Natural gas presenting new opportunities for Vedder Transport

Truck News

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — Being an early adopter of liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered trucks has landed Vedder Transportation Group some new business opportunities, including the formation of a new solid waste division, which seems an unlikely fit for a company whose core business has been hauling dairy and food grade products.

Fred Zweep, president of Vedder Transportation, said the opportunity came along in August 2010, when word was beginning to spread about the company’s investment in natural gas trucks.

He vividly remembers the call he received while travelling to Calgary to visit a client. The caller said he’d heard Vedder was investing in natural gas trucks and asked if they’d be able to service a solid waste haul contract shuttling trash from Metro Vancouver to a landfill in Cache Creek, B.C.

“People often ask how did we get into the business of hauling garbage when we’re a food-grade hauler,” Zweep recalled. “That was because of the natural gas technology. I remember when they phoned. I said ‘We haul food, you want me to haul garbage?’ He said ‘Will you think about it?” and I said ‘I’ll have to think about it’.”

Today, Vedder has 15 LNG-fuelled Peterbilt 386s dedicated to the trash contract, hauling solid waste between Vancouver and Cache Creek, grossing a whopping 140,000 lbs each way along the 410-mile roundtrip.

The route between Vancouver and Cache Creek was also a good test for the LNG trucks.

“I would have to say, 200 of those miles are probably some of the toughest pulling in the province of B.C. that you’d find, maybe anywhere in North America, with 6-8% grades over about 50% of that round-trip,” Zweep said.

Vedder Transport deployed the latest of its 50 LNG-powered Peterbilt trucks in March 2012, and has now collected enough data to declare the program as a resounding success. The trucks are operated across three divisions: 22 in the dairy fleet (140,000-lb GVW); 15 in the solid waste fleet (140,000-lb GVW); and 13 in the food-grade fleet (105,000-lb GVW). The highest-mileage units now have about 250,000 kilometres on them.

“From a mechanical perspective, we’re seeing very good results,” Zweep said. “We’re now starting to pull oil samples and we’re seeing the cleanest oil samples we’ve ever seen in our fleet, and we’ve been around for over 50 years.”

This week marks a milestone for Vedder Transportation, as its fuelling station – offering LNG, CNG and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) – opened for business Thursday. Up till now, Vedder has been fuelling its trucks via a temporary filling station. The new fuelling site has been opened as a commercial cardlock, open to other fleets operating natural gas-powered vehicles.

Not only has Vedder launch a new solid waste division, but Zweep said the company is in discussions with two additional companies to operate natural gas trucks for them within their own fleets.

Now, Vedder is looking to transition its long-haul flatdeck fleet to natural gas.

“We run a fleet of 100 vehicles every day between the Lower Mainland of B.C. and northern Alberta servicing the oil and gas industry with materials coming off the docks in Vancouver,” Zweep said. “The average length of haul one way will be 875 miles with a 105,000-lb GVW.”

Zweep said he’s already been in discussions with Peterbilt to spec’ a natural gas truck for the long-haul fleet.

Look for a complete update on Vedder Transportations LNG fleet in an upcoming issue of Truck News and Truck West.

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