SmartWay Partner Profiles
Brimich Logistics is a thriving family-owned and operated business. Founded in 1997, located in Brantford, Ontario, and employing some 200 people, the company specializes in third-party logistics and supply-chain management.
As a transportation broker, Brimich relies on and coordinates a vast pool of partner carriers to deliver freight to dozens of sites across Canada and the continental United States. Some 90 percent of the company’s customers are food manufacturers, importers and distributors, including some of the biggest retail brands in North America—Walmart, Sobeys, Metro and Bulk Barn.
The company uses its SmartWay partnership as a logistics provider not only to choose from the most environmentally responsible carriers, but also to improve the fuel efficiency of its emerging transportation division.
Brimich Logistics uses its SmartWay partnership as a logistics provider not only to choose from the most environmentally responsible carriers, but also to improve the fuel efficiency of its emerging transportation division.
Brimich Logistics is a thriving family-owned and -operated business. Founded in 1997, located in Brantford, Ontario, and employing some 200 people, the company specializes in third-party logistics and supply-chain management.
As a transportation broker, Brimich relies on and coordinates a vast pool of partner carriers to deliver freight to dozens of sites across Canada and the continental United States. Some 90 percent of the company’s customers are food manufacturers, importers and distributors, including some of the biggest retail brands in North America—Walmart, Sobeys, Metro and Bulk Barn.
But don’t let the company’s name fool you. Brimich does much more than logistics. It owns six warehouses that total one million square feet. This entire space, which is Safe Quality Food certified, is equipped for ambient, refrigerated and frozen storage. On top of that, Brimich started its own transportation division, adding a straight truck in 2012 and a day cab in 2017 to supply delivery services for its local warehousing customers.
The company has since increased its humble corps of vehicles to 20 straight trucks, tractor-trailers, dry vans, reefers, multi-temps and shunt trucks. Piloted by a team of uniformed, full-time drivers, the now sizable fleet enables Brimich to provide one-day service to customers in Ontario and in states that border the province.
“We’ve been able to expand by identifying new services, maintaining high standards and offering competitive rates,” says Rick Fergus, vice president of sales and operations for Brimich’s transportation division. “While broadening our company’s services was vital to our ongoing success, we realized that we needed to get smarter sustainably as well as bigger operationally.”
Getting inspired as a logistics firm
Brimich looked to several of the carriers in its network for intelligent inspiration. These truck, freight and multimodal firms were SmartWay partners, a clear indication they were serious about lowering fuel consumption, operating costs and harmful vehicle emissions. Rick and his colleagues at Brimich took notice and, in 2019, became a SmartWay partner.
As a third-party logistics provider, the company takes advantage of the SmartWay portal to identify and hire carriers that are also program partners. Brimich also uses the SmartWay newsletter to stay up to date about the latest advances in transportation sustainability. As an added bonus, Brimich considers being a SmartWay partner as a further means—along with Safe Quality Food certification—of standardizing and improving key aspects of its operations.
“We always look for the next advantage,” says Fergus. “Becoming a more environmentally responsible transportation logistics company is an advantage we want to leverage—for ourselves, our customers and our environment. Being a SmartWay partner holds our company accountable, prompting us to live up to our commitment to environmental sustainability.”
Getting results as a carrier
SmartWay partnership as a logistics provider had a ripple effect. Brimich brought three SmartWay-inspired advancements to its own emerging transportation division. First, the company stocked all of its trucks with automatic 15-minute shutdown devices to prevent excessive idling. Second, Brimich equipped its trailers with wind deflectors, which reduce wind resistance and improve handling. And third, the company hooked up its reefer trailers to CoolTrax. The technology enables Brimich to capture and monitor real-time temperatures in its refrigerated trailers, and turn off the cooling in these units remotely if it has been left running.
Brimich used monthly meetings with drivers to increase their awareness of the moves the company had made, and to raise their consciousness about the role they play in improving the company’s environmental performance. Company executives and managers have also become more aware of the value of fuel-related data. As a result, the company has put in place a system to capture and analyze information.
“We’re really happy with the results,” says Fergus. “Our technologies and systems are working to reduce fuel use and costs. Our drivers and dispatchers have embraced their roles in making our company more environmentally conscious. And our customers are taking notice, which is leading to stronger, more trusting relationships with them.”
Getting excited about the future
Buoyed by this success, Brimich is looking for further ways to conserve fuel and be more efficient in every aspect of its transportation business. Its first move is tactical: the company plans to purchase and install solar panels on all its reefer units. The second is strategic: Brimich is in the process of becoming a SmartWay partner as a carrier.
“SmartWay has helped our company improve how we choose carriers, lower our fuel use and costs, and learn more about being a more environmentally conscious business,” says Fergus. “Perhaps even more important than all of that, the program is motivating us to play a bigger part of positive environmental change. We want to do more. We want to get smarter.”
Archived Partner Profiles
Fuel economy as corporate DNA
Transport J.C. Germain provides efficient freight services with regard to quality, reliability and safety, while bringing about current, innovative and environment-friendly solutions.
Being a SmartWay partner since 2008, Transport J.C. Germain utilises various practices and policies to reduce its fuel consumption and at the same time its environmental impact. Auxiliary heaters, telematics, driver behaviour monitoring and preventative maintenance are just a few other measures the company uses to run an efficient fleet.
Over the years fuel economy and emissions reduction has become imprinted in the companies DNA.
Fuel economy and reduction of the related emissions have been part of Transport J.C. Germain’s DNA for a long time, says Marcel Alain, assistant fleet manager for the company headquartered in Trois-Rivières, Qué.
J.C. Germain was already a SmartWay partner when he joined the team of fleet manager Normand Le Breton. Alain is now in charge of managing the program that promotes green transportation habits.
Among the numerous practices and policies that have been implemented to lower fuel consumption, war on idling is at the top of the list.
Cutting idle time and the related waste of fuel by shutting the engine the minute they stop their truck is one of those habits that have become second nature for J.C. Germain drivers, Alain says. And should one of them forget about the engine running, automatic idle shut down systems would turn it off after five minutes of idling.
Auxiliary heaters are used to ensure overnight comfort inside the cab on colder nights, at a fraction of the fuel and maintenance costs of an otherwise constantly idling engine.
Thanks to telematics, idling can be precisely monitored and a full-time J.C. Germain employee is dedicated to gathering and analyzing idling time data, Alain adds. Drivers are used to such meticulousness and actually benefit from it, as the rate and bonuses they obtain are related to their percentage of idling time.
The 180 tractor and 475 trailer fleet relies on power units that are replaced on a four-year cycle. According to Alain, not only does this allow the company to benefit from warranty coverage during its whole ownership period, the newer trucks feature the latest technology advances.
“We have all the bells and whistles,” Alain sums up, referring to safety, fuel economy and emission control features that are spec’ed on new units. “If it exists, our trucks have it,” he says, adding that recent equipment can also be a driver recruiting and retention factor.
The green spec’ing process also involves making sure that trucks penetrate the air as smoothly as possible to avoid energy loss. Aerodynamics is promoted by installing roof cab wind deflectors that guide the air over the trailers. “Plus, we add side fairings and tank fairings,” Alain says, pointing out that aerodynamic wheel covers have also been recently included in the tractors’ spec’ing strategy.
J.C. Germain also works at cutting the trailers’ air drag, by installing side skirts on them. The task is less time-consuming for the maintenance staff now that the new trailers are ordered with the aerodynamic features factory-installed.
The type of transmission that equips each of the fleet’s dedicated trucks will depend on the driver’s fondness. “Some prefer an automated while others prefer to control the shifting themselves,” Alain says to explain the mix of automated and 13-speed manual transmissions within the fleet.
In all instances however, fuel economy remains a priority and drivers who opt for a manual are trained on progressive shifting, which consists of selecting the best gear at all times to keep the engine in its RPM sweet spot, just like an automated does.
Driving behaviour being a vital fuel economy factor, J.C. Germain monitors any brutal acceleration or harsh braking event and speeding. The same technology that allows such monitoring is used to minimize unscheduled downtime and bad fuel efficiency associated with engine malfunction. The truck engines’ electronic modules are connected to the fleet terminal over-the-air.
“The minute a fault code appears on my computer screen, the truck is directed to the closest dealer. We don’t wait for a breakdown to happen,” Alain says.
Indeed, being proactive is part of J.C. Germain’s business plan. “We don’t neglect a single thing,” Alain says about preventive maintenance practices that ensure compliance and keep the engine and other key components at their top performing level, where they are the most fuel efficient.
Tire management can also make a major difference in terms of a fleet’s fuel economy and that’s why, beyond proper inflation, J.C. Germain makes sure to use only low rolling resistance tires in order to reduce friction and fuel consumption.
Since the company’s trucks travel all across Canadian provinces and American States in weather conditions that can vary a lot from one to another, different low rolling resistance tire brands are used based on the climate where they operate to ensure a proper balance between low friction and traction, Alain explains.
Recycling tires by retreading them is another way to reduce resource waste and the fleet follows that rule. Retreaded tires are installed on selected trailer axles and tractor drive axles.
But a fleet’s energy savings and emission reductions can be achieved in more places than on the trucks themselves. For instance, J.C. Germain’s maintenance shop is heated by a geothermal system, Alain underlines. The company even had charging ports installed in the terminal parking to accommodate employees using electric cars.
In addition to raising environment protection awareness among trucking fleets, the SmartWay program can also be a valuable marketing tool when dealing with shippers that are conscious about their overall carbon footprint.
“Some customers started to enquire if we were SmartWay partners,” Alain remembers when thinking of the days when being in the trucking business and environmentally conscious was an exception. Along the years, the fleet’s customer base gradually gave more importance to green trucking operations.
While the SmartWay logo brings a competitive edge to the company, such an advantage has to be earned and the program requires some management tasks. Yet, Alain feels the program is pretty easy to handle once it’s implemented and the initial data is collected.
Besides, the program has improved over the years. “For example, the annual renewal process is much simpler than it used to be,” Alain says, referring to the moment when he gathers his fuel consumption reports to compile fuel economy figures.
It’s a small price to pay, considering that fuel is a trucking company’s most important expense item after wages and that any savings in that department can boost a fleet’s bottom line as well as environment quality.
CCT Auto-Trans, a car hauling company has been a proud and committed
SmartWay partner since 2012. The company strives in operating a well-maintained fuel-efficient fleet. Being labeled as environmentally-friendly has been inspiring and a great investment for future generations.
Due to the particular configuration of its trailers, the company is limited in the aerodynamic solutions it can deploy, but the company has other aces up its sleeve. Adding side skirts, fairings, low resistance tires, auxiliary bunk heaters and utilizing special 5-foot longer trailers has increased efficiency and payload. Route planning and optimization has also been a great tool in reducing empty kilometres while increasing productivity. Installing ELDs and providing driver training has also proven to increase the company fuel efficiency.
Implementing available technologies and increasing environmental awareness within CCT Auto-Trans has increased fuel-efficiency, reduced the company carbon footprint and established corporate pride.
Car hauling company CCT Auto-Trans, based in Courtice, Ont., began its operations in 1999. Back then, American auto makers known as “The Big Three” – Chrysler, Ford, and GM – used trucking companies to have Dodge Neons, Ford Contours, or Chevrolet Cavaliers delivered to their dealers.
Times have changed and so have the cars we drive and the impact on the environment their very first trip - from the assembly plant to the dealership - has.
With a fleet of 70 tractors and 70 trailers, CCT Auto-Trans has been a SmartWay partner since 2012. The environmentally-friendly label that comes with such a commitment is an inspiration for the company, says Safety & Compliance officer Brian Duff. “It is a source of pride and we do use it as a marketing tool when we’re approaching customers, illustrating that we are environmentally-friendly. We look at ways to reduce our carbon footprint”, he says.
Aerodynamics is often the first aspect a trucking company can improve to reduce its fuel consumption and related emissions, with side skirts on the trailer and fairings to guide the air over the trailer as well as close the gap between the truck and the trailer. Because of the particular configuration of its trailers and what they carry, CCT is limited in the aerodynamic solutions it can deploy. But the company has a couple of other aces up its sleeve.
A very special form of “carpooling” proved to be one of them, as the fleet managed to increase the number of vehicles it can carry in a single trip by using special, 5-foot longer than usual trailers. “We’re the first company in Canada to purchase and permit 80-foot units [including the tractor], which allows us to legally haul six pick-up trucks instead of five,” Duff says. “We’re lowering our amount of trips by increasing our load factor,” he adds.
Another way to deliver the same amount of cargo while using fewer resources is to cut on empty kilometers and CCT achieved just that with route optimization. “We build the loads based on efficiencies,” Duff says. Trucks are sent to car dealerships where vehicles are unloaded along the way but the last delivery point is never too far from a Canadian or American car assembly plant where they can be loaded with new vehicles again.
“We could deliver in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana and then reload in Indiana before coming back,” Duff says. “We try to eliminate those as best we can,” he adds, referring to empty kilometers.
The company relies on low-rolling resistance tires to cut the friction between its equipment and the pavement. Other smart tire management practices such as sending worn out casings to retreading also contribute to lowering its carbon footprint.
Completely eliminating engine idling is virtually impossible at CCT. “When drivers are loading and unloading, the trucks have to be idling in order to work the hydraulics,” Duff says, referring to the power needed to articulate the different trailer sections.
Yet idling can be controlled with simple solutions such as auxiliary bunk heaters that need only a couple of sips of diesel for the occasional night spent in the truck during cold months instead of letting the engine run and guzzle almost four litres per hour.
Driving patterns can also make a huge difference on fuel bills. Statistics have shown that the human factor – aggressive driving with brutal accelerations and harsh braking for example - can impact a truck’s fuel economy by as much as 30%. CCT is addressing the matter from the very moment new drivers are hired, during the company’s orientation program.
Technology can also contribute to monitoring fuel economy and determining if additional driver training is needed. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) installed for hour of service regulations compliance can also be used for that, according to Duff. “If there’s a significant issue, we’ll first have a conversation with them [the drivers] and if we continue to see patterns, we’ll have our trainers go out with them to see what’s causing the spike in fuel use,” he explains.
While all CCT’s new trucks are equipped with automated transmissions, some of the power units still rely on the drivers to manually shift gears. Once again, training makes a world of difference when drivers use progressive shifting, just like automated transmissions are programmed for, Duff says.
The idea is to use the highest gear possible at all times, upshifting as soon as possible and downshifting as late as possible to keep the engine speed (rpm, or revolutions per minute) low and make it burn less diesel. Since highway speed also plays a major role on fuel economy, all CCT trucks are governed at 105 km/h, he points out.
Having well maintained equipment also presents several advantages, in addition to being more fuel-efficient and that is why CCT services it beyond the average for increased peace of mind and less downtime. Besides, a good maintenance reputation can go a long way in terms of driver attraction and retention in a period of workforce shortage.
Sound maintenance practices at CCT Auto-Trans include recuperating and recycling all mechanical fluids such as engine oil or cooling liquid. The company sees it as an investment for future generations. “It’s something we have always done,” Duff concludes.
Westcan Bulk Transport
Westcan Bulk Transport works to carry various types of goods, from fertilizer to road salt, across Canada. A whole 50% of their work is carrying different types of fuel, which they transport all over Canada. The company even carries fuel to Inuvik, a town 200km north of the Arctic Circle!As a company that has been a part of SmartWay for over half a decade, Westcan Bulk has committed to lowering their emissions as much as possible. Their focus is reducing the amount of fuel consumed during their trips, which they do through several mechanisms, including the installation of different aerodynamic features in its 600 company trucks. Sound maintenance practices are also instrumental in reducing its emissions and fuel costs. Click here for the profile.
Westcan Bulk makes the most of each drop of fuel it carries
As the name suggests, Westcan Bulk Transport carries various types of goods in large quantities across Canada. It could be fertilizer that helps farmers grow cereal or the resulting grain used to mill flour for bread. The road salt keeping motorists safe on Canada's icy roads also may well have been hauled by Westcan trucks, just like the gasoline that keeps their cars running.
In fact, carrying different forms of fuel in large tanker trailers represents the bulk of Westcan's business, roughly 50% of their work. "Our largest commodity product is petroleum fuels. It can be gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.," says Mike Royer, the Edmonton-based company's fleet services vice president. Pressure tanks are used for anhydrous ammonia or propane.
Yet, the fuel tanks that Westcan cares the most about when it comes to its bottom line and well-being of generations to come are the ones supplying its own trucks.
The company has been a SmartWay partner for a little over five years and, as such, is committed to lowering its emissions as much as possible. While embracing the latest aftertreatment technologies is one way to achieve that goal, reducing the amount of diesel fuel it consumes in the first place has the same direct effect, in addition to making the company more profitable.
Aerodynamic features are a must when spec'ing Westcan's tractors, Royer says, referring to the 600 company trucks. That includes mid roof sleeper cabs and cab extenders that reduce the gap between the truck and the trailer, an area where air turbulence can cause unwanted drag. "When we design our units, we try to keep the trailer as close to the cab as possible," Royer says.
The sleeper roof helps guide the air over the tank trailers.
The fluid delivery systems used in tanker trailer operations make such vehicles less suitable for aerodynamic side skirts. "We experimented with them [the skirts] but because of all your valves and piping, the driver has to have access to that side when loading and unloading," Royer says, referring to skirts being in the way.
Big tires, small engines
But the fleet has other cards up its sleeves and one of them is the use of wide-base single tires instead of conventional dual assemblies. The wide-base tires – for which there are now fewer regulatory restrictions – weigh less, allowing more payload to be carried on each trip. At the end of a year, it means that fewer trucks need to be used to carry the same amount of cargo, reducing the related emissions and fuel consumption. The same logic applies each time the company uses B Train configurations and a single tractor can pull two trailers.
By their very nature, wide-base tires help Westcan enhance fuel economy because of their lower rolling resistance. "We did some SAE fuel tests along with Michelin and we saw 8% savings with the single wide base tires vs. duals," Royer says, adding that they are used on trucks' drive axles as well as on trailers. The fleet also retreads its own tire casings, which is another form of recycling.
Engine makers also help Westcan doing more with less. "We're using the smallest engine we can get away with," Royer says, referring to modern 13 litre diesels being surprisingly powerful while more fuel efficient. "We're not using big displacement engines anymore and we've seen our fuel economy increase a fair bit over the last couple of years," Westcan's VP adds.
Smaller blocks being able to deliver highly respectable amounts of torque –1,850 lb-ft and beyond – also benefits the fleet as it can standardize its power units across the country, regardless of a given area's topography.
Mating them to automated transmissions also contributes to maintaining engines in their sweet RPM spot, further reducing fuel consumption and lowering maintenance costs associated to potential driver abuse.
