Day & Ross leverages three NRCan programs to reduce emissions, fuel bills
On Day & Ross’ corporate website there is a section titled “Props from our peers”, where it explains how the Hartland, New Brunswick, headquartered fleet stands out from the crowd.
It demonstrates the importance the company attaches to benchmarking with competition and making the most out of any form of resources, whether it’s material, human or processes. At the heart of it all is what’s referred to as lean management, with the help of a Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) program called SmartWay.
SmartWay aims to help fleets “track fuel consumption and improve overall performance”, NRCan says, and Day & Ross has been part of it for over 10 years now, collecting data to enhance its equipment and operations in order to decrease fuel usage as the related expenses.
The data gathered through the SmartWay partnership contributed to improved fleet routing, as well as dispatching the right type of truck for a given job by understanding how much freight volume will be expected to be picked up from costumer locations. “If it only requires a straight truck, then we are only sending a straight truck, not a tractor-trailer with a 53-foot trailer,” says Laura Dickinson, Director, Strategic Initiatives at Day & Ross.
About a year ago, the 4,300 power unit and 8,000 trailer fleet laid the foundation for a five-year plan to go even further in resource use optimization and created the position of environmental coordinator, held by Billy Rae Rattray, an Environmental Science Bachelor’s degree graduate who grew up around trucks as his father is a seasoned owner-operator.
“Trucking has actually always been a part of my life,” Rattray says, yet he admits that he’s still learning every day about the ever-changing industry.
“Our five-year strategy is our plan for taking Day & Ross from a great company to an exceptional company,” Dickinson says. “As we grow and expand we want to ensure we continue to be a responsible corporate citizen,” she adds.
The corporate strategy included joining NRCan’s other green freight programs, SmartDriver and Green Freight Assessment Programs to complement the SmartWay initiative so drivers would be provided additional training in fuel-efficient practices such as optimal cruise-control use, smooth acceleration and braking, and cutting idling time. All this was done while the company was able to enhance its vehicles’ specs with the latest technology, such as leading-edge low-weight components to lower its carbon footprint as well as diesel consumption.
The elite level driver training began in spring of 2019, with the application for the Green Freight Assessment Program (GFAP) having been submitted in November.
In a fleet where most drivers are actually owner-operators managing their own small business and paying their own fuel bills, potential resistance to change is an element to consider. Yet, according to Dickinson, the feedback Day & Ross obtained from drivers about implementing SmartDriver has essentially been positive so far. “Because it helps them as well, we haven’t had any pushback on that,” she says.
The training will likely come in the form of a combination of classroom time and web-accessed instructional material.
One thing leads to another
“We’ve been measuring our fleet emissions for over ten years now. Then, in early 2019, we started investigating the highway fuel-efficient training and this past summer we started looking at the Green Freight Assessment Program,” Rattray says to explain how the SmartWay program awareness naturally led to enrolling in further NRCan initiatives. The Green Freight Assessment Program (GFAP) helps companies receive a third-party green freight assessment, and improve a fleet’s efficiency by implementing the recommendations outlined in their assessment.
Since then, Day & Ross’ truck and trailer specs and auxiliary equipment have been assessed by an independent third-party company, with the help of the Green Freight Assessment Program.
“Then we applied for the Implementation phase and we were told we were one of the approved carriers for funding,” Rattray says, referring to NRCan sharing the costs to implement the practices and devices recommended by the assessor to improve aerodynamics, rolling resistance and other variables that influence fuel efficiency according to the fleet’s specific operating context, such as load weight or topography.
Sometimes, the process will even involve evaluating the relevance of using fuel saving methods that the fleet itself might not even have considered in the first place, Rattray underlines.
The path through all three programs hasn’t been a walk in the park, Dickinson admits. Yet, the support from NRCan personnel and McCain Foods Limited – the company that owns Day & Ross – proved to be valuable. “The individuals that we work with at NRCan have always been very helpful and willing to work with us and provide guidance. It is a lot of data gathering, a lot of analysis,” Dickinson says about the paperwork.
The good news is that the process gets easier each year, she adds.
Both her and Rattray believe that any fleet, regardless of its size, can enjoy the outcomes of such programs. It is highly suggested that a clearly identified individual within a participating company is held accountable for program monitoring.
“For anyone looking at adding fuel saving equipment, it’s a great process to help with some cost savings, and also set up some data collection,” Rattray says. The importance of fleet information management is echoed by Dickinson. “Knowing your data, knowing what your expectations are and what you are spending and what you could be saving really helps to set the bar for where you want to be with your fuel efficiency programs,” she says.
Political goodwill and infrastructure upgrades can also play a role in reducing the number of trucks and related emissions required for interprovincial transportation.
The upcoming transformation of old road 185 into a four-lane divided highway allowing the use of Long Combination Vehicles (LCVs, two 53 foot trailers hooked to a single tractor) from New Brunswick to Quebec and the rest of Canada is good news for Day & Ross and other fleets using LCVs.
“If we’re hauling LCV trailers, we’re going to use more fuel, but we’re hauling more freight. So our overall fuel use will go up, but our emissions intensity will be less because we’re moving more goods per kilometer as opposed to pulling just one trailer,” Rattray says.
“We won’t have to break apart our LCVs when we get to Quebec. This is something that we have been really pushing for, for a long time,” Dickinson adds, referring to the new “highway twins”.
Alternatives to diesel fuel in the form of electric trucks are also in Day & Ross’ sight, according to Rattray who says that pilot projects are coming. Whether the electricity will be coming from batteries or hydrogen fuel cells has not been decided yet.
What has already been decided and put in place is the fleet’s new green facility under construction in Moncton, New Brunswick, with charging stations for employees’ personal electric vehicles, as well as stations for electric yard shunters and/or warehouse forklifts.
The building will also boast one of the largest solar installations in Atlantic Canada, enhanced R-factor insulation, energy efficient lighting, and air source heat pumps.
“We would like to see a specific reduction in our emissions this year and we are on track within a number of our business lines to significantly exceed that,” Dickinson states.
Rattray reminds that emissions are directly paired with the emission intensity of the fuel they use. “So if emissions go down, fuel use goes down, too,” he says.
That’s certainly lean, clean business sense.
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