not only save fuel, but they “look great” and provide a visible indicator that the fleet is doing all it can to stretch its fuel mileage, which can be helpful when negotiating with customers.

New engines

Finally, the fleet managers on-hand had a chance to comment on how the 2007 engines are helping them meet their fuel consumption targets. Now that the fleets have had the time to evaluate the real-world performance of the 07 engines, the verdict is in -and it’s a good one.

“I think the engines are doing well; better than expected,” confirmed Robert. “Our new trucks are more fuel efficient than our trucks with 250,000-300,000 miles on them, so once they’re broken in, we’ll get substantial improvements.”

Penner agreed. “We have received very good fuel performance on all those engines,” he said, pointing out Bison is running three different brands of 07 engines.

On a side note, Robert warned against interrupting DPF regenerations and he suggested drivers prompt an active re-gen every day.

Despite carriers’ best efforts to reduce fuel consumption, and thus emissions, Tanguay pointed out the trucking industry can’t accomplish its goals alone. She urged shippers to shape up and help fleets meet their targets.

“Many shippers won’t let our drivers fax paperwork or make phone calls, that’s another stop and more time lost,” she complained.

“We cannot do these things alone,” agreed Robert. •

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