As in any fleet of any size, sound maintenance practices also help reduce emissions and fuel costs, Royer underlines. "Our techs are trained to maintain the emission system on the trucks so it's running properly to make sure we get the best fuel economy we can. We can run a truck in a shop and you don't even smell it anymore. It's amazing how clean it is," he says.
Lubricants are also part of the fuel-saving equation and synthetic fluids are used in all major components' gearing.
In order to benefit from additional technological advances, Westcan accelerated its tractor replacement cycle so that the average age of trucks is 2.5 years instead of five like it used to. "We're replacing older, less efficient trucks much more quickly," Royer sums up.
Drivers, too, contribute to Westcan's success and the most efficient and safe operators are entitled to bonuses. In addition to trucks being governed at 100 km/h on highways, speeding is prohibited in any zone and monitored by the management, as well as any excessive acceleration or harsh braking event. This way, the company can provide additional training to those who need it, for road safety's sake as well as fuel economy.
Westcan has a policy to limit idle time as much as possible to reduce fuel waste and avoidable emissions but field reality sometimes requires the engine to run to keep drivers warm during their sleep. Royer points out that the company uses auxiliary heaters but he says they're not always sufficient when the outside temperature drops below minus 25 Celsius.
Did we mention that Westcan hauls fuels to places such as Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, which is 200 km north of the Arctic Circle?
"We want to make sure the guys are as safe as possible if something does happen to the truck; that they've got power and heat and still communicate through our satellite system," Royer says to explain the occasional idling. Incidentally, the fleet is about to test auxiliary power units (APUs) – small onboard generators - that could settle the issue.
While liquefied natural gas (LNG) powers a couple of the fleet's trucks and biodiesel is used in the summer, the real fuel transition could come with electric trucks, especially on some of Westcan's shortest hauls. "I'm very curious about what's going to be happening in the next couple of years on that front, so we're definitely watching it," Royer says.
Westcan's environmental conscience has even migrated to areas of the business that have little to do with trucks burning diesel. "Our used oil is recycled and all fluids are kept and disposed of properly," Royer says, adding that all lighting in the maintenance shop is now LED. "That's been a huge, huge success for us. Not only does it save power in the long run but the quality of the light in our shops is unbelievable," he adds, referring to productivity gains obtained with the better LED visibility.
Vitesse Transport Corporation
The Drive to Succeed
Vitesse Transport Corporation is an asset-based organization that manages its own fleet of trucks and trailers, including flatbeds, dry vans and reefers. Headquartered in Lachine, Québec, Vitesse employs more than 180 professionals and offers warehousing and transport services in Canada, United-States and Mexico.
Vitesse Trucking Services benefits from multiple eco-friendly initiatives
“They can see and feel the drive we have to succeed,” says Marco Léger about drivers who experience a first contact with Vitesse Trucking Services, a 100+ power units and close to 300 trailer fleet with diversified operations across North America. The company is headquartered in Montreal.
The fleet manager with over 30 years of experience in the trucking industry knows that success doesn’t happen overnight and, in collaboration with executive vice president and chief financial officer Michael Scalzo, they worked at building it one smart decision at a time over the years.
“We noticed a big issue in our fleet was fuel related costs. We needed to have some kind of control on those costs,” Scalzo says about the process that led the company to become a SmartWay partner.
One of Vitesse’s first steps towards better fuel efficiency was to renew and standardize the fleet. “Right now, the oldest truck in the fleet is a 2014,” Léger says to illustrate that only brand new or very recent equipment is used in the various divisions – logistics, local/regional haul, long distance temperature-controlled, flatbed heavy haul, etc. – that make up Vitesse Trucking. In fact, the company just ordered 20 brand new tractors to replace older units.
Reshaping the fleet was the opportunity to revise the specs for better fuel economy and all new trucks now present an aerodynamic design with rounded edges – including bumpers and mirrors - to reduce aerodynamic drag. Aftermarket specialized fairings and wheel covers are added to further enhance the vehicles’ air penetration factor. Trailers are outfitted with aerodynamic side skirts.
Vitesse is hiding another trick up its sleeve, or should we say behind the above mentioned wheel covers. The device is basically a tire pressure management system. “There’s no wiring to connect, no holes to drill. You just drive and it maintains tire pressure at the set level,” Léger explains.
Under-inflated tires increase contact and friction with the pavement, which causes fuel economy to drop so it’s only natural that a SmartWay carrier wants to reduce it as much as possible. Besides, under-inflation causes premature tire wear that can lead to road hazards. That’s another example of a fuel economy concern leading to further savings and a better safety record that customers and insurers love to see.
Low-rolling resistance tire compounds further reduce that friction on Vitesse’s power units, Léger points out. They are commonly used on all company equipment, with the exception of units driven in remote areas North of the 60th parallel, where more aggressive traction is required. “They sometimes go places where there’s no pavement at all,” Léger says about some of the flatbed division’s trucks and trailers.
No idling, fuel-efficiency bonuses
Any form of idling is avoided at Vitesse, Léger adds. Not only does it waste valuable fuel, but it can also contribute to premature engine wear and early clogging of modern emissions aftertreatment filters.
Vitesse uses automatic systems that shut down engines after five minutes of idling. To ensure driver comfort at night, trucks are equipped with on-board generators that produce electric power that can drive the A/C system without the main engine idling. Some units are outfitted with rechargeable battery packs that provide A/C power without burning a drop of fuel.
In many instances, temperature control at night is not even an issue as many long distance trucks are driven by teams and virtually never stop. The driver resting in the sleeper compartment enjoys the same climate comfort as the one at the wheel.
When it comes to engines themselves, Vitesse Trucking Services has found out that small can, indeed, be beautiful as a high HP to displacement ratio also translates into better fuel efficiency.
Thirteen-litre engines power the trucks and provide plenty of power and torque, according to Léger. “If you do just normal 80,000 lbs in a 53 foot trailer, then you don’t need more than 455 horsepower. More than that is no use whatsoever,” he says. All engines are governed at 105 km/h.
Automated transmissions are used in the vast majority of power units and ensure that gear shifts occur at adequate engine speed to avoid unnecessary overrev and the related fuel waste.
Yet, human drivers are still in command behind the wheel and driving behavior can have a huge impact on fuel consumption. That’s why continuous training is in place at Vitesse. “Each year I get the technician from the truck manufacturer to come in and train us on the diagnostics of the truck, the new systems. It’s an ongoing process,” Léger says.
Not only do drivers get to know their trucks inside out, they get better at communicating any mechanical issue to the maintenance team, which accelerates diagnostic time and increases uptime.
Bad driving habits such as tailgating, speeding, harsh acceleration or braking are strictly prohibited at Vitesse as they are unsafe and a waste of fuel. Satellite tracking allows the management to monitor such actions and dash cameras are automatically triggered by events like emergency braking to give a more complete picture of what really happened.
Valuable management information also comes in the form of SmartWay reports, Scalzo points out, adding that such data helps Vitesse’s management make well informed decisions by identifying inefficiency and waste, in addition to indicating best practices that help carriers further improve.
Vitesse’s most fuel efficient drivers are rewarded with bonuses and a friendly competition has formed among drivers to see who will achieve the best economy numbers. And should a bonus be in jeopardy because of a mechanical malfunction, drivers rush to the maintenance people so they can fix whatever the problem is, preventing minor issues from developing into more serious and costly problems.
All these eco-friendly efforts end up being just as good for business. “Being a SmartWay carrier adds a competitive advantage with our shipper clients,” Scalzo says. Léger couldn’t agree more. “I think most of the customers are conscious about their supply-chain’s carbon footprint,” he adds.
Obviously, shippers can recognize the drive to succeed when they see it.
“You start off by trying to reduce your carbon footprint but in the process you save money and you also save downtime and a lot of other things because you’re receiving benefits in other areas.” Brian Telford, P&B Transport
Fuel efficiency efforts generate safety, uptime, insurance benefits at P&B Transport
When Brian Telford and his team decided to become a SmartWay carrier partner half a decade ago, it was with two main goals in mind: help the environment and save money while doing so.
“We thought it was a good idea because, along with helping the environment, it also benefits the company. It’s a win-win all the way around,” says the Montreal-based 54 power unit and 86 trailer P&B Transport fleet safety and compliance manager.
What P&B didn’t expect, though, was the spin-off that measures being implemented for fuel economy would have on other aspects of the company’s profitability, such as its corporate image, driver attraction/retention, safety rating, uptime or insurance premiums.
“It’s like a domino effect. You start off by trying to reduce your carbon footprint but in the process you save money and you also save downtime and a lot of other things because you’re receiving benefits in other areas,” Telford says.
P&B hauls general freight in regular dry vans in the North Eastern part of North America. A Montreal to Ottawa trip – roughly 200 kilometers one way – is considered a local move.
Longer trips to Virginia or Ohio require drivers to sleep in their truck. That’s seldom more than one night per trip but still enough to start calculating idling costs and fuel consumption as a whole.
35% fuel economy improvement
There was a lot of wasted fuel because of a number of factors but the good news is they managed to slash those losses in a significant way. Since 2007, their fuel economy improved by 35%. That represents thousands and thousands of dollars in most fleets’ first expense item after wages.
P&B started by replacing older trucks with newer units that provided greater performance and were more driver friendly and fuel efficient. Most of the new tractors are Cascadias, spec’ed with the help of their Freightliner dealer.
The model is aerodynamic in itself but P&B went a step further and opted for the full fairing package to cut as much air drag as it could. Aerodynamic devices were also ordered from Denmark and installed on trailers and Telford couldn’t be happier with the results. “It cuts the turbulence at the back. It improves your performance and your fuel efficiency,” he says. Better yet, the European version comes with built-in reflective tape. So on top of fuel efficiency, it increases safety and visibility at night.
Tractors with an “eco” mode are selected and automated transmissions help streamline and optimize gear shifts.
The gradual transition from 13-speed manuals to automated hasn’t been a long, calm river in terms of initial driver acceptance, Telford acknowledges. Some company veterans were reluctant to use them as they had less than positive memories about the first generations of automated, but they quickly noticed the difference with the new ones.
“We do a lot of mileage in New Jersey and New York where there’s a lot of heavy traffic,” Telford explains. When the word spread out about how drivers were feeling less tired at the end of their workday, the acceptance level skyrocketed. “Suddenly we started having drivers asking ‘Hey, can you put my name on the list for the next automated truck?,’” he adds.
Drivers had a major role to play themselves. Any harsh acceleration, braking or tailgating event is strictly prohibited and monitored with the help of telemetry. The use of cruise-control is also encouraged so engines stay in their “sweet spot” on long distances.
Down with idle
Idling time is now reduced to a minimum and an auto shut-down system turns off the engine after five minutes. Drivers are instructed to manually shut the engine off any time it’s not required to run. Granted, it added a couple of starters on the company’s part’s bill, but the return on investment is worth the effort. “The fuel savings outweighs the starter costs,” Telford says.
The use of auxiliary heaters in the winter and battery-pack powered electric air conditioning also made a huge difference in idling time and related costs. “It seems to help us to the point that we have a lot of drivers that are almost zero idling,” Telford says of the company anti-idling policies.
Individual fuel economy numbers are compiled and posted in P&B’s drivers’ lounge, with bonuses and gift cards being handed to the best performers. And that’s not all. “We’re starting to install a type of coaching system on our tablets, that’s hopefully going to encourage drivers to improve more in all areas,” Telford says.
Trucks are limited at 105 km/h (65 mph) but P&B is currently piloting a couple of units governed at 104 km/h to assess the fuel consumption difference. It’s only one kilometer per hour but it’s a good example of the extent to which the fleet is committed to save every drop of diesel. P&B also uses SmartWay tools and reports to monitor their general year-over-year fuel economy improvements, Telford says.
Smooth driving behaviour, speed limitations and the related good safety rating helped the company dodge part of the major insurance premium hikes that the industry is experiencing.
The focus on preventive maintenance also led to more uptime on P&B’s trucks. “Every step that we’re making in that respect we’re seeing economy,” Telford says about the collateral benefits of the quest for fuel efficiency.
Such benefits partly come from tires that P&B now selects more carefully with the help of a dedicated representative from their supplier. The type of routes travelled is taken into account and low-rolling resistance tires are used on traction axles on long distance trucks. Tires are also retreaded.
Though the company keeps an eye on electric truck advancements, it remains focused on conventional fuel for the moment. “Right now we’re concentrating on having the best mileage out of diesel,” Telford explains.
The eco mode also has migrated to the office. Dispatching is routing units more carefully for example. “I think it’s part of the mindset. If you’re thinking that way in one area, you begin thinking that way in all the other areas,” Telford says about energy efficiency.
Let’s call it a domino effect.
Being a green carrier can also be good for business, as more and more shippers are conscious of their carbon footprint.
“I like to try new technologies,” Mark Tekin says about his early adopter approach when it comes to fuel efficiency.
With truck science evolving so fast, the owner and president of Mont-Cal Logistics in Montreal does try a lot of new advancements as the replacement cycle of his tractors is only three years.
He’d rather see the money allotted to keeping his fleet new as an integrated investment rather than an expense, as he says the savings he realizes on fuel represent a high return on investment.
And though half of the power units of the 20 truck and 22 trailer fleet belong to owner operators working for Mont-Cal, all follow the same spec’ing policy.
Aerodynamic and sloped hood designs are a must to cut air drag as much as possible, as are aerodynamic wheel covers, fuel tank fairings and cab extenders that bridge the space between the truck and trailer to avoid unwanted turbulence. “All gaps are closed,” Tekin says.
Trailers, too, are built for fuel economy, with side skirts and aerodynamic additions that optimize air flow at the back.
Low-rolling resistance tires reduce friction between the pavement and the trailers and tractors, as they are used on all axle positions. Apparently, traction with these tires hasn’t been an issue in wintertime. “Not really, it’s Ok,” Tekin says.
Something else that’s integrated at Mont-Cal Logistics is the trucks’ drivetrains. Tekin finds it only logical that Volvo trucks are powered with a Volvo engine and an I-Shift automated transmission.
“Both are from the same company, they work better together,” Tekin says about the proprietary components that are also found in the Freightliners in the form of Detroit engines and DT12 automated transmissions.
Engines are rated at 450 horsepower, which is plenty to safely travel to and from the west coast, according to Mont-Cal’s owner. The refrigerated trucks bring back to Montreal produce from California, Washington, Oregon and other western US States, to which they deliver general freight.
The automated transmissions prevent engine overrev that burns excessive and unnecessary fuel, in addition to causing premature engine wear. The computerized system shifts gears at the right moment so that the engine always remains in its ‘sweet spot’, where the load and fuel consumption are at their lowest. Differential ratios have also been optimized for enhanced fuel economy.
Some drivers were reluctant to let a machine do the shifting at first, Tekin admits. “But after they tried them out, they found them to be better,” he says about the automated transmissions.
Carrying fresh produce also requires efficient temperature control and ensuring that coolness stays inside the trailers so that the refrigeration units don’t work too hard and only sip fuel one drop at a time.
“We purchased 2" insulated trailers with Great Dane ThermoGuard,” Tekin says about the thermal shield. In addition, the company uses 2017 reefers that are more fuel efficient than older models. It’s currently testing an electric unit and contemplates the possibility of buying more of the Carrier Vector model because of the fuel savings it brings.
Drivers staying cool in their cabs under the California sun – or warm in Canadian winters - is equally important and Mont-Cal trucks provide that kind of comfort during rest periods without engine idling, which can burn as much as one gallon of diesel per hour. Instead, battery operated NITE and SmartPark HVAC systems ensure that sleeper temperature is adequate.
During the day, idle time is fought with auto shut down systems that turn off engines after 10 minutes of idling in case a driver forgets about them. The latter appreciate the help and reminder as they get bonuses for good driving. Criteria for bonuses include safe driving, cargo integrity and, of course, fuel efficiency.
Tekin agrees that most fuel efficient fleets tend to be safe ones, too. A good illustration of that would be to remind that harsh braking episodes followed by brutal reacceleration – often consequences of tailgating – are clearly unsafe but also contribute to excessive fuel consumption.
Mont-Cal relies on education and telematics to improve both aspects. “I have a safety manager training the drivers. We also have a satellite system and we can monitor driving behaviour,” Tekin says.
Being a green carrier can also be good for business, as more and more shippers are conscious of their carbon footprint. While Tekin admits it could be used as a sales pitch argument, he says that’s not the main motivation behind the efforts he makes in reducing the fleet’s fuel consumption and related greenhouse gases (GHG). I don’t do it for marketing purposes, I do it because I care about the environment,” he says.
Of course, the fuel savings make up dollars that can be invested elsewhere in the company and that’s another reason for keeping fuel efficiency habits at Mont-Cal.
The fleet owner says he keeps a close eye on zero emission electric trucks more than other alternative fuel solutions. “Electric or hydrogen electric trucks. I’m in a wait and see mode. I don’t want to be the first guinea pig,” he says in a chuckle.
Meanwhile, environmentally friendly practices have integrated other aspects of the business in the most natural way. Heating now consumes less electricity with old baseboards having been replaced with newer, more performant units. LED lights brighten the Mont-Cal office space, just as paper recycling has become part of the daily routine.
Call it economic integration.
Climate Change Control
“It’s a workplace culture and everybody shares the same vision of being environmentally-friendly and watching our energy consumption. Every little bit counts.” Andy Keith, Vice President of Seafood Express
Andy Keith is Vice President of Seafood Express, a trucking company bought by his dad, Bill, nearly 35 years ago and a SmartWay partner for about 10 years. While seafood used to be exclusively what they hauled as the name suggests, the business has since diversified in other niche markets of temperature-controlled freight, such as fresh or frozen produce or medical supplies.
With its focus on reducing its temperature-controlled trucks’ emissions, Seafood Express is taking an active role in climate change control -- inside and outside its vehicles.
Headquartered in Charlottetown, PEI, Seafood Express covers all North America even though its trucks are mostly driven in the eastern part of the continent. This is not a mountainous area per se, but there are a number of hills and valleys to go through, Keith underlines.
That’s an area where predictive cruise control systems come handy, he says. “They’re not powering up a hill when the truck knows there’s a big downhill coming for example, so it’s a big fuel savings,” Keith says, referring to the GPS data fed unit that sends signals to the engine and automated transmission to optimize their operation based on topography.
Automated transmissions are a precious fuel-saving asset on any terrain, as they are programmed to shift gears in a way that the engine always runs in its “sweet spot” at the right RPM and not overrev like an inexperienced or tired driver could. Keith describes as “drastic” the help that these transmissions provide in terms of fuel economy and intends to gradually implement them in 100% of the company’s trucks, from the 50% proportion they currently represent.
Keith evaluates the fuel economy improvement related to automated transmissions at roughly 2%. “When you’re talking millions of dollars in fuel a year, 2% is a big deal,” he says.
Drivers operating manual transmissions are trained for progressive shifting to make sure each gear change is timely.
Engines are in the 450 horsepower range. Keith says that’s plenty of power for their safe operations. Besides, bigger bore engines are more expensive at purchase.
Idling reduction is at the heart of the company’s green initiatives. Idling time is monitored and auto shut-down systems are used so that the engine turns off by itself after a given period of idling. Drivers get bonuses for their low idling performance.
Seafood Express equips every new truck with an auxiliary power unit (APU) that provides drivers all the in-cab comfort – heating or cooling, electrical power – during rest periods without idling the truck. “That’s reduced our idle time from 15-20% down to 5-10%,” Keith says.
While this may vary slightly from one model to the other, the rule of thumb is that a diesel truck engine burns roughly 4 litres (1 US gallon) of fuel per hour at idle, while the same 4 litres will feed an APU and ensure driver comfort for a whole night.
“Older” three or four year trucks at Seafood Express are equipped with a system that uses the truck batteries for heating or air conditioning, the truck engine starting by itself and running just long enough to maintain the batteries charged and ensure cranking power availability in the morning. Minimal fuel is consumed and drivers enjoy temperature control. Keith says the company is looking at other carriers that use solar panels that consume even less than APUs and is considering that avenue.
In wintertime, electric block heaters assist truck engines’ cold starts at the terminal and cut idling time as the engines reach operation temperature quicker.
Every bit counts
Four-year old trucks are considered “old” at Seafood Express as the fleet replaces them after no more than five years. This way, the company benefits from all the latest fuel-saving and emission control technologies that truck makers offer, Keith explains. “Newer units are more fuel-efficient, so it makes a big difference for us,” he says.
New trucks are ordered with comprehensive aerodynamic packages that contribute to lower drag and improve fuel economy. Such packages on the company’s Freightliner New Cascadias and Kenworth T680s include numerous fairings, with one that closes the all-important gap between the tractor and the trailer. Trailers themselves are spec’d for aerodynamics with side skirts, some of them also using tails that further improve airflow.
What’s happening inside trailers can also be a source of fuel savings, as refrigerated or heated cargo needs a diesel temperature control unit (aka reefer) to keep it at the desired temperature. “A 2 degree difference can cause a cargo claim,” Keith says, referring to produce that could ripe too quickly or medical supplies suffering from inadequate temperature.
All trailers use reefers that are equipped with monitoring systems that allow operations staff to adjust parameters if needed for enhanced fuel economy and customer satisfaction. “We can control the reefer from the office as if we were standing in front of it,” Keith says. “It shows if a reefer is running and the trailer doors are wide open.” Reefers’ idle speed is also controlled for better fuel economy and emission reduction.
Truck speed is governed at road speed limit. Engines are reprogrammed down a couple of kilometers per hour in the fall for safer wintertime driving. “We do everything we can to keep our drivers at a proper speed limit for safety reasons but it also goes hand in hand with fuel savings,” Keith points out.
Seafood Express uses low-profile, low-rolling resistance tires filled with nitrogen instead of air to ensure proper tire pressure, another way to lower fuel consumption. “It improves rolling resistance, it improves tire wear and it improves our fuel bill, too,” Keith mentions.
Seafood Express is about to move into a new building with LED lighting, highly performant windows, propane heating and many other energy-efficient features, Keith says, adding that it’s a perfect fit with the company’s philosophy. “It’s a workplace culture and everybody shares the same vision of being environmentally-friendly and watching our energy consumption. Every little bit counts.”
Smart steps and specs
“We’re a medium-sized carrier and we see savings. It really doesn’t matter what size you are,” Joe Vetere, ACS Logistics President
The potential for fuel and other operational savings available through the SmartWay program were benefits ACS Logistics President Joe Vetere could not ignore when his company became a SmartWay partner carrier about five years ago.
Being able to access data that allow such savings by making the right business decisions and helping it benchmark against other carriers was also a key factor. But the Hamilton, Ontario, based company leader says the business environment may have sealed the deal.
“Some of our customers were asking about it and they were saying: ‘You know what? You should take a look at it.’ They’re all interested in doing their part for the environment. A lot of it was brought to us by our customers,” Vetere says about shippers being more and more concerned about the carbon footprint of their entire supply chain.
With a count of 21 tractors and 65 trailers, ACS Logistics is a medium-sized fleet that hauls general freight in southern Ontario and also does intermodal drayage with ocean containers.
The majority of the company’s power units are now outfitted with automated manual transmissions (AMTs) and, as the replacement cycle goes on, 100% of them soon will be, according to Vetere. He praises the fuel economy they allow by always maintaining the engine in the ideal RPM range – or sweet spot – but also the lower maintenance costs he says he experiences with AMTs as they are less subject to driver abuse.
The first step towards transmission automation was the hardest. “I was kind of hesitant back then, myself being an old time trucker,” Vetere says about the first AMT purchase in 2014.
Some veteran drivers also showed resistance to change at first, but it didn’t last long. “That changed very quickly once they got into the trucks. They love them now and they would never go back,” Vetere says, adding that automated transmissions are also easier on drivers’ bodies – back and knees for instance - as they don’t have to actuate a clutch or reach for the gear shifter.
Trucks’ aerodynamics obviously plays an important role in their fuel efficiency and the related lower greenhouse gas emissions. ACS Logistics systematically opts for sloped hood, round shaped tractors, on which they add every possible fairing that can contribute to reduce air drag and improve fuel economy. Trailers, too, are spec’d for enhanced aerodynamics with side skirts on every new unit that’s purchased.
Driver acceptance hasn’t been an issue either when it comes to aerodynamic design. “We try and attract drivers that are new to the industry. With the sloped nose tractors, not only is it very aerodynamic but, as far as visibility, it makes a huge difference for our guys who maneuver the trucks,” Vetere says. ACS Logistics’ drivers stop roughly half a dozen times per day for pick-ups and deliveries.
The nature of its operations is also the reason why the company doesn’t use low-rolling resistance tires. All the scrubbing related with numerous stops at relatively low speeds is so hard on tires that buying the more expensive low-friction type wouldn’t generate a reasonable return on investment, Vetere says.
On the other hand, early tire wear and tear makes them ideal candidates for retreading, a form of recycling in itself. “We reuse all our casings. We are generally able to cap our casings at least twice,” Vetere points out.
Auxiliary power units or heaters aren’t necessary on such short distances, but idling still is a major fuel waste concern at ACS. Tractors are equipped with auto shut-off devices that cut the engine after 10 minutes of idling and GPS systems are also used to monitor idling. The satellite tools’ main purposes are to track units and monitor any form of speeding but a truck on which the engine is running and that goes at 0 km/h quickly tells the management that it’s likely idling.
Electric block heaters are also used as a cold starting aid and to cut on idling time for the engine to warm up to operating temperature.
Fuel economy bonuses
Speed, idling and acceleration curves are all parameters that are influenced by driving habits and play a vital role in fuel economy and emissions reduction. Consequently, ACS Logistics has implemented a fuel economy bonus program for its best performing drivers.
All those who manage to get three kilometers or more out of each litre of diesel – roughly 7 mpg – are entitled to the monthly reward. It’s quite an accomplishment when you consider that the average fuel consumption within the fleet is around 2.5 kilometers per litre. Reaching the mark of three represents a whopping 20% improvement.
“We set the bar just slightly above the average. To give the drivers an attainable goal,” Vetere explains. “If they can get half a kilometer per litre extra, that makes a big difference over a large fleet.”
Or over any fleet for that matter, says the ACS Logistics President who would encourage any trucking company to join the SmartWay program. “We’re a medium-sized carrier and we see savings. It really doesn’t matter what size you are,” Vetere says about the slashed fuel costs and emissions that can be obtained through simple initiatives.
Those can even go beyond trucking operations. For example, ACS Logistics now uses programmable thermostats that automatically turn down the heat in the office during weekends to avoid energy waste. “Employees come in and keep their coats on in the morning,” Vetere chuckles.
Heal the World
“ ‘It pays to be green,’ Skelton confirms when referring to the fleet’s environmentally friendly initiatives.”
“Orange is The New Green” is the motto that appears on Skelton Truck Lines trucks and trailers. Though obviously inspired by a TV show title, the line tells anybody on the road about the flamboyantly colored fleet’s eagerness to heal the world in several ways, one load at a time.
The goods that the Sharon, Ont., based company hauls – vaccines, insulin, blood plasma and other life critical products – certainly contribute to save human lives but the green nature of the orange trucks also helps save the planet as well as the SmartWay partner fleet’s bottom line.
It starts with low-rolling resistance tires that enhance fuel-efficiency. The common use of wide base tires also helps save weight and fuel, as the trucks are generally loaded well under the legal weight limit.
Better yet, all tires are filled with nitrogen instead of air for better inflation stability and optimal fuel economy. “It’s unbelievable how it stays maintained at the setting,” says Ron Skelton about tire pressure on the 90 power units and 120 temperature-controlled trailers that make up the fleet founded by his dad Larry 56 years ago and that he now manages as vice president, along with his brother Mike.
Any new rolling asset’s tires are taken off by Skelton’s technicians on delivery for pre-service preparation. “We lubricate the bead of the tires to make sure they’re seated perfectly in the rim, which is not always the case from the manufacturer,” Ron Skelton says.
All the tire management efforts allow fuel savings, but also enhance tire casing quality for a better retreadability rate, a common form of recycling in trucking.
Temperature needs to be controlled for the medical supplies to ultimately save human lives. Temperature is recorded every 10 minutes via multiple probes and energy savings are obtained by optimizing straight truck boxes and trailers’ insulation. The refrigeration/heating units are of the hybrid type, which means they run on electricity that’s provided by a combustion engine that acts as a generator while on the road and shore power outlets when the trucks are silently parked in the company’s yard, saving fuel and the neighbourhood’s quietness.
Insulation is also key to Skelton’s 65,000 sq-ft temperature-controlled warehouse’s energy efficiency, with R10 and R20+ ratings on the walls and ceiling. “We added insulation to the entire building over the last 10 years,” Skelton explains. The strict cold-chain respect policies allow Skelton Truck Lines’ customers to reduce the amount of temperature packaging they use, another eco-friendly outcome.
In the same energy savings spirit, all building lights are motion controlled LEDs and former propane lift trucks have been replaced by electric models.
On the road, additional fuel savings are achieved through enhanced aerodynamics. Sloped hood truck designs are preferred and every possible gap between Skelton’s tractors and trailers is covered by fairings to reduce turbulence. Side skirts and rear air tabs are installed on trailers to reduce air drag even more.
The tractors’ engines are rated at 450 horsepower, which has proven to be the right balance between fuel economy and safe power for the drivers when they cross Canada from St-John to Vancouver and the US from San Diego to Miami and climb the related hills that electronic routing can’t always avoid.
According to Skelton, 95% of the power units are outfitted with automated manual transmissions (AMTs) that always keep the engine running in its “sweet spot”, as opposed to being over revved during gear changes. The automated transmissions help save fuel and reduce emissions but also contribute to maximized uptime and lower maintenance costs. The same logic motivated the anti-idling policy and the installation of a system that automatically shuts down engines after 10 minutes of idling, as well as onboard fire heaters and auxiliary power units that also provide air conditioning to drivers heading South without the truck engine running.
Lift axles are also common on Skelton Truck Lines’ tridem trailers. The configuration is a little more expensive than its stationary counterpart but when the low cargo weight allows an axle to be lifted, the reduced tire friction improves fuel economy in addition to extending tire life.
In the oil department, only synthetic products are used in engines, as well as in wheel hubs, which is less common. Yet, Skelton has been using synthetic oil in wheel ends for over 20 years instead of regular gear lube because it provided longer durability and lower rolling resistance, which means lower fuel consumption.
Even though recycling is commendable, the cleanest grease is the one you actually don’t use. That’s why Skelton tractor fifth wheels are outfitted with a Teflon liner that allows trailers to smoothly lock in without any grease. “Since 1985, we haven’t used any grease on our fifth wheels,” Skelton says.
“It pays to be green,” Skelton confirms when referring to the fleet’s environmentally friendly initiatives. In the health business, many organizations such as Canadian Blood Services measure their carbon footprint and ask road carriers to contribute to its reduction. Skelton’s fuel-economy policies then also become sales arguments. “There’s nothing wrong in letting your customers know the efforts you put forward to be as green as possible,” Skelton says, adding that Natural Resources Canada’s SmartWay program is “a good way to measure yourself,” as well as a great benchmarking tool when discussing with other carriers.
Besides, drivers enjoy operating well maintained trucks that don’t let them down, so being green also serves as a recruitment and retention tool at Skelton. “The company as a whole is being more efficient. Those savings of efficiency can be passed on to driver wages,” Skelton says.
Many of the telematics tools that they use are also having a direct effect on road safety. Skelton doesn’t hesitate to discuss the related advantages when the time comes to negotiate insurance premiums.
To top it all off, Skelton has its own painting facility, in which all used lacquer is recycled. That’s another instance where orange turns green.
“If you drive a truck safely, you’re usually driving it in a SmartWay efficient manner.”
Marcel Pouliot, Trimac
Trimac successfully proves new fuel-saving technologies
A road curve can be challenging the first time you face it. You don’t want to go too fast and attempt to fight the implacable laws of physics when negotiating it. Yet at some point, you’ll master the same curve well enough to actually enjoy it. That’s pretty much how Trimac Transportation considers its own learning curve when it comes to fuel economy and emissions reduction.
The Calgary-based fleet of 2,100 tractors and 3,500 tanker trailers hauling anything from petroleum products to chemicals, food and dry bulk products is a SmartWay partner since 2004 and still is in a learning pattern, according to Marcel Pouliot, Trimac’s vice president, Industry & Regulatory Affairs.
Pouliot himself admits that he was perplexed when he got behind the wheel of some of the first 247 new tractors the fleet ordered with engines that deliver high torque at low RPM, which is a great combination to increase fuel economy and lower emissions without sacrificing operational performance. But the shift points are different and the RPM can go below 1,000 during a hill climb before the transmission reacts. “For someone like me who learned to drive a long time ago, that is so unnatural,” he chuckles, admitting that he first tended to override the automated transmission to make it shift earlier. He was on a learning curve.
Special training was required for Trimac drivers too, but now they wouldn’t drive anything else. “Drivers are intelligent people. If you give them the information, they’re going to do their own evaluation very rapidly,” Pouliot says.
This particular initiative, with tractor specs optimized for fuel economy in partnership with six different truck makers, paid off. In September of 2018, Trimac’s fleet burned 6.2% less fuel than during the same month of 2017. Given the “3 times” rule of thumb according to which you need to increase a truck’s aerodynamics by 3% to improve its fuel economy by 1%, it means Trimac would have needed to achieve nearly 20% better air penetration with its tractor trailer combinations to obtain such fuel consumption reduction numbers. Another way to appreciate the 6.2% improvement would be to say that Trimac has calculated that reducing its fuel consumption by only 1 mpg (or going an extra 0.42 km with each litre of fuel) would decrease its CO2 footprint by 55 million kg a year.
Free flow of air and information
The firm is still working at improving its units’ aerodynamics. Side skirts are being tested on the tanker trailers as well as FlowBelow caps to reduce air drag at the wheels level. Yet, tank trailers usually are more round shaped than regular dry vans, which can make closing the gap between tractors and trailers to avoid unwanted turbulence a little more difficult. Trimac’s working on it.
Just like air, information needs to flow freely in a fuel-efficient company. Trimac’s management and drivers alike can access dashboards that tell them how well they performed during a given period using a given piece of equipment. And recognition of a job well done usually helps with driver retention, which is no small task in a staff shortage era.
Fuel-efficient drivers also tend to be safer, which can help lower skyrocketing insurance premiums. “If you drive a truck safely, you’re usually driving it in a SmartWay efficient manner,” Pouliot says, referring to avoidance of driving behaviours such as tailgating or aggressive acceleration.
The fleet installed DriveCam event recorders primarily for safety reasons, but they also use the system for fuel economy management. Pouliot points out that such devices have a module that looks at fuel consumption Vs. driving behaviour, giving drivers a fuel-efficiency score compared to what the perfect standards would be. This complements the new ISACC Instruments’ electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs), which also give drivers better feedback about their fuel economy performance, according to Pouliot.
The related better understanding of performance “helps drivers and management redirect training to where it needs to be,” Pouliot explains.
Solar and hybrid
Solar panels are used to keep electric HVAC systems’ batteries fully charged on trucks outfitted with sleeper compartments. It saves on wasted fuel because there’s less idling and provides drivers with a much more peaceful night’s sleep as opposed to the disruptive diesel engine starting in the middle of the night to recharge low batteries.
“The trucks we buy today put out 2% of the particulate, volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides of what they did shortly before SmartWay started,” Pouliot says to illustrate how quickly technology as evolved since the turn of the century. And that’s one of the reasons Trimac is making its power units’ replacement cycle shorter. “You’re better off buying new trucks or newer trucks with the right specs using all the newest technology,” Pouliot says, referring to 2019 model-year trucks being 12.5% more fuel-efficient than their equivalent 2016 model from the same brand.
One promising fuel-saving technologies that Trimac is looking at is the electric Hyliion drive axle that replaces one of the diesel engine driven axles on a standard tandem configuration. It assists on starts, especially in hill climbing, and regenerates and recharges at deceleration or downhill, requiring less effort – and fuel - from the diesel engine.
The company tested the electric drive axle last May on a Class 8 tractor and was pleased by its performance, especially when the additional 1,500 lb-ft of electric torque kicked in. Pouliot remembers a particular situation where a fully loaded tractor-trailer combination was climbing up a hill with the hybrid drive and the diesel engine’s RPM still at 1,100 without the transmission shifting and the driver needing to take his foot off the throttle because the truck was accelerating beyond the speed limit. On a climb!
Trimac says it’s likely to start adding some of these hybrid tractors in its fleet next year, following a second round of tests scheduled for this year.
That’s one powerful learning curve.
Day & Ross
Measure. Manage. Improve
Measuring environmental footprint to manage it. That’s exactly what Day & Ross is doing right now.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” goes the old saying. And that’s exactly Day & Ross’ philosophy when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint.
Scott Ring, director of safety and risk management of the Hartland, NB, 2,600 power units and 4,800 trailer fleet, explains that the company is currently building a 5-year plan in order to schematise its upcoming environmentally-friendly actions. “We’re going to be taking a hard look at our environmental footprint,” Ring says.
Those actions will go beyond the ones already implemented by the carrier and will define clear targets, based on accurate measures. “They have to be challenging but they have to be attainable,” Ring says about the targets.
In the meantime, Day & Ross already has taken action on numerous fronts to reduce its fuel consumption, optimize its operations and thus minimize its emissions.
One great way to achieve that is to cut in half the number of tractors used to haul a given amount of freight, and that’s exactly what long combination vehicles (LCVs) allow them to do. In such a configuration, a single tractor is hauling two 53 foot trailers instead of just one. Not only does it reduce emissions but it’s also convenient in an era of driver shortage, as only one driver is required where two would usually be needed. “We’re growing our bank of LCVs,” Ring says.
Sloped hoods and aerodynamically designed trucks are already the company’s favorites and the trend is only expected to grow. Same goes with automated transmissions that always shift at the engine’s “sweet spot” and don’t get tired of maneuvering the stick, even in heavy traffic.
Day & Ross’ trailers are already equipped with aerodynamic devices that help increase fuel economy and reduce emissions. Side skirts and rear trailer fairings are used to cut aerodynamic drag.
Many of the trailers being refrigerated units, all of the related engine fluids are collected at the end of their useful life for recycling and reuse. Worn out tire casings that can’t be retreaded anymore are also recycled, just like the metal the trailers are made of when they’re too damaged to be repaired.
Teamwork on the road and at terminals
The fleet also asks for its owner-operators’ collaboration to cut emissions. For instance, any tractor used for Day & Ross needs to be recent enough (usually not more than seven years old) to use the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology, along with Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) that allows it to transform otherwise polluting nitrogen oxides (NOx) into harmless simple nitrogen, a natural component of the air we breathe. “We want newer trucks that are more fuel-efficient,” Ring says.
Besides, as newer cleaner trucks burn less fuel, such a policy helps drivers save money, a win-win situation, according to Ring, who underlines that during the orientation period when they join the company, drivers are encouraged to reduce idling periods as much as possible. Auto shut-down systems are not yet widely installed, but that’s an avenue that Day & Ross is considering.
There’s a driver shortage throughout the entire trucking industry and the fleet intends to build on its green initiatives to help attract and retain them. “People will talk about the environment for many years to come and it’s going to be important to a lot of drivers,” Ring says. “When we’re recruiting drivers, why wouldn’t we talk about our environmental initiatives?”
But the company knows it needs to be realistic and show the example for drivers to embark on the emission reduction journey. “We need to do what we said we were going to do,” Ring underlines.
Shipper customers also expect carriers to take tangible actions towards a better environment. “The large choice contracts that we want, they want to know what we’re doing to reduce our environmental footprint. We’re seeing that more and more when we tender for new business. And being a SmartWay partner is part of that,” Ring says. “It helps our customers, and people in the industry know that we’re serious about the environment and that we want to do the right thing.”
Alternative-fueled trucks are also under Day & Ross’ radar, fully electric tractors being privileged at this moment. “We’ve started that with our lift trucks in our terminals, so why wouldn’t we do it with our trucks on the highways too?” he asks, referring to the company’s material handling equipment gradually switching from propane to electricity.
As Ring just illustrated, environmental conscience doesn’t express itself only on the road. That’s why all Day & Ross terminals are equipped with spill response kits in case an incident happens in the yard or at a loading dock. This way, any spill is unlikely to get out of hand.
Day & Ross is currently conducting an inventory of environmental risks within the industry and benchmarks other carriers’ results with its own. The company is also performing risk assessment of all its terminals to rank sites’ potential for environmental issues on a high-medium-low scale and procedures will be put in place to minimize risk. To back up its environmental commitment, Day & Ross has a current opening for a dedicated Environmental Program person to further identify waste streams and opportunities for recycling.
Measuring environmental footprint to manage it. That’s exactly what Day & Ross is doing right now.
Energy Transportation Group
Inside the Energy Transportation Group’s fuel efficiency and emissions reduction efforts
Being a SmartWay partner can become a selling argument or marketing tool, in addition to helping the planet. “Customers like doing business with like-minded corporations.” Michael Cinquino, Energy Transportation Group
We have come to associate the Energy Star logo to environmentally-friendly initiatives and maybe that’s exactly what Michael Cinquino and business partner Shawn Girard had in mind when they named their trucking company “Energy Transportation Group”.
The Montreal-based company is indeed a fuel efficiency and emissions reduction star and has been a SmartWay partner for over five years now. Its fleet is made up of 56 tractors and 107 van trailers, about half of the latter being temperature-controlled for produce shipments to and from the United States. When they’re not hauling fruits or vegetables, Energy’s trucks carry general freight - plastics or paper for instance.
“85% of our shipments are by the truckload,” says Michael Cinquino, president of the company, referring to the fewer stops/idling episodes required by such operations.
He says they first heard about SmartWay around 2012 and felt a connection with the program. “As soon as we did hear about it, it was definitely something that we wanted to be a part of. We wanted to make sure that we were running our trucks as efficiently as possible, while leaving a minimal carbon footprint,” Cinquino says.
The eco-friendly approach was also good for business in many ways. First, emissions reduction is best achieved through complete fuel combustion, which means savings in a trade where fuel is the second highest expense item after wages. “We stick to rigid maintenance policies,” the fleet owner says.
Moreover, Cinquino notices that his customers are putting a growing emphasis on their entire supply chain’s carbon footprint. That’s where being a SmartWay partner can also become a selling argument or marketing tool, in addition to helping the planet. “Customers like doing business with like-minded corporations. It’s a match made in heaven,” he sums up.
The fleet’s trucks are spec’ed with fuel economy in mind right from the start. They are aerodynamic, sloped hood models on which all possible fairings are added to limit turbulence and drag, especially in the gap between the tractor and the trailer. The latest order for new Kenworths involved aerodynamic side mirrors. “The mirrors that we’ve got are actually a little rounder. I can’t believe they’re still making them even more rounded,” he says in a chuckle. “The pocket of the airflow is a little deeper there.”
Spec’ing automated manual transmissions (AMTs) was a no-brainer, Cinquino says, as it’s virtually impossible for a driver to over-rev the engine with them. Besides, not having to change gears manually makes them safer as they can focus on the road, he adds. The company recently switched from 10 to 12 speed AMTs, the two extra gears allowing for more flexibility, Cinquino says.
The engines in Energy’s trucks deliver 450 horsepower and 1,800 lb-ft of torque, which the company feels is a good compromise. A trial and error process led them to the most efficient differential ratio, too. “We’re strong enough, but not too strong. We’re not burning fuel for nothing,” Cinquino explains, adding that the respectable HP number also contributes to a good resale value. The same “strong-but-not-too-strong” principle applies to highway speed, governed at 62 mph, or 100 km/h. Fast enough to navigate safely in traffic but not to a point where it could compromise fuel economy or generate citations in States where posted speed limits are at 65 mph.
All tractor and trailer tires are low profile, which also helps fuel economy as the lower, stiffer sidewalls reduce rolling resistance without sacrificing traction. Tire casings are also “recycled”, as they are retreaded when the original rubber surface becomes too worn.
Side skirts are installed on every trailer to enhance aerodynamics and the management is currently considering adding trailer rear fairings, sometimes referred to as “boat tails”. “It’s still a work in progress, we’re still analyzing the data, the cost of implementing that and the return on investment period,” Cinquino says.
Any engine idling is kept to a minimum. Tractors are outfitted with systems that automatically shut down the engine after five minutes of idling. The HVAC system used during driver rest periods relies on a four-battery pack rather than the engine running to keep the cab comfortable. Not only does it save fuel and engine wear but the silent operation contributes to drivers’ quality sleep.
New roads ahead
The same drivers are rewarded for fuel economy. “It comes in terms of financial compensation, but also recognition from the company,” Cinquino explains. Such recognition is appreciated and contributes to recruitment and retention performance, he thinks. Especially the new onboard electronic devices, which allow drivers to verify their fuel efficiency status in real time, which is a winning attribute among younger drivers. “They have technology at their fingertips,” Cinquino says.
Energy Transportation Group is also keeping a close eye on alternative fuels and powertrains. Cinquino says he witnessed carriers being successful with natural gas units but considers that the fueling infrastructure is not developed enough in the regions his company serves. He wonders if electric powered trucks might be more convincing. Cinquino thinks it will all depend on governments’ and energy providers’ spendings. “Infrastructure needs to be there in order for us to make those investments,” he says about alternative fueled trucks.
According to Cinquino, Energy Transportation Group has benefitted from being a SmartWay partner, even though the data collection process was a little cumbersome in the first years, before advanced computerization helped in streamlining it.
Now that the system is implemented, profitable and environmentally-friendly, he wouldn’t go back. “Being able to be leaders in that aspect is something that we continuously strive to do,” Cinquino concludes.
Sun Transportation Systems
Increasing efficiency and helping the environment a win-win for carriers
“SmartWay partners foster higher productivity while protecting the environment and we are proud that we are among the organizations that are making a difference.” Reema Kalra, Sun Transportation Systems
For Sun Transportation Systems, the sun has set on taking a back seat when it comes to reducing fuel consumption and caring for the environment.
Part of the Bolton, Ont., carrier’s effort to lower its carbon footprint over the past couple of years has been its involvement in Natural Resources’ SmartWay program. Originally launched by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2004, SmartWay has been administered in Canada since 2012.
With the goal of cutting fuel costs, improving efficiency, and encouraging best practices in freight supply chains, the SmartWay program has encouraged more than 3,000 North American companies to take part in the effort.
Sun Transportation Systems has been part of the SmartWay program since 2016. The carrier was initially looking for feedback on how it could reduce fuel consumption and how the company could go about making the necessary changes to transport its freight in the cleanest, most efficient way possible.
“SmartWay partners foster higher productivity while protecting the environment,” said Reema Kalra, safety and compliance manager for Sun Transportation Systems, “and we are proud that we are among the organizations that are making a difference.”
Sun Transportation provides truckload and less-than-truckload services throughout Canada and the U.S. It operates a fleet of 30 highway tractors, more than 60 dry and vented vans, and 15, Roll-tite flatbeds. The company also offers real-time satellite trailer tracking and warehouse and cross-docking services at its terminal in Mississauga, Ont.
With this type of operation, finding manageable ways to lower its fuel consumption made sense for the business’ bottom line.
“Fuel economy management is a prime goal for our trucking company,” said Kalra. “SmartWay is more of a means to obtain expertise through a recognized and proven program.”
One of the facets of the program that has impressed Kalra the most is the progressive manner in which it works with fleets.
“The main focus which impressed me is that SmartWay works with freight carriers with benchmarking its operations, tracking fuel consumption, and improving annual performance,” Kalra explained.
In addition to its safety and compliance department, Sun Transportation Systems also looks to its maintenance department to aid in the company’s endeavor to optimize fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With all of its maintenance conducted in-house, Sun Transportation puts a great deal of effort into preventative maintenance. Fuel consumption monitoring in and of itself can be defined as a maintenance diagnostic tool and can act as an indicator to determine the mechanical condition of a vehicle.
The company ensures it offers modern tractors that can haul heavy loads, withstand highway punishment, and are comfortable and safe for its drivers. Trailers have also been a sizable investment for the business, which include upgrades such as air-ride suspension, anti-lock braking systems, freight shoring systems, and premium tires, all adding to fuel efficiency.
But it’s not just about lowering fuel and maintenance costs for Sun Transportation Systems.
“(We are) committed to implement change,” said Kalra, “and will continue to contribute our efforts in order to become an industry leader and decrease the harmful pollutants affecting our environment.”
Which is exactly what makes the SmartWay program a win-win from both a business perspective and an environmental one.
F1 Freight Systems
All About Efficiency
SmartWay got us into the mindset of what else can we do to save on fuel and be better for the environment
Being green didn’t come naturally to F1 Freight Systems. In fact, spec’ing its tractor-trailers to be more fuel efficient and to save money wasn’t even on its radar until it joined the SmartWay program a decade ago.
And most of that has to do with the fact that like many trucking companies in North America, F1 is a family business and when the new generation came in to take over, they did what the generation before them did.
“Before joining the SmartWay program, buying fuel efficient tires and benchmarking weren’t even on our radar,” Chris Strank, the business’ general manager said. “Before joining we just bought the same old trailers because that’s how It had always been done.”
Strank said initially F1 joined the program so it could give itself a baseline and compare itself to other fleets out there.
However, after joining, F1’s game changed entirely. Something Strank said he wasn’t expecting.
“But now, our biggest focus when we’re buying equipment and spec’ing it, it’s all about efficiencies,” Strank said. “SmartWay got us into the mindset of what else can we do to save on fuel and be better for the environment?”
Today F1 has 50 trucks that haul both general freight and temperature-controlled products to the United States. It has two terminals in Canada – Belleville and Brampton – and six terminals in the U.S.
The unmistakable bright apple red F1 trucks run APUs and low rolling resistance tires and F1 was ahead of the curve on trailer skirts and tails, thanks to SmartWay, Strank says.
“And tire inflation systems have been big with us,” he added. “Tire pressure is so important to us now. We run a lot of freight into the southwest, and temperature can affect tire pressure in a big way. So we have systems that can inflate and deflate a tire’s air pressure, so we can make sure they are running safely and efficiently.”
Besides saving the company money on fuel, the SmartWay program has helped F1’s reputation with its customers.
“From a brand recognition perspective, being a SmartWay partner helps to put another checkmark beside F1 in the eyes of the customers,” Strank said. “In this business, any edge you can get, is an advantage for sure. It let us see what we’re doing with regards to fuel economy, and over the years It has become the baseline and the benchmark for our own fleet too. From the customer’s perspective, SmartWay really puts us in a flattering light because it’s a verifiable program and customers are looking to align themselves with those types of companies today…Customers also want to decrease their environmental footprint so they are looking to team up with vendors like us, to synergize with their beliefs too.”
Strank said that being a SmartWay customer also bodes well with its drivers who appreciate being part of a business that cares about the environment.
“All of our drivers are well aware of the program,” he said. “We do quarterly reviews and this stems from SmartWay. We like to talk to our drivers about things like idling times, and give them different tips and tricks on how they can maximize their fuel efficiency, like tighten up the gap between their truck and trailer when they’re running empty and things like that. We’ve also seen it help our owner-operators as well. Being a part of the program has increased their bottom line too. They’ve made more money because now, they’re running more economically.”
Strank said he has no regrets joining the program and would recommend becoming a SmartWay partner to every fleet out there.
“It’s such a relevant and beneficial program,” he said. “Especially when it comes to the data and creating motion within an organization to facilitate a much-needed change.”
Transport Jocelyn Bourdeau (TJB)
The Right Tools
It’s “all a math thing” for Transport Jocelyn Bourdeau when it comes to energy efficiency
It’s dark in the offices of Transport Jocelyn Bourdeau (TJB), until you step in a room and a motion sensor turns the lights on. It will also shut them down when you leave. “Not only does it save energy, it’s really convenient when you get in with your hands full and don’t need to try and reach for the switch,” says Jocelyn Bourdeau, president of the truckload carrier headquartered in St. Chrysostome, QC.
This simple example sums up the 95 truck and 230 trailer company’s philosophy. If a tool makes sense, is convenient, helps the environment and contributes to a healthier bottom line, TJB adopts it for its Midwest cross-border operations.
“When the trailer skirts first appeared on the market, there was no financial help available to acquire them. But it was good for the environment, for safety and our calculations showed that it would be profitable in terms of fuel economy, so we went ahead with the skirts. At the end of the day, it’s all a math thing. Any expense or investment has to be examined and validated before we decide to go forward. After that, if there’s any form of financial incentive, it comes as a bonus,” says Bourdeau. “I have nothing against oil companies but I’d rather see somebody else benefit from the money I get out of fuel savings,” he adds, referring to better wages for his drivers as an example.
Side skirts on the company’s trailers help reduce aerodynamic drag, and so do all the fairings installed pretty much everywhere on the trucks, around fuel tanks for example. TJB also uses side extenders on its tractors to cover the gap between a power unit and its trailer.
The trucks themselves are chosen with aerodynamics in mind, in addition to comfort. “The fact that a good portion of our trucks already are ‘condos’ [high roof units] eliminates the need for us to install roof deflectors to drag the air over the trailers. And these high ceilings provide added comfort to our drivers,” Bourdeau says.
TJB uses low rolling resistance tires whenever it can to save even more fuel. To stay efficient, these tires are coupled to an automatic inflation system that keeps them to an optimal level.
Since idle time burns fuel with no ROI whatsoever, TJB has been monitoring it closely for several years. “All of our trucks have automatic shutdown systems that turn the engines off after five minutes of idling,” Bourdeau says.
Given the driver shortage situation, Bourdeau wants them to feel as comfortable as possible in their trucks, even when they need to spend the night in them. A zero emission battery operated independent compressor provides air conditioning in the sleeper area when needed, warmth being provided by auxiliary diesel burners that can keep a cab cozy for 20 hours on a single litre of fuel. “That combination gives us all the advantages of an onboard generator, without idling the trucks or any additional diesel engine to maintain,” Bourdeau says.
Automated transmissions are also gradually more and more common in TJB’s fleet, about 25% of the power units being equipped with them. “An automated transmission doesn’t miss a gear shift, whether it’s 8 in the morning or 5 PM. Besides, since the driver only has to focus on the road, it’s an added safety feature,” Bourdeau says. Those of his drivers who still work on a regular manual transmission are trained into progressive shifting in order to keep the RPMs low, just as the fuel consumption and emissions.
Drivers are encouraged to use the cruise control for enhanced road speed stability and all trucks are limited to 105 km/h. While drivers used to go below that limit to save even more fuel, Bourdeau fears that e-logs might force them to abandon such good habits, since they allow less flexibility for drivers to go from point A to point B in a given amount of time.
Now in its 25th year of operations, TJB not only is a member of the SmartWay partnership, it’s also in the “High Performers” category, an elite club that groups the carriers combining the best results in terms of efficiency and air quality.
“Being a SmartWay partner is not mandatory, of course. But it’s a highlight in your resume,” Bourdeau says, referring to the fact that customers appreciate the professionalism of a trucking company that gives so much importance to every detail. “The big shippers want to work with responsible transportation partners, so the fact that we are a SmartWay member can be an advantage with some of them. It might not be the main or the only reason why they do business with us instead of other carriers, but it’s certainly part of the shippers’ decision making process,” he thinks.
“At the same time, running smart is good for the environment. You know, climate change is not a theory, it’s not wacky; it’s a fact. If we can do something to improve the current situation, I feel it’s our duty to do so,” Bourdeau adds.
Yet, he sometimes feels that even good intentions can lead to a dead end. Like when carriers are encouraged to use long combination vehicles (LCVs, two 53 foot trailers pulled by a single tractor) to carry more cargo per truck, thus raising the ever important tons by kilometer ratio. The problem, Bourdeau says, is the lack of parking space for these longer than average vehicle combinations. “Carriers and truck drivers are given the responsibility to use the best practices, but without being given the right tools to apply them,” Bourdeau deplores.
And looking at his track record, one can tell he knows a thing or two about using the right tools.
Express Mondor proves fuel efficiency is not just for linehaul fleets
Billy Mondor says his dad Raymond sometimes has a hard time keeping up with all the green technologies implemented in the family-owned over dimensional trucking company based in Lanoraie, QC. Yet, Billy is occasionally the one admonished by his teenage daughters Zoé and Rose if he inadvertently throws an empty can in the trash instead of the recycling bin. Slowly but surely, the green conscience goes further with every new generation.
Now a fleet of 82 trucks and 275 trailers, Express Mondor was founded in 1995 by the Mondor brothers: Éric, Dany and Billy, the latter now holding the position of vice president, business development. Billy Mondor says the company is an exception among exceptions, as its bread and butter is over dimensional loads, a segment of trucking that’s seldom associated with environmental care.
“We always took the environment question very seriously, as much as we could,” says Mondor. “It’s a long-term undertaking to raise awareness among people in the company.”
Obviously, carrying gigantic John Deere agricultural pieces of machinery or 187 foot windmill blades on flat deck trailers isn’t the perfect application for some conventional aerodynamic devices such as high roof tractors to drag the air over a trailer or a gap reducer between the tractor and the trailer sides. Getting the fifth wheel closer to the back of the cab won’t make a big difference in fuel economy either with this kind of configuration. That doesn’t mean an over-dimensional carrier can’t do its share to reduce diesel consumption, thus emissions, to keep ahead of the competition.
“Being a SmartWay partner isn’t just about putting a logo sticker on your trucks’ doors. For us, it’s first and foremost a way to get tips on continuous improvement and differentiate ourselves,” Mondor explains.
More aerodynamic tractors are making their way in Mondor’s fleet. Lightweight specs and components also help with fuel economy when the trailers are not at their maximum weight allowance, either empty or carrying smaller machines.
The choice of tires also makes a big difference in the fuel economy figures, says Mondor, adding that the company has a close relationship with Michelin in that regard. “We clearly require from Michelin that the tires we put on our equipment are SmartWay approved,” he states. The next step Mondor considers is the addition of an automatic tire pressure regulation system.
Express Mondor also promotes tire recycling by using retreads when possible; on roughly 40% of its units’ wheels. “We have several trailers equipped with smaller than average wheels that run faster. In some instances, using brand new tires is more of a safety matter,” says Mondor.
All trucks have speed limiters set at 100 km/h to save fuel. Idle time is also strictly monitored at Express Mondor. “Many of our trucks are equipped with automatic shutdown systems after five minutes of idling,” says Billy Mondor. The other trucks’ drivers are guided towards low or no idling by awareness and bonuses. As a matter of fact, the over dimensional carrier has started paying bonuses to its most fuel efficient drivers. The measure happens to be popular, helps driver retention and even attracts new ones. “We are starting to get phone calls to get more information about our fuel efficiency bonus program,” says Mondor.
The Isaac computer system that monitors idling is also used to gather numerous other metrics. Mondor estimates that the company saved 45,000 litres of fuel in as little as three months, thanks to the software.
Business requirements also evolve along the years. “More and more of our customers have stringent rules to comply with when it comes to greenhouse gases [GHG] emissions, especially in the manufacturing sector,” says Mondor. He adds that his company has been approached by a German wind mill manufacturer and that one of the factors the customer inquired about was the carbon footprint improvement of its transport operations. “They were quite impressed and interested when we mentioned that we were operating natural gas powered trucks,” he recalls.
Four tractors already run on the blue flame fuel and eight more have been ordered. The company aims at 50 natural gas powered tractors on a 10 year period. The first units have roughly 200,000 km on the odometer. “So far, I’ve experienced zero downtime with these natural gas tractors. As far as we are concerned, natural gas is a success story,” says Mondor.
The good news is that running on natural gas is cheaper than diesel and pollutes less, in addition to being popular among customers. The flip side is that such cleaner machines come with a premium of $75,000 to $100,000 over their diesel counterparts and are awfully difficult to finance, according to Billy Mondor. He actually calls it “a nightmare” as conventional lenders seem reluctant to finance equipment about which they have very little actuarial data to rely on to establish a residual value.
That won’t stop Express Mondor, and it keeps a good eye on other technological developments, such as electric trucks.
Incidentally, electricity is what drives the air conditioning units in Mondor’s trucks’ sleeper cabs when drivers need to spend the night in them. The Bergstrom electric system is called NITE (No-Idle Thermal Environment) and relies solely on its own 4 battery pack to provide cool air on hot summer nights.
During cold winter months, heating in the sleeper is taken care of by auxiliary Webasto or Espar heaters. “They provide a great cost/benefit ratio,” says Mondor. “They keep drivers comfy and warm for a whole night with barely 3 litres of fuel.”
According to Billy Mondor, it’s a good thing that the criteria to be a SmartWay partner are kept strict. “Otherwise, it wouldn’t be as prestigious,” he concludes.
A Taste for Innovation
Olymel sees innovation as a key factor in its success, so it attaches tremendous importance to improving its products
Olymel L.P. is headquartered in St. Hyacinthe, QC. The company is mainly known for its cold cuts and other meat products that are distributed in most major food chains across Canada, under one of its brand names or private labels. Globally, Olymel has 11,500 employees working in 23 offices, plants and distribution centres worldwide.
Yet, distributing such products on a local and daily basis can be quite a challenge, as freshness is key with any kind of perishable commodity. But Carole Grenier, director of transport at Transport Transbo – Olymel’s private fleet – isn’t afraid to face the music when needed.
Like when the 92 truck and 448 temperature-controlled trailer fleet decided to join the ranks of the SmartWay program, after seeing ads and signs on trucks promoting it. “Granted, it takes time to fill in the forms and reports,” she says. “But fuel economy management is at the heart of all trucking companies’ operations anyway, whether it’s a SmartWay partner or not. To us, SmartWay is more of a means to obtain expertise through a recognized and proven program,” she adds.
Grenier says her team tapped into that expertise when it decided to go ahead and have air roof deflectors installed on their latest purchase of day-cab trucks. The long haul units already had them, but Olymel’s fleet went a step further “after a webinar on drag reduction technologies organized by SmartWay last January,” Grenier indicates.
In fact, being innovative is in the very DNA of the company. One might even say that, in addition to tasty pork or chicken, Olymel has a taste for innovation. “Olymel sees innovation as a key factor in its success, so it attaches tremendous importance to improving its products,” says Réjean Nadeau, president and CEO.
That’s why reducing the company’s carbon footprint has always been a priority, according to Grenier. And it goes well beyond the truck fleet she manages. “We have several corporate initiatives in place to reduce that environmental footprint,” she says when referring to recycling paper in the offices or even managing heating and air-conditioning in a smarter way.
Though she admits that there are major financial advantages in controlling the fleet’s fuel efficiency, Grenier states that the company’s green orientation had additional motivations. “Being part the agricultural sector, respecting the environment is second nature to us,” she says. The green image is also respected by industry peers, Grenier thinks. Which can be helpful in these harsh recruitment times. “We need to be innovative and creative to attract new employees,” she sums up.
In addition to roof deflectors, the road units’ fuel efficiency and low emissions are enhanced by devices such as side skirts, which are now systematically spec’d on new trailer purchases. Gap reducers between the tractors and trailers could also be, if it wasn’t so complicated to do so with a reefer unit on the front of the trailer, Grenier indicates.
All trucks have speed limiters, that limit being set at 95 km/h for local and regional trucks while long haul tractors are allowed to cruise at 105 km/h. Engine speed (RPM) is also closely monitored to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. “One of our criteria of productivity gains is progressive shifting,” Grenier underlines. Changing old habits is not always easy with veteran drivers, but some incentives can help. “We motivate them to change their driving methods by giving back to the drivers a part of the productivity gains they generate,” says Grenier, pointing out these bonuses can go as high as 3.5% of an Olymel driver’s monthly income.
Special attention is also paid to tires. Low rolling resistance models are used on steering axles, but not on drive axles. “We haven’t found yet low rolling resistance tires with a traction level comparable to regular drive tires,” explains Grenier. Maximizing tire life through retreading is another way to help the environment, and that’s exactly what Olymel’s fleet does on its trailers and tractors’ drive axles.
Idle time is monitored and bonuses are paid to the most efficient drivers in that regard. Onboard auxiliary heating systems also contribute to idle reduction when drivers need to sleep in their truck during cold weather periods.
The maintenance department is also tasked to contribute in order to optimize fuel economy and reduce emissions. “We do our own maintenance in-house and we put a lot of effort into preventive maintenance,” says Grenier, adding that fuel consumption monitoring is also a maintenance diagnostic tool in itself, as it can often be an indicator of a good or bad mechanical condition.
The trucks themselves are “recycled”, as new units replace older ones quicker than they used to. “We have been replacing our trucks more frequently over the last couple of years,” Grenier says. “We can see a good difference in fuel economy between trucks that are a couple of years old and those recently acquired. That’s an incentive to renew our fleet quicker than we had first expected.”
New Way Trucking
A new way to do business
Environment motivates New Way Trucking to be part of the SmartWay program
For New Way Trucking the motivation is simple: it's about caring for the environment and reducing its carbon footprint.
Being part of the SmartWay Partnership Program has provided the Calgary, Alta.-based trucking company with a benchmark to analyze its success when it comes to reducing fuel consumption, and with the information necessary to make changes where needed.
"As a transportation company one of our largest variable costs is fuel," said Umair Khan, director of compliance for New Way Trucking. "The more conscious we have been on reducing emissions output, the more we realized how beneficial the end result was for our bottom line."
Khan said when his company found out the SmartWay program existed, he knew it was in New Way's best interests to participate.
"SmartWay has significantly helped in the reduction of pollution since its inception and we are proud that we are among the organizations that are making a difference," he said.
With the goal of reducing fuel costs, improving efficiency and encouraging best practices in freight supply chains, the SmartWay program, originally launched by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2004 and also administered by Natural Resources Canada since 2012, has encouraged more than 3,600 North American companies to take part in it.
For New Way, Khan said the company's primary goal has been to reduce its carbon output since it joined the SmartWay Partnership, and that emissions and fuel economy are among the top variables when it comes to purchasing equipment or allocating third-party operators to their operations.
"We only purchase equipment that either meets or exceeds SmartWay standards," said Khan, adding that they have added skirts to their trailers to reduce aerodynamic drag caused by air turbulence and that their training and operations staff encourage fuel efficient driving practices with company drivers.
"While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at different speeds, drivers are encouraged to not surpass the speed limit in order to capitalize on fuel efficiency," said Khan. "During orientation, drivers are informed about practices that aid in saving fuel and reducing emissions."
Drivers at New Way Trucking are urged to maintain their vehicle's tire pressure at the optimal levels to improve fuel efficiency, as well as reduce their idle time, which is one of the largest contributors to fuel consumption.
"A combination of training, monitoring and continuous improvement helps us ensure that everyone is adhering to the requirements expected of them," explained Khan.
But despite their efforts, Khan knows his company can do more. One of the more surprising things Khan learned about the SmartWay Partnership after joining was where New Way ranked in the program.
"Knowing that there are other carriers performing better in terms of emissions output has given us goals to strive towards. We are actively looking for ways to improve our performance."
One thing Khan and New Way have learned about fuel reduction practices is what is considered 'normal' in terms of emissions output and fuel efficiency.
"Companies usually just file their IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement) returns annually and chalk up the consumption to cost of doing business," Khan said. "With the SmartWay program, we were able to see other carriers in our category and realized that there was room for improvement."
Khan said it's not just New Way that can benefit from improving upon its fuel reduction practices, but any trucking company looking to save some money and, most importantly, the environment.
"Protecting the planet is a collaborative effort," said Khan. "In order to ensure change, New Way Trucking actively encourages other companies to participate in the SmartWay program. All companies should share in the responsibility and implement a mission statement to improve their operations. It’s in the best interest of everyone, for companies directly or indirectly involved in the transportation of goods to implement proactive solutions that will ultimately aid in reducing the effects of climate change."
Khan said even if a company did not feel the need to make the effort on an environmental basis, the fact that reducing one's carbon footprint also means saving money, should be motivation enough to make the change. Regardless of the reasons behind their actions, New Way has found a new way to do business.
"New Way Trucking is committed to implementing change and will continue to contribute our efforts in order to become an industry leader and decrease the harmful pollutants affecting our environment," said Khan. "The most important resource we all share is our environment. Now more than ever, with the effects of climate change becoming increasingly apparent, New Way Trucking owners and management realized the need to reduce our carbon footprint by providing our services in the most efficient and emission conscious way as possible."
About New Way Trucking
New Way Trucking has been operating since 2004, currently running two divisions with six terminals located in Calgary, Edmonton, Greater Vancouver and Toronto, Winnipeg and the Northwest Territories. The company specializes in tractor, dry van, refrigerator and heater services, as well as yard shunting, long combination vehicles, and has warehouse and crossdock facilities in Calgary, Winnipeg and the Northwest Territories.
Titanium Trucking Services Inc.
A look towards the future
"To be competitive, customers are asking for SmartWay scores so we’re definitely seeing an advantage that way. It’s somewhat of a distinguishing nature for us as a carrier. SmartWay really does take our business to a different level."
Sometimes a good thing really does fall right into your lap.
At least that is the case with Titanium Transportation Group and how it initially managed to be a part of the SmartWay program.
Titanium does not have the traditional company history of most motor carriers – it was established in 2002 as a pure broker. It was not until 2005 that it became an asset-based trucking company with a single straight truck. In 2006, it got into cross-border transport and from 2011 to 2016 it grew rapidly with a total of eight acquisitions, and saw its fleet grow to a whopping 400 trucks in under 10 years.
Its first major acquisition was in 2011 when it bought a fleet larger that itself, Flex-Mor Industries.
Along with the company’s assets, Titanium inherited Flex-Mor’s partnership with SmartWay.
"My first introduction to SmartWay was through Flex-Mor in 2011," Marilyn Daniel, COO of Titanium said. "Flex-Mor was participating in the program prior to us purchasing them and so that’s how we initially were introduced...but after looking into the program, we felt SmartWay was in line with our progressive look at the trucking industry."
Daniel said that the program mirrored Titanium’s outlook for their company from both a cost-savings and a commitment to the environment perspective.
“Which are both equally as important to us, as well as many of our customers,” Daniel said.
Before joining SmartWay, Daniel said the fleet was already investing in innovative technologies that helped their trucks become more fuel-efficient.
“Buying trucks that were fuel-efficient was always important to us,” she said. “And we were always looking to spec’ and purchase aerodynamic features. Low emissions were important to us, as well as buying tires with low rolling resistance…we even had skirts on our trailers before we joined the program.”
But SmartWay helped kick things up a notch.
“The program has definitely increased our general awareness for sure,” Daniel confirmed. “I do appreciate the comments and feedback we receive back from SmartWay.”
Daniel added that being a part of the program has given the business an edge as well, in terms of competition.
“As well, to be competitive, customers are asking for SmartWay scores so we’re definitely seeing an advantage that way. It’s somewhat of a distinguishing nature for us as a carrier. SmartWay really does take our business to a different level.”
The only downside to the program is that it is a lengthy process to initially get started it, Daniel added.
“The application is a bit of work…it is a little arduous, but we feel it is worth it,” she said. “The resubmission every year is not so bad…I would definitely recommend it…I do feel like it is part of our global responsibility being in the industry we are in. We should all be paying attention to these things…I think carriers out there, that aren’t progressive and aren’t thinking about the environment and aren’t embracing the future from the technological point of view will have a hard time participating.
“Being a part of the program raises your level of awareness in an ever-competitive market like trucking. Sometimes you don’t have time to stop and think so being part of the SmartWay program makes you do that.”
Today, Titanium is almost as green as it can be. It has installed performance metrics in its trucks, it monitors idle times, it only runs two-year old equipment, it gives out bonuses to drivers who are actively paying attention to fuel consumption, and more.
“Fuel-efficiency is a part of our training program,” Daniel said. “We want our drivers to be aligned with us on being environmentally aware. We also strongly encourage our owner-operators to consider buying a new truck or to monitor their trucks to be more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient. We also make sure to share all the SmartWay feedback and information we get to drivers so they can see how they stack up against the rest of the fleet.”
For Titanium, joining the program was a win-win, said Daniel.
“We are certainly committed to environmental preservation,” she said. “And we are happy to be responsible and to help our bottom line…To us, joining the program was just one more aspect of being an innovative carrier because being a green fleet is a look towards the future.”
Ruby Truck Line Inc.
A smart way to do business
For Ruby Truck Line, being part of the SmartWay Transport Partnership program just made sense.
With the goal of reducing fuel costs, improving efficiency and encouraging best practices in freight supply chains, the SmartWay program has encouraged more than 3,600 North American companies to sign on, and in May of 2016, Rob Broesky, business development with Ruby Truck Line, said the Steinbach, Man.-based company was looking at how its business model would bring future success.
"Efficiency, environment and of course costs were common threads that inter-wove our customer relationships, but they were also viable concerns for all parties," said Broesky. "With the ever-changing landscape of the trucking industry, the SmartWay Partnership program made sense."
Broesky said the program is a collaborative effort that is recognized globally by manufacturers, suppliers and transport providers, and putting a 'SmartWay stamp' alongside Ruby's company logo makes a statement and proves they are committed well beyond their office walls.
"We hope that this effort will secure future business, identify inefficiencies and help us do our part in healing the environment," said Broesky.
It has only been roughly half a year since Ruby signed on with the SmartWay program, but so far, the company is seeing its effort pay off, and the benefits are becoming more and more evident.
"The biggest benefit that we see at this point is the awareness that SmartWay has stirred up in many areas of our operation," Broesky said. "There are tangible results that will change how we do things moving forward to make us better."
One of the first steps Ruby Truck Line has taken to help reduce its fuel consumption is to place an emphasis on lowering the average driving speed across its fleet, which Broesky said remains a work in progress, but has produced encouraging results.
The company, which specializes in van freight across North America, also started publishing snip-its of SmartWay driving tips and articles in its monthly newsletter and offered them online to company drivers and owner-operators.
The initial benefits Ruby has seen in the first months being a part of the SmartWay program have come as a bit of a surprise, as they have helped to reveal some of the nuances of the company's operating habits.
"Things such as shifting, idling, vehicle inspections and speed are everyday occurrences that once broken down reveal surprisingly massive inefficiencies you didn’t realize were there," admitted Broesky.
When it comes to idling, Broesky said a statistic he came across made an enlightening impression on him.
'If a 100-truck fleet were to cut idling by one hour a day for 260 days, it would save approximately 104,000 liters of fuel or approximately $114,400,” Broesky said. "Those are huge numbers and every truck driver making a slight adjustment to his or her idling habits can make an immediate, direct impact."
Broesky believes with the direction the transportation sector is taking toward a reduction in fuel usage, new, greener technology and an overall push to improve efficiencies - which benefits both the environment and any company's bottom line when it comes to fuel costs - taking advantage of programs like SmartWay is a smart business approach.
"Making your company the best it can be regarding technology and efficiency, while preserving the environment, is very relevant to companies today," said Broesky. "The SmartWay initiative falls into this forward thinking by helping companies be competitive, while saving our environment for future generations."
Ruby Truck Line continues to be focused on providing its customers with good, honest business practices, but also doing its part to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is exactly why it partnered with the SmartWay program.
"If there is one thing you can take away from this initiative it's that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel," Broesky said. "Just by making small adjustments you will see incredible results in your carbon footprint and your bottom line."
About Ruby Truck Line
Ruby Truck Line is Steinbach, Manitoba based carrier. The 100-truck fleet specializes in van freight and has a North American footprint.
Technology helping Timeline Logistic drive down idling
From the very first year Timeline Logistic began operations in 2012, company president Troy Stimpson knew it was important to be a SmartWay partner.
“We knew that being a trucking company, your trucks are creating a pretty large carbon footprint,” Stimpson says. “We burn lots of diesel so we decided to become a SmartWay partner because it forces us to look at what we’re doing. It helps us to track fuel consumption and get better. Our primary goal within the company is always continuous improvement, so this helps us take a focused approach to looking at our environmental impact and our carbon footprint and it helps us track our progress.”
The Saskatoon, Sask. fleet was founded in 2012 to serve the nuclear industry. It launched with eight trucks dedicated to hauling uranium from Saskatchewan to nuclear facilities in the US. It has grown rapidly to 46 trucks and now also serves the oil and gas industries. The fleet is comprised of a mix of 25 company units and 21 owner-operators.
Reducing unnecessary fuel consumption comes down to knowing the numbers, Stimpson says.
“We really work hard at tracking our fuel and tracking our idle times,” he explains. “All of our trucks are satellite tracked and every month we run a fuel analysis on the trucks and we sit down with each driver and tell them what they’re doing well, what they can get better at, and we track their progress. It’s not just an annual thing, we do this every month to make sure they are getting better.”
Timeline leases its company trucks through Ryder, knowing they are experts at spec’ing for fuel economy. Trucks come equipped with Freightliner’s ParkSmart idle reduction systems to eliminate overnight idling.
“It allows us to minimize our idling time because they have air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter,” Stimpson says.
The ParkSmart spec‘ has allowed Timeline to reduce its idle time by about 25%.
“Because we run Alberta to Texas a lot, it could be 15C and by the time you get into Texas it’s 30C, so the guys were running the trucks constantly for air conditioning,” Stimpson recalls. “Then in the winter time it’s -40C in Canada and it’s still 20C in Texas, so the trucks really weren’t ever shut off. With the ParkSmart system, we really watch and make sure drivers are shutting the trucks off and using the system as it’s intended.”
When bringing on new drivers, Timeline is up-front about the constant monitoring its drivers will receive. It isn’t just about fuel economy – it’s also a matter of safety in the nuclear industry. Drivers have been receptive to the oversight.
“We hire drivers that know these are the things we do,” Stimpson explains. “We play big brother when it comes to logbooks and safety. It’s just another aspect of our business. Everybody knows when they first start, when they first come in and ask for a job, that this is the way we do things.”
Becoming a SmartWay partner is an exercise in self reflection. Stimpson said he learned a lot about his company through the process and generally liked what he saw.
“We learned that, within our organization, we’re very good at thinking outside the box,” he says. “We’re very good at taking technology and using it to its fullest advantage and we’re very good at continuous improvement.”
Being small allows Timeline to easily implement suggestions that come from staff, he adds. As an example, Stimpson cites the company’s Integrated Management System, which brings together its quality management and environmental management systems into one program.
Now that the equipment has been spec’d for fuel economy and older, less efficient units have been replaced through Ryder, Stimpson said the company will focus more closely on driver behavior to make even greater progress towards maximizing fuel economy.
“We are looking at different monitoring technologies to observe driver habits,” he says. “We’ve taken care of the equipment. Now it’s a matter of us looking at the driver and trying to adjust their habits to create better fuel mileage. The driver plays a big role in fuel economy and the more we can mould and shape that driver into shifting better, running on cruise control and shutting the truck off when it doesn’t need to be on, it definitely helps.”
Continuous coaching of even the most experienced drivers is important as newer technology is brought on-board, Stimpson adds. For example, drivers who used to cruise at 1,600 rpm are surprised to learn today’s engines provide peak torque at as little as 900 rpm, so these engines need to be driven differently.
“It’s just a matter of changing their philosophy and changing their mentality, because anything above that, you’re just wasting fuel, you’re not gaining anything,” he points out.
About Timeline Logistic
Timeline Logistic was founded in 2012 in Saskatoon, Sask. to serve the nuclear industry. It began with eight trucks and has grown to 46, offering specialized transportation for the nuclear and oil and gas industries.
TimeLine Logistic has developed, implemented and maintains an Integrated Management System currently certified to the ISO 9001:2008 standards and ISO 14001:2015 standards.
ISO 9001:2008 requirements enable an organization to demonstrate its ability to provide products or services that fulfill customer and applicable regulatory requirements and to enhance customer satisfaction. ISO 14001:2015 is intended to provide the company a proactive approach to assessing environmental aspects and impacts with the goal to reduce and prevent pollution in relation to the company’s activities.
Point of contact: Troy Stimpson, President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accord Transportation leverages SmartWay to stay ahead of regulatory curve
Location, location, location. That was the main factor in Accord Transportation becoming a SmartWay partner about half a decade ago.
Accord Transportation, a family owned and operated transportation business headquartered in Surrey, B.C. has its trucks traveling mostly along the west coast and usually they end up in California, one of the most environmentally conscious places in North America. So when they heard about the SmartWay program, it just made plain sense to join, said Ken R. Davey, the company’s director of IT and loss prevention.
“A bunch of things converged to make us SmartWay partners,” he said. “Having our main operation running between BC and California for years, both of which are environmentally friendly, was a main one and we were looking at ways to regulate and measure ourselves and justify fuel spending. We also got serious and wanted to show our customers we were concerned about fuel efficiency. So all that happened and we joined about five years ago.”
Accord boasts 160 trucks to date and hauls mostly paper products into the US while bringing back furniture and consumer electronics back into big box stores in Canada. From its inception 25 years ago, Accord has been environmentally conscious and fuel efficient, Davey assured.
“Because we go to California, we not only have to meet the SmartWay requirements, we have to meet the California Air Resources Board requirements,” he explained. “Which are some of the toughest regulations in the world. So I think we were a little ahead of the curve when it comes to fuel efficiency.”
Having a mostly owner-operator fleet has also helped the company reach its fuel-saving goals, Davey said.
“We have primarily an owner-operator fleet. And so fuel efficiency takes on a new importance when you realize the guy who is driving the truck is actually buying the fuel,” he said. “So we don’t face the same motivation problems that company driver fleets do when trying to get their drivers on board with fuel efficiency. So spreading SmartWay policies through the fleet has been relatively easy. The owner-ops get it because they know the foot pressing the pedal is connected to the money buying the fuel.”
Davey said that Accord has reaped many benefits since becoming a SmartWay partner, even though it was fuel conscious before becoming a partner. SmartWay gave their fuel efficiency efforts a clear focus.
“It’s focused the management objective,” he said. “It set a clear goal. Everyone was managing fuel before or at least we thought we were. We were always really concerned about the environment but the SmartWay program just gave us an easy environmental sweater to slip on and see how it fit. All of a sudden we knew where to measure and we didn’t need to figure out where to get the data from. So it was very easy to follow. It’s also provided some tools and pride for our drivers.”
The program has even helped it gain and retain customers, according to Davey. “It does help us get customers,” he said. “But now to even be in the game, you have to be SmartWay certified. If you don’t have an environmental program, customers aren’t interested. So customers are looking out for these types of programs and SmartWay has opened up a lot of doors for us. We wouldn’t have some customers if we weren’t certified.”
Davey said he would recommend and encourage fleets of all shapes and sizes to join the program because it’s easy to use and the results he’s seen are indisputable.
“We’re a large company compared to many, but in trucking terms, we’re small,” he said. “The nice thing about the SmartWay program is you don’t have to have rigid controls or satellite tracking. Any size company can use their tools. The first year was a little challenging to collect all the data. So basically you use the fuel receipt and the miles and gradually over time you learn what empty miles you’re running.
“It's made us a better carrier in lots of ways and though that first year can be daunting but after you’ve done it once, it’s pretty easy to do on an annual basis. I’d really encourage people to join.”
About Accord Transportation
Accord Transportation, is a family owned and operated transportation business headquartered in Surrey, B.C. There are about 160 trucks in the fleet, hauling primarily paper products into the US with furniture and consumer electronics serving as backhaul. The fleet travels mostly along the US west coast.
SmartWay offers T&S Transportation an opportunity to assess itself
For T&S Transportation, becoming a SmartWay partner represented an opportunity to enhance the company’s image and establish itself as a progressive carrier. After all, many leading trucking companies across Canada and in the US were flying the SmartWay flag and 26-year-old logistics and operations coordinator Amit Sandhu wanted to be among them.
"I remember reading about the program and how it was being implemented four years ago and the movement with carriers jumping on. A benefit I saw is that it validated a company as being one that was moving forward and had environmental concerns and was improving fuel economy," Sandhu recalls.
T&S is a diverse fleet based in Abbotsford, B.C. It runs a fleet consisting of 50 tractors and 80 trailers out of two Vancouver-area yards. It offers full truckload, less-than-load and temperature controlled services and has been growing in the areas of pharmaceuticals, produce and meat products. It also offers a courier delivery service.
Operating such a diverse fleet makes it challenging to achieve consistent fuel economy but the SmartWay program helped T&S get a better sense of where waste was occurring.
"Going through the SmartWay program forces you to get a better understanding of your fuel economy and your fuel consumption throughout the year," Sandhu says. "When you’re analyzing it on that analytical stage you’re trying to hone in and tweak whatever you can to lower it from the previous year."
T&S focused on two areas: driver behaviour and the equipment spec’.
"Going through the SmartWay program forces you to get a better understanding of your fuel economy and your fuel consumption throughout the year," Sandhu says. "When you’re analyzing it on that analytical stage you’re trying to hone in and tweak whatever you can to lower it from the previous year."
T&S focused on two areas: driver behaviour and the equipment spec’.
"Our main focus has been to monitor the drivers," says Sandhu. "To better understand how they’re driving and then to tweak that to improve them and to educate our drivers as well, about the engine they’re using and the truck they’re driving. Because if a driver doesn’t understand the engine that’s under the hood, they’re not going to know how to utilize it to the best of their ability."
The company also focused on aggressive driving, idling and route optimization – especially in the city.
"When a truck is traveling in a congested city like Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto, there can be a lot of traffic and congestion that ends up tying up the truck and wasting a lot more fuel," Sandhu explains. "What we started to do was plan our routes more strategically."
One strategy employed was to do switches outside congested areas rather than making highway drivers travel all the way to the yard if there is heavy traffic surrounding it, only for a city driver to have to fight the same traffic again when it leaves the yard.
The combined efforts so far have resulted in a fuel consumption reduction of about 2%. Sandhu attributes some of this to spec’ing more fuel-efficient equipment. Most T&S trucks now have automated transmissions, trailers are skirted and the company is choosing lighter-weight equipment whenever possible.
New hires are put through an eight-hour training program to learn, among other things, how to drive efficiently. Of course T&S has had to deal with some resistance from seasoned drivers.
"We get the pushback, of course," Sandhu admits. "If you’ve been driving for 10 years and then you have someone coming in and telling you how to do it better, you are going to have pushback. Where things tend to change and what we’ve come to notice is that, they may already know 80% of what we’re telling them but there’s that 20% that is about new technology coming in that’s being implemented into the trucks that they don’t know about and that they aren’t aware of. I think everyone at the end of the day walks away learning something new."
One of the biggest lessons T&S management imparts on its drivers is to be patient on the road.
"If you’ve got a driver that’s hitting 120 km/h going uphill in British Columbia on the mountain, your fuel consumption is going to be really bad," Sandhu reasons.
And he says any time that’s picked up by driving fast is inconsequential. "We are trying to get our drivers to understand how timing works and how aggressive driving really does not make an impact on our deliveries."
The company also builds extra time into its delivery windows to ensure drivers don’t feel pressured to drive fast, "so they have extra time on their hands and they can drive easier and don’t have to push the truck to its limits."
As a small company, Sandhu admits implementing the program was a big commitment, but he’s seeing benefits and is pleased with the results.
"It gets you thinking a little bit differently," he says of the program. "SmartWay puts a challenge in front of you every year, so you have to ensure you’re doing something different and that you’re trying to lower your fuel consumption. Whether it’s figuring out new routes, whether it’s understanding which lanes to operate in and not operate in, every year you have to look at the big picture and see what you can do differently."
About T&S Transportation
T&S is a family-run trucking company operating 50 trucks and 80 trailers out of two yards in Abbotsford, B.C. All equipment is company-owned.
It offers a range of services, including TL, LTL, courier and temperature controlled transport, as well as logistics and warehousing. The company has been in operation since 1998 and operates throughout Canada and the US.
Point of Contact: Amit Sandhu, Logistics and operations coordinator, email@example.com
“Being fuel-efficient is in our genes”
When your fleet is running 35 million miles per year on average, it’s only natural to be thinking about fuel consumption and how to reduce your carbon footprint.
That’s certainly the management mantra at Trans-West Group.
“We do a lot of mileage for a small company,” said Andre Boisvert, vice-president of technology development. “So any time we see an opportunity to improve in fuel consumption, it’s very important that we do that.”
Trans-West operates 150 trucks and 450 trailers out of three North America-based terminals. Headquarters are based in Lachine, Que. It specializes in hauling produce, especially fresh fruits and vegetables – and 100% of its trailers are temperature-controlled.
The company’s partnership with SmartWay came to be in 2009, after one of its major customers brought the program up in a meeting.
Trans-West used SmartWay initially to benchmark its efforts, but gained a lot more since becoming a partner.
“Before we joined SmartWay in 2009, we were already doing our own things (to reduce our carbon footprint) and we were actively looking for partners to help us grow in that direction,” Boisvert said. “We were in a conference and we heard about SmartWay and we decided to join.”
Initially, Trans-West joined the program to benchmark themselves against others in the industry. The company knew it was doing well in terms of being environmentally friendly, but it wanted to see how it stacked up to others in the trucking community.
“It was really a way of benchmarking ourselves,” said Boisvert. “We always thought we were good (with fuel consumption) but we heard about this and we knew (SmartWay) was uniting the best in the industry and it was trying to reduce trucking’s carbon footprint and it was interesting for us. Also, now it’s easy to say it, but before, we were ‘SmartWay’ in the way we were thinking, but we just didn’t know that this group existed. We were just a small company trying to get better in our fuel consumption and trying to reduce pollution. Then we heard about it, and we thought, we need to join.”
Boisvert said though the process to join the program was a lengthy one with quite a bit of paperwork it was worthwhile because of the money they have saved on fuel over the years and the major customers they have kept by being affiliated with the SmartWay program.
“I can’t say we have actually gained customers because we are a SmartWay partner,” Boisvert said. “But every year our sales reps report back with our existing customers continuing to ask if we are still SmartWay partners and each year we say yes.”
Joining SmartWay seemed inevitable for the company after the Great Recession hit. To survive it they had to change gears and focus on their niche market. Before the recession, Trans-West was hauling all over North America. After 2008, it decided to focus on its niche – Western Canada, California and Florida. The trips to California meant Trans-West had to adapt even more than it used to in terms of being compliant in the state’s strict environmental policies. Add this to Trans-West being a truckload-only fleet, and the fact that team drivers drive 98% of its trucks. What you get is a company that is a perfect match for the SmartWay program, according to Trans-West management.
What is important to understand is we only do truckload,” Pierre Savard, the company’s director of training, research and development said. “And it’s a lot of mileage because we run team. Upfront we are almost a perfect fit for SmartWay because of the type of operation we run.”
The biggest perk of being a SmartWay partner is taking advantage of the SmartWay brand and spec’ing trucks to be as fuel-efficient as possible”, said Boisvert.
The SmartWay approved products make things a lot easier for us,” he said. The company’s trucks and trailers sport side skirts, trailer tails, and were one of the first to have super-single tires. Being a partner also pushes Trans-West drivers to want to be fuel-efficient too, making the fleet a stronger, more cohesive team that is focused on one common goal – be an exceptional and fuel-efficient carrier”, Boisvert added.
Our drivers know we are SmartWay and along with driving smart and slower to save fuel, they look for other ways to reduce costs and fuel,” he said. “Just two days ago I had a driver come into my office and he was talking about how he thought he could save money on fuel. He was so proud after our meeting.”
Being a partner continues to be a smart move for Trans-West said Boisvert and they see the effects of that on a daily basis.
“SmartWay changed us. We always had a team of people dedicated to this, but now it’s more established because the people at SmartWay are dedicated to this,” he said. “And since joining we have saved a significant amount of money. Being fuel-efficient is in our genes, but SmartWay made us more aware for sure. Today, we’ve done so much to our trucks, it’s like we’re not polluting at all. I would tell fleets who are thinking of joining that the effort it takes to become a partner is well worth it.”
Gorski Bulk Transport
What was Gorski Bulk Transport’s key to SmartWay success? Getting the drivers involved.
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 was focused on conserving non-renewable resources, they 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 this was very much in sync with our own ideas and how we operated our business.”
Gorski 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 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.
What was Gorski Bulk Transport’s key to SmartWay success? Getting the drivers involved.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of the driver”
– Ted Gorski Jr., President, Gorski Bulk Transport
“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 is 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 installed tire inflation systems on all tank trailers and these have given us a very good return,” he explained. The company also uses Eco-Flap mud flaps on its trailers, which helps to reduce wind resistance. On its tractors, Gorski now spec’s automatic transmissions for optimized shifting in addition to 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’s 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, safety and customer service.
“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.
With the Gorski spec’ re-evaluated and the low-hanging fruit picked, the carrier is now looking at some more extreme ways to reduce its emissions - including the possibility of deploying natural gas-fueled trucks.
“One of the things we are looking at right now is doing an evaluation on CNG power units to see if there is a practical use for that in our operations,” Gorski said.
It 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 is necessary to idle to power accessorial equipment when loading or unloading product. 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 are a ISO 9001:2008 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 we can 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.”
Novex's path to SmartWay program started with a single hybrid vehicle
Open Novex Delivery Solutions’ website and you’ll find that your computer screen will be overwhelmed by the colour green.
With a commitment to make the Richmond, B.C. company an environmentally-friendly courier, Novex’s partnership with the Canadian government’s SmartWay program began several years after they had rolled their first hybrid car onto the road.
That commitment is what led to Novex becoming SmartWay certified in May 2015.
Vehicle count: 31 hybrid cars, 30 LEV vehicles, nine bikes and 14 trucks, including two 2015 Peterbilt trucks
Staff: 15, with approximately 80 owner-operators
Terminal: Richmond, B.C.
Service area: Greater Vancouver Regional District
Services: Freight delivery, including by vehicle and bicycle
SmartWay is a program directed by Natural Resources Canada that is designed to help freight carriers and shipping businesses reduce fuel costs while transporting goods in the most efficient way possible. The program was launched in 2004 by the US Environmental Protection Agency and administered in Canada since 2012.
Thanks to Kronquist’s association with the Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Canada, he had heard about the SmartWay program.
“This was the perfect program to start our platform into greening our trucks,” Kronquist explained, saying it was beneficial to be part of a group of companies that shared the same values.
“The educational programs that we are involved with, like FleetSmart, is a tremendous help in achieving our goal of emission reduction,” he said. “These include driver training and fuel management. The depth of the (SmartWay) program is very good.”
Much of Novex’s success with the SmartWay program comes from the company’s willingness to do the little things that have led to the list of achievements.
“A big part of our (fuel) savings comes from educating drivers on the importance of reducing their emissions,” said Kronquist. “This includes reducing idle time, driving speed and proper tire and maintenance of their trucks.”
Kronquist said the SmartWay program is on top of advanced fuel-savings technology, something he believes will continue to improve as time goes on.
He also believes his company’s participation in the program shines a positive light on their operations in the public’s eyes.
“The consumer wants to be associated with companies that understand the importance of having green initiatives,” he said.
In the end, Kronquist said the important thing for people to remember was that the SmartWay program, regardless of how it can make a company look, or how much money it can save them in fuel costs each year, is really about the health of the planet and those who call it home.
“As a B-Corp certified company, our social responsibility to our drivers and our community is also an important part of who we are,” said Kronquist. B Corporations, are for-profit companies that have been certified by the non-profit B Lab, as they meet the standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. “One of the challenges that the trucking industry has is convincing drivers not to idle. Once you explain the dangers of diesel particles to their health, they start to look at it differently.”
Kronquist said Novex is already seeing the benefits of their effort to educate their drivers on the importance of reducing their carbon footprint for the betterment of the environment.
“We have two drivers who have purchased new 2015 trucks,” he said. “In both cases, the two trucks replaced much older trucks that had no emission controls.”
So, it’s not surprising that the colour green dominates Novex’s website, as it symbolizes precisely what the company stands for and practises.
The advantages of being an early – and green – adopter
As any trucking company will tell you, one of the largest operating costs for carriers is filling up big rigs with diesel. It’s why when the price of fuel went way up, fleet managers started looking at ways to save on fuel.
But some carriers – ones that were ahead of the curve – were already looking at ways to save on fuel not for cost, but for the environment’s sake.
They are the early adopters; the carriers who looked at technology with an optimistic approach and one that should be invested in.
One of the earliest adopters, at least in Canada, was Coteau-du-Lac, Que.’s C.A.T.
C.A.T. came to be in 1978 as a family-owned business run by Daniel Goyette. He is still the company’s current president and is the reason why C.A.T. is possibly one of the greenest fleets in Canada to date. According to his colleagues – and business maneuvers – he has been the one behind the business’ green initiatives.
The company currently has 10 facilities located across the United States and Canada and carved out a specified niche for itself in 1984 when it created a truckload solution for customers who needed service to and from Mexico. It hauls all sorts of product, including paper, construction and retail products all over North America. Currently it operates approximately 350 trucks, 1,200 trailers and employs more than 400 drivers.
Becoming a SmartWay partner was in the stars for the company, explained Hugo Brouillette, vice-president of asset management for C.A.T.
“We joined the SmartWay Program in 2008,” said Brouillette. “Because we wanted to show our customers how important it is to keep up with and invest in new technology to improve our carbon footprint.”
He said the choice to join SmartWay was an easy one because the program’s views on carbon emissions matched those of C.A.T.
“It’s all related to fuel economy,” he said. “We’ve always chased new technology to save fuel and to save money. And when you’re saving fuel, you’re reducing your emissions.”
He said before the company joined SmartWay it had already invested in speed limiters, super-single tires, and no-idle policies. He added that one of the many benefits of joining the program is that customers are familiar with the SmartWay name and can rest assured that C.A.T. is a fleet that cares about the impact it has on the environment.
“More and more customers are asking what kind of technology we use,” Brouillette said. “They want to know what we’re doing to reduce our emissions. It’s becoming a popular topic and SmartWay is a program that is recognized by all the customers so we are proud to say we are affiliated with them.”
Brouillette went on to say that C.A.T.’s owner, Goyette, was the one who pushed the company towards greener pastures.
“The owner (Goyette) likes innovation, so anytime we have a new technology on the market that can save us fuel, he always is willing to buy and go with it,” he said.
Following in step with its early adopter reputation, C.A.T. revealed in October of 2014 that it would be leasing 100 compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks from Ryder System. It was the first natural gas lease agreement Ryder had made with a Canadian fleet ever– a major milestone for both parties.
The natural gas trucks – 2017 Freightliner Cascadia Evolutions with a Cummins 12L engine – replaced nearly one third of C.A.T.’s fleet. At the time of the purchase, it was estimated by C.A.T. that CNG trucks would be reducing its carbon footprint by 17%.
To further cement its commitment to alternative fuels, it inked a deal with GAIN Clean Fuel in 2015 to build five CNG stations in its route. The first was opened in Mississauga, Ont. in late October. Followed shortly after by one in Coteau-du-Lac, Que. The other three stations locations include Laredo, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina and Scranton, Pennsylvania.
So far, said Brouillette, things are going extremely well with the new natural-gas powered trucks.
“In January (2016) we just started to put them on the road,” Brouillette said. “We wanted to make sure the stations were up and running before we rolled them out. So we have 21 trucks (of the 100) on the road right now. And we’ve never run out of gas. We’re doing really well so far.”
The best part about the trucks, other than saving fuel and reducing GHG, is that C.A.T. drivers are loving the new equipment and are excited to be put in the front seat in one of the new trucks.
“It’s quiet, there’s no possibility of a fuel spill anymore, and when they go to the station, there’s not a lot of traffic so they’re alone there meaning there’s no downtime waiting in line to fill up the truck,” Brouillette said. “And it only takes ten minutes to do a fill.”
As far as joining the SmartWay program, Brouillette said it’s a no-brainer for fleets that are interested in fuel economy and bettering the environment.
“I’d recommend the SmartWay program to any fleet that wants to make a change to improve their GHG emissions,” he said.
Customers lead MacKinnon Transport to SmartWay program
There is an old adage that says, ‘The customer is always right,’ and when customers began asking MacKinnon Transport to get involved with the SmartWay Partnership program, the company followed suit, advancing its efforts to become a more environmentally-conscious operation.
“Initially, it was a request of fleet services originating from our sales group,” Richard Sharpe, vice-president of fleet services for MacKinnon Transport, said of his company’s joining the SmartWay program. “They had received some requests from our larger customers that we participate.”
SmartWay is a program directed by Natural Resources Canada that is designed to help freight carriers and shipping businesses reduce fuel costs while transporting goods in the most efficient way possible. Already aware of and trained on the government’s FleetSmart initiative, which was an effort to provide tools and advice on how businesses could cut fleet operating costs and improve productivity by reducing harmful emissions and fuel consumption, Sharpe said that even though MacKinnon had become involved with the U.S. EPA SmartWay program in 2005 when a customer requested their involvement, he was elated to hear of its launch in Canada.
“At first, I had expected that there were initiatives that were focused on carrier fuel expense reduction,” Sharpe explained. “However, it became clear that there was, with the best and brightest, a grassroots move towards environmental concerns.”
“When it comes to reducing emissions, it’s time to step up, or step out” – Richard Sharpe, MacKinnon Transport Inc.
Despite the customer request, Sharpe said he believes the greatest value of the SmartWay program is the increased emphasis it brings on reducing emissions and being a global citizen, all the while using the company’s resources as effectively as possible.
“We had, for a period before SmartWay, a fuel economy program focusing on best practices in specifications, as well as driver incentives for good fuel economy behaviour,” said Sharpe. “Our SmartWay involvement intensified the project and raised awareness in the higher ranks.
“Ultimately, our specifications are more well defined, our driver behaviour is closely monitored and incented and our fuel economy has improved.”
Some of the ways MacKinnon Transport has been able to achieve these fuel-saving goals has been through equipping its fleet with a more reduced emissions balance than they had previous, employing superior best-practice configurations and component selections, such as advanced anti-idling technologies, concentrating on driver-operator aspects, like driving habits, route selections, idle time and road speed, and, finally, rewarding drivers with a new and improved incentive program.
“Our philosophy being that, we all pay roughly the same amount for fuel. The winners are those who use the energy resource most efficiently and effectively,” said Sharpe. “We see the improvement in our variable margin.”
The Guelph, Ont.-based company specializes in over-the-road flatbed transportation between its home province, Quebec and the eastern seaboard of the US, offering tandem trailer transportation, as well as a heavy-haul fleet. The benefits of the SmartWay program have been immeasurable for MacKinnon Transport. In addition to being able to secure and satisfy customers they may not have been capable of if not for being a part of the program, reducing fuel costs and its carbon footprint, it has also been a learning experience for many at MacKinnon Transport. Sharpe said being able to provide drivers with the most energy efficient unit the company can produce, develop, train and reward the very best driving practices, all while still achieving the company’s operational needs has been an invaluable educational experience.
“It’s a team effort,” said Sharpe, “supported by senior management, embraced by fleet and maintenance and driven by the driving force…it takes everyone’s engagement.”
And Sharpe feels that this engagement is coming at the right time and that the transportation industry should hop on board.
“I believe that any time we are offered a free resource to become better at our art, to do the right thing for the industry and to be a better global citizen, we’d be foolish not to exploit that offer,” said Sharpe, adding that the value in developing a carbon reduction capture methodology should not be ignored, and will one day likely be a ‘very real currency.’
“With what I see happening in the world,” he said, “I think it’s time to recognize that, as a transport industry, it’s time to step up, or step out.”
SmartWay membership helps validate Andy Transport’s business practices
When Andy Transport became a SmartWay carrier in 2011, it wasn’t about doing business differently, it was about documenting and benchmarking the measures the company had already employed to improve its efficiency.
“The reason we joined was because it was aligned with our strategy ,” said Andreea Crisan, chief operating officer and executive vice-president of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que.-based Andy Transport. “We were very happy to find out that it didn’t require too many changes for us to become members. We just benchmarked and validated some of the decisions we had already taken.”
Andy Transport has always been a progressive company. It has invested heavily in new technologies, including new Volvo tractors with I-Shift automated manual transmissions. It purchased a driving simulator from DriveWise, which the company uses to educate drivers and their trainers on efficient driving practices. It even recently opened its own training school as a way to help address the shortage of qualified drivers and to ensure new hires are well trained on safe and efficient driving techniques.
“In terms of our internal strategy, it’s two-fold,” Crisan explained. “We invest in technology and we’re very, very strong and very focused on that. And second, we invest in our human resources. Training, changing behaviour and getting behaviour where it has to be in order to be aligned with our values and mission in the program.”
When selecting a driving simulator, Crisan said Andy Transport was sure to choose one that had the ability to help improve driver behaviour.
“One of the questions we asked our potential suppliers was how they align their models with the SmartWay program,” added Camelia Burlec, project manager for Andy Transport.
The company has also trained its driver-trainers using the FleetSmart training program so that they can pass along fuel-efficient driving techniques.
New equipment purchased by Andy Transport is equipped with fuel-saving spec’s, including aerodynamic mirrors, SmartWay-verified low rolling resistance tires, low capacity fuel tanks and extended side fairings. Its trailers are fitted with side skirts to improve fuel economy. A rigorous preventive maintenance program allows Andy Transport to run its trucks longer than some companies, initially deploying them on long-haul routes and then, as they age, on more local routes.
“The reason we joined was because it was aligned with our strategy,” - Andreea Crisan, Andy Transport
“We tend to keep our trucks for a long time, but our strategy is a bit different in the way we use those trucks,” Crisan said. “Maintenance is an important part of everything we do. All our trucks and trailers get, not only the PM, but they also get regular check-ups.”
Andy Transport operates two maintenance centers and drivers report any problems they discover on the truck (a loose fairing, for example), which are then quickly remedied.
“The truck automatically gets scheduled into our maintenance centers. When the driver comes here to our terminal, he parks it, goes home for the weekend and when he returns back to work, everything is repaired,” Crisan explained. “We’re very proud of how efficient our team is with the maintenance.”
Drivers at Andy Transport have embraced the program and understand its value, though Crisan said it was never presented to them as a SmartWay initiative, rather just good business.
“We’re constantly trying to change behaviours. This goes for everything, not just SmartWay practices. There was never an official SmartWay talk; however, the principles of the program are always part of our training. SmartWay is always part of what we do.”
Drivers have remained committed to the company’s fuel-saving mandate, even with the recent softening of diesel prices.
We haven’t changed our strategy,” Crisan said of lower fuel prices. “In fact, we have actually increased our focus on behaviour changing. We are putting a lot of focus now on routing to make sure that we’re taking the most efficient lanes and our drivers are stopping where they’re supposed to stop.”
Currently, Andy Transport is using various websites and software to optimize its routing, but soon it will be implementing a dedicated program to do this.
Andy Transport has reaped many benefits from being a SmartWay carrier. It promotes its involvement in its marketing materials and to its customers. Often, Crisan said, the company is asked when bidding on new contracts whether or not it is a SmartWay carrier. Burlec said the SmartWay tools available have evolved since the company first joined the program. Some of the most beneficial of these are the benchmarking tools, which allow member carriers to compare how they measure up against other carriers of similar size and scope across key metrics.
“We compare our results with other participants,” Burlec explained. The ability to benchmark against other carriers was one of the most attractive elements of becoming a member, she added. “In the market, there are so many technologies and it’s hard to try them all. The benchmarking tools help us validate which is the best technology and which will fit our fleet. This is why SmartWay was very helpful.”
Andy Transport has made much progress in becoming a greener, more fuel-efficient fleet, but its journey isn’t yet over. Crisan said the company is always on the lookout for new ways to improve its efficiency.
“We have very good relationships with our suppliers, so almost every year we visit their plants to discover what’s new on the market or what they’re coming out with that’s new the following year,” she said. “It helps us in our decision-making when we place orders for a large numbers of trucks or trailers.”
Brian Kurtz Trucking
Aerodynamics, narrowing the trailer gap, key to helping Kurtz Trucking achieve its fuel efficiency goals
In a customer service-driven business like trucking, when a customer suggests you look into something, you had better look into it. That’s how Brian Kurtz Trucking first came to discover the SmartWay Partnership Program.
“It started with a suggestion from a customer,” said general manager Trevor Kurtz. “But then, when I started looking into it, it was obviously about fuel savings and reducing our carbon footprint and just becoming more environmentally-friendly.”
It didn’t take long to realize the environmental benefits the customer was looking for aligned with Kurtz’s desire to reduce its operating costs. Operating 72 tractors and 130 trailers out of one terminal in Breslau, Ont., hauling mostly temperature-controlled freight, Kurtz set out in 2007 to get on-board with the SmartWay program. Trevor Kurtz said it was initially a time consuming process to complete all the paperwork, but it proved to be a worthwhile exercise in self-awareness.
“There was enough information needed that it was really eye-opening to go back and figure out our tonnage and all that kind of stuff,” Kurtz said. “It’s something we had never really looked at really close.”
Through this data submission process, Kurtz also learned about the harmful emissions his fleet was putting into the air and how they could be reduced. Kurtz also discovered the fleet was already employing many of the technologies and techniques that SmartWay promotes.
Nothing really changed dramatically since Kurtz became a SmartWay partner however; he said “Just improving little by little each year has kept us in good standing.”
When it first joined the SmartWay program, Kurtz Trucking was already operating the most aerodynamic tractors that it could find. However, it gained further fuel savings by closing the trailer gap - something as simple as shifting the fifth wheel forward, coupled with the spec’ing of shorter frame rails.
Although using SmartWay-verified technologies is not a requirement for participation in the program, companies can save fuel, which means reduced emissions rates and a better ranking in the program against peers.
“It still has to be feasible, we are a refrigerated carrier, so we still need the room in there (for the refrigeration unit),” Kurtz explained. However, bringing the trailer tighter to the rear of the cab allowed air to flow unimpeded over the tractor and along the roof of the trailer rather than becoming trapped between the tractor and trailer and creating an opposing force for the vehicle to overcome.
Another way Kurtz achieved its objectives was to reduce idling time and to educate drivers that today’s diesel engines don’t need to be warmed up as they did in the past. Telling drivers not to idle is a sure way to get their backs up, but Kurtz said most drivers shared the company’s goals.
“We’re lucky, we’ve got a very smart group of guys,” he said. “The majority of the guys realized very quickly that if they benefited financially, it was worth doing. So it was a little challenging in the beginning, but I think now pretty much everyone’s bought in. Especially when fuel was $4/gallon, they bought in really fast.”
Sharing in the savings helped ensure buy-in from drivers. Kurtz offers a bonus for drivers who keep their idling low. Kurtz noted reducing idling goes a long way towards improving fleet-wide fuel economy.
New equipment continues to be spec’d with fuel economy in mind. One of the most significant advances Kurtz has noticed is that engines can now be specified to run at lower rpm, which provides big savings. Engine manufacturers claim that for every 100 rpm slower the engine turns at highway speeds - a powertrain strategy referred to as downspeeding - fuel savings of 1% to 1.5% is achieved.
“We definitely gear them to run at much lower rpms than we did in the past,” Kurtz explained. “We spec’ them to run slow, but we are also getting the engine rpm in the right location at the right time.”
Kurtz Trucking was also among the first Ontario-based carriers to begin equipping its trailers with trailer tails. The province legalized the use of full-length trailer tails, which are said to provide fuel savings of greater than 5% at highway speeds, in 2014. “Pretty much everything is spec’d to be as smooth as it can be in the wind,” Kurtz affirmed.
Running a modern fleet with the newest equipment has ensured Kurtz Trucking is getting the fuel economy benefits of the latest and greatest technologies.
“We’ve always tried to run the best equipment,” Kurtz said. “Because if we run the best equipment, I believe we get the best drivers. Our guys have pride in what they do. So that really takes us down the road of staying on the cutting edge of equipment. Our newer trucks are getting far better fuel economy than our old ones. It’s definitely the right move in my mind.”
‘If you don’t measure, you can’t improve’
Benchmarking is one of the advantages of SmartWay participation for Groupe Boutin
As a transportation provider, it can be difficult to determine how your company’s best practices compare to those of your peers in the industry. For Groupe Boutin, getting involved with the SmartWay program allowed the company to do just that. Bernard Boutin, president of Groupe Boutin, said that as his company went through the process of becoming a SmartWay member, it was also able to determine how it was performing against industry norms. It was an unofficial exercise in benchmarking.
“When you are a manager, you want to be compared, and when you get compared, this is the way you can improve your own numbers,” Mr. Boutin said. “If you never compare your business with others, you cannot work to improve it. You are able to improve what is measurable. If you aren’t able to measure, you aren’t able to improve.”
Becoming a SmartWay partner required the company to examine its performance in fuel conservation. There were some surprises learned through the process and also some vindications.
“Yes, I was a bit surprised about some of the data in SmartWay’s benchmarking report,” Mr. Boutin said. “In general, I think we are doing well. We’ve received some prizes in the province of Quebec for the way we manage our fleet. But when SmartWay compared us to other fleets I was surprised in some aspects. For example, the use of the capacity of the fleet. I think that we were not great in this area and we were a little disappointed. And we were positively surprised in some other areas. But the good news is, as soon as you get compared to other companies, you can work to improve and get better.”
Groupe Boutin runs a diverse fleet with three divisions hauling everything from LTL, truckload, tandem vans, to the US and multiple-axle trailers in Quebec and Ontario. This made it challenging for the company to implement solutions that would be effective across its entire operations.
Mr. Boutin said the SmartWay program does a good job of issuing reports that take into account the realities of the application. For example, it doesn’t compare Groupe Boutin’s tandem van fleet to its quad-axle fleet expecting similar results.
“The reports I am getting are for each company and for each operation,” he said, referring to Transnat Express and Frontenac Express - which also fall under the Groupe Boutin umbrella – and referring to an LTL and a TL operation per corridor.
One of the most significant changes the company has made since becoming a SmartWay member is to install satellite systems in each of its tractors that provide more than just GPS location data, but also report back the weekly kilometers per unit, the driver’s location, and the actual fuel consumption of each vehicle, compared to having this last data every month.
“It’s going to give us a lot of additional data related to fuel consumption,” Mr. Boutin predicted. Two different systems were chosen: one for the LTL city trucks and another for the highway trucks.
This tracking means the company will be able to more easily identify the vehicles and drivers that are underperforming, and to provide more training where required. It also means drivers are under increased scrutiny, which could of course result in some pushback if not carefully implemented. But Boutin said for the most part, drivers accepted the change.
“Some drivers were asking ‘Are you going to watch me on everything I am doing now?’ They felt a little bit cheeky because you have Big Brother sitting in the same truck. But we’ve also had some other drivers that were telling us ‘I spend my life telling you that I am doing a good job. Now you will have the proof that I am doing a good job.’ And also in the case of an accident, I know the majority of people like to have the tools to prove what happened,” Mr. Boutin reasoned. “In general, it is very well accepted, but this is not automatic. You have to do it one step at a time and speak to your personnel.”
The trucks themselves have not changed drastically since Groupe Boutin became a SmartWay carrier; it was already spec’ing aerodynamic tractors and had won awards for doing so. The fleet was looking for ways to make its trucks more fuel-efficient as far back as 1995 and was ahead of its time in this regard. It was even applying the principles of downspeed powertrains before downspeeding became the buzzword it is today.
“At that time, (the mid-90s), we concluded that we had to reduce the rpm on these trucks,” Mr. Boutin said. “We were considered crazy people from leadership and from manufacturers because the trucks were running over 1,600 rpm - like 1,650 or 1,700 - and we decided to get that down and we saved a lot. Since that time we have spec’ed our trucks similarly.”
Groupe Boutin equips highway tractors and trailers with air deflectors and is running wide-base single tires where applicable and has a full-time employee dedicated to tracking fuel economy and generating reports. Each week, the person in charge of training meets with drivers to go over the reports and discuss ways to improve their performance. This is an ongoing process throughout the year, every year, Mr. Boutin explained. “It’s a constant battle,” he said.
The company promotes its involvement in SmartWay through its marketing materials and this has resonated with some customers. “Some customers like to know, in what types of programs are we engaged and how we are taking care of the environment,” Mr. Boutin said, noting some shippers even include such considerations in their request for proposals.
However, the greatest benefit to belonging in SmartWay, according to Mr. Boutin, is to find out exactly how your company stacks up against others.
“I think the most important thing is to be compared,” he said. “It is a great way to improve your own company. If you are not afraid to get compared, I think this is very positive for your organization.”
Groupe Boutin operates 270 tractors and about 700 trailers. It has a network of eight terminals in Ontario and Quebec. It operates four divisions, V. Boutin Express, Transnat Express,Frontenac Express and Transport Jean Beaudry and boasts a diverse fleet of equipment including vans, flatdecks, and roll-away trailers. The company provides truckload and less-than-load transportation between Quebec and Ontario and into the US. The company was founded in 1945, two generations before, when Valère Boutin purchased a seven-unit fleet from Richard Transport, a company located in Plessisville, Quebec.
SmartWay Membership a Bright Idea for RoadStar
Decision to join was driven by economic and environmental concerns
With oil prices seemingly in freefall, resulting in softening diesel prices at the pump, it might be understandable for a trucking company to temporarily lose sight of the importance of fuel efficiency - to take its eye off the ball, if even for a moment. Just don’t mention that to Chris Eriksen, general manager of the SmartWay carrier, RoadStar Trucking.
“Absolutely not,” he retorted, when asked if this was the case. “With the current softening of diesel prices, some customers have asked for a reduction in their applied fuel surcharges. So no, we can’t take our eyes off it.”
Based out of a single terminal in Milton, Ont., RoadStar operates 115 power units and 225 tandem trailers, a mix of dry vans and refrigerated trucks. Most of its business is to the U.S., but it also serves the Toronto-Montreal corridor. The company was founded on the principle of providing value-add services, and charging appropriately for those services. “This allows us to be competitive in the driver market and pay them a fair market wage,” Eriksen explained.
To offer competitive pay to drivers requires a carrier to look at other areas to reduce operating costs. The obvious target is fuel consumption. RoadStar joined the SmartWay Transport Partnership in 2009 with an eye towards reducing its fuel spend and equally important, its environmental footprint.
“Our speed reduction policy is probably our biggest ‘catch’ to date,” Eriksen explained. “Our entire fleet is subject to speed fuel consumption.”
Of course to implement such changes requires buy-in from the entire organization, and some initial resistance had to be overcome.
“Certainly, the implementation to the fleet was a change, and change always comes with some resistance,” Eriksen said. “But through diligence, we were able to get most (drivers and staff) to see the benefits. The company fleet was certainly watched a little more closely than the owner/operator fleet in the beginning, since it was our fuel. We needed to show the owner/operators our savings, therefore opening their eyes somewhat. Today, we have full buy-in from the fleet. With fuel being our largest cost, we need to continue to monitor all parts of our corporate standard operating procedures.”
All new trucks placed into the fleet have been ordered with fuel efficiency in mind. “We are conscious when purchasing new equipment that the equipment hosts the latest technology.” This includes some obvious aerodynamic options such as full fairings and covered fuel tanks, as well as some more advanced powertrain specifications.
Our motivation (for joining SmartWay) wasn’t purely an economical decision,” said Eriksen, but out of the bigger picture, our environment.” Since joining the program, RoadStar has achieved both these goals, having reduced its fuel consumption through spec’ing of more efficient equipment and by implementing policies to reduce idling and limit speed.
Chris Eriksen, General Manager,
“I believe SmartWay has made us more conscious of considerations when spec’ing new equipment,” Eriksen acknowledged. “Recently, we have purchased 20 new line haul units for cross-border applications with 16-speed automatics and a 2:55 gear ratio, providing us great savings on fuel. All of our trailers are equipped with full side skirts, starting behind the landing gear and stopping just prior to the front axle of the tandems.”
RoadStar has taken advantage of the extra surface space the trailer fairings afford, to promote its environmental awareness. ‘Think Green for a Better Tomorrow,’ the colourful skirts read. They’re emblazoned with an image of a family set upon a background of blue sky and green trees. It’s an eye-catching message.
“We always receive positive comments on the wrapped skirts,” Eriksen said. Those trailer fairings are no doubt seen by thousands of motorists and passengers each day.
“I can’t say that SmartWay has had a direct reflection on new business growth,” Eriksen says. “But it certainly hasn’t hurt. Customers notice RoadStar’s SmartWay branding, identifying RoadStar as a member.”
The company’s focus on sustainability has also been appreciated by staff and drivers, he added. While joining the program in the beginning involved some “somewhat daunting” administration, maintaining the program is simple, according to Eriksen.
And as an added benefit, participating in the SmartWay program ensures you never lose sight of the importance of fuel-efficiency.
“It forces you to look at the data, to keep in real touch with your fleet,” Eriksen said. “It also gives you the ability to identify areas that could - or will - need improvements.”
And that holds true, even if fuel is a little cheaper at the pump these days.
FGM finds investment in SmartWay worth the returns
New cultural change emerges after FGM signs up
Little changes can make a huge difference. And paying attention to the details makes it possible to understand exactly which little changes are most helpful in improving fuel economy and becoming a greener fleet. Those are realizations FGM Trucklines Inc. in Bolton, Ontario, has arrived at through its participation in the SmartWay program. FGM, a family-run business, has 23 trucks, mostly Peterbilts and Kenworths, and 30 trailers that do long-haul runs into the southern United States. For the past four years, FGM has been a SmartWay member—a decision that seen improvements in fuel economy but also experienced a swing in FGM’s company culture.
Justin Moss, FGM’s director of dispatch, said initially participating in SmartWay required considerable time and effort to collect annual data but, the results were definitely worth it.
“The very first SmartWay tool I filled out probably took me two days to compile the information. I was really blown away by how in-depth it was. The information they asked for was stuff that was always there—how much fuel we purchased and how many kilometres we ran—but it was very segregated at the time. There wasn’t one person who took care of all of this. The safety department took care of how many miles and how many states we ran through, and what we had to give to the International Registration Plan (IRP) office. Accounts payable had to figure out what we were paying for fuel this week, and how much it was last week.”
“There wasn’t really a culture or an understanding of what we were running per litre, our cost per kilometre, what we were spending per litre or per kilometre on fuel, that sort of stuff. It was there but it wasn’t. Being able to fill out that first tool, I was able to bring everything together and at the end, when we saw the benchmarking report, we were able to see how many litres per kilometre we had, and how long we idled. At that point, once you see those numbers you can affix a cost for those numbers. That’s when we started to move from there.”
Moving on from there meant making some voluntary changes, not just to the equipment mounted on the trucks, but the trucks themselves. Now FGM has not just added on low rolling resistance tires and trailer skirts, and switched to lighter-weight trailers, but it has changed its truck-buying philosophy. Prior to joining SmartWay, much of FGM’s fleet was older Peterbilts that were “cool to look at with the lights and stuff,” said Moss, even if they weren’t the most fuel-efficient.
“We were running with the same, older mentality we had when we were starting the company. We had trucks with the big engines. Had to make sure we had enough power, and we operated them in a certain way to make sure the freight moved consistently and we were able to pick-up without being concerned about truck weight,” he said.
“I can tell you five years ago we were probably dead set against buying new trucks. We had these big fancy trucks with these big fancy motors. Everything looked good when it was rolling down the road. That culture is almost gone out the window. Now it’s all about aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, the carbon footprint. There is a lot more of that now in the new culture than there was before.”
That cultural shift has extended outside of the purchasing department and into other aspects of the business. Dispatch, for example, has started thinking differently about how it routes the trucks.
“As a culture, especially in dispatch, we are very much more mindful of how many off-route miles we run. There is always a direct route from A to B. We try to stay on that direct route. That has become a very big part of our culture.”
Another part of the company’s culture that has been changed by SmartWay is the marketing side of the business. Having the SmartWay technology logo on the side of its trucks and the SmartWay partnership logo in its e-mail signatures is an easy way for FGM to promote itself and let its customers know that it’s taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint. According to Moss, that is a message that is definitely getting through.
“We’ve had a few people ask about it. They do recognize we have the logo in our e-mails and when the truck rolls up, they see the little tag on the side of it. That’s good exposure, leading customers to ask ‘What do you do? How do you get the investment back? How do you pay for it?’”
Moss is convinced that even more people will be asking those questions and more in the future. In particular, he expects it will soon be common for customers to ask: what is FGM doing to reduce its environmental footprint? And being part of SmartWay, he will be able to easily provide an answer, especially now that the company is used to providing the data SmartWay requires. Unlike his time-consuming first attempt to fill out the tool, Moss said completing the latest one took less than 15 minutes.
A lot has changed since the company received its first SmartWay evaluation report. At the time, Moss said he could see that there was need for change at FGM. By setting their sights on areas for improvement and implementing series of little changes, FGM has improved its fuel efficiency and reduced its environmental footprint faster than the freight industry average.
Thomson Terminals Limited
Taking a heavy load off Mother Nature
At Thomson Terminals, heavy payloads don’t preclude fuel-efficiency
Thomson’s journey towards sustainability began in the mid-2000s, around the same time the SmartWay Partnership Program was formed, with the simple goal of increasing its recycling.
“Internally, there were a lot of questions on things like, how do we do simple things like recycle better?” recalled Kevin Farr, director of business development for the Toronto, Ont.-based transportation company. “Surprisingly, a decade ago, there were few options to truly recycle all material at the end of the day; recycling would only include paper and can products. As the green movement started emerging, disposal companies that serviced businesses started allowing for a more diverse range of recycling and we started implementing that.”
In 2005, Thomson Terminals, which operates a fleet of 1,000 pieces of equipment out of 12 terminals, wrote its first environmental policy, which was incorporated into its ISO program. The arrival of the SmartWay program was welcomed, because it provided the tools for carriers to more accurately measure their environmental footprint. SmartWay validated many of the fuel-saving initiatives that Thomson had already been employing.
“Our company has always been geared towards naturally trying to create efficiencies,” Farr said. “Trying to purchase new equipment and trying to make it lighter allows better fuel economy naturally, so we already had things in place in our purchasing and maintenance programs (to improve fuel economy).”
One of the challenges facing Thomson Group was that it often pulls heavily-loaded tridem and quad-axle trailers, so its fuel consumption is inherently higher than that of its peers who transport lighter payloads in tandem trailers. Farr feels the analytical tools provided by SmartWay don’t yet fully recognize the impact of “payload strategy” which allows for more product to be transported with fewer trucks. However, with the Canadian SmartWay program now up and running, Farr said he’s hopeful more will be done within the program to reflect the diversity of the Canadian transportation landscape and to recognize the provincial advantages such as grants and subsidies as well as equipment-related variances.
“The green movement has come light years from where we started, and now there is some fine tuning (required),” Farr said of the program. As fuel-saving technologies have emerged, Thomson has been eager to deploy them, with mixed results. “There have been successes and failures over the years as new systems have come online,” Farr said. Auxiliary power units (APUs) have become a standard spec’ on Thomson Group’s highway tractors along with a multitude of other options and features.
Some of the most effective fuel-saving strategies have involved the maintenance of vehicles, especially tires. “Our tire technicians are excellent,” Farr said. “We try to maintain simple things such a running a good set of tires and having them inflated on a regular basis with very stringent checks.”
Simply buying new tractors and trailers gives carriers the ability to improve their fuel consumption and reduce emissions, without having to develop any radical or elaborate strategies. “We try to take advantage of the natural occurrences that happen when purchasing equipment,” he explained. “This year, we purchased 30 brand new tractors and new trailers and with that, you get the immediate boost in regards to the technology that’s been developed. It’s quite consistent. You’re always getting slightly lighter and stronger axles and wheels and that all helps at the end of the day to reduce your drag and/or TARE weight.” Even the mirrors have become more aerodynamic on the latest truck designs, Farr added.
“Now, our fleet is fairly modern and we get all the benefits of the aerodynamic capabilities.”
When spec’ing new equipment, Thomson is looking for more than just a SmartWay sticker. SmartWay’s approval is important, but it’s not the only factor.
“We work with vendors as much as possible,” Farr said. “Whatever makes sense, we’re going to try to implement.”
Being fuel-efficient not only provides a direct benefit to the company’s profitability but also helps it earn new business. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) often have a check box asking if a prospective carrier is a SmartWay member. Some go further than that.
“Some (customers) have asked us, are you or are you not a SmartWay member. Some have asked us to send some of the reports that get generated through the tools that SmartWay provides, so we’ve done that,” says Farr.
Thomson has incorporated its SmartWay membership and environmental programs into its marketing materials, which has had an impact with some shippers. While there is still room for improvement with the program, Farr said he’s excited about what the future may entail, specifically more accurate data, delivered more efficiently via on-board computers.
“SmartWay is evolving. What we are doing right now is just the start,” he said. “As tractors become more sophisticated, computer systems will be able to download more data. It will get to the point where you’re just downloading your information (from the engine ECMs) and putting it through a SmartWay system and it will crunch the numbers and really allow it to be completely transparent. Right now, we’re still using Excel-based documents, putting in our total equipment, years, when we bought it and various other things and it’s balancing all those things with our fuel use. How many miles did we run in the city and on the highway? So it’s still kind of rudimentary, but it gets you a number and I think that’s the main point. At some point in time, it will be much more detail-oriented and I look forward to continuing down this road.”
Thomson Group’s SmartWay spec’:
Thomson Group is always looking for new ways to reduce its fuel consumption and emissions. Here’s a grocery list of options and specifications that the company has made standard on new equipment.
APUs: All Thomson highway tractors are equipped with auxiliary power units.
Engine shut-down: Automatic engine shutdown units are in all new tractors purchased in the last five years.
Hybrid refrigeration units: All reefers run on vari-power, maximizing fuel efficiency.
Aerodynamic profile tractors and aerodynamic reefer units;
Integrated cab roof fairings;
Roof fairings and cab roof deflectors;
Cab side fairings
Front bumper air dams;
Trailer gap reduction (cab extenders);
Weight reduction and advanced lubricant technology
Weight reduction in trailer and tractors through the use of aluminum in regards to wheels, body components and fuel tanks;
Low-friction engine and drivetrain lubricants;
All tractors have been converted to synthetic products to improve fuel efficiency.
Larger cube and payload strategies
Larger capacity trailer strategies (Thomson provides high cube, quad-axle equipment for a variety of companies allowing in some cases a 50% increase in payload).
Speed management controls and policy
Speed Management includes both electronic engine controls which is geared to 105 km/h and driver training provided through Thomson's safety department;
Eco-friendly driver training, consisting of progressive shifting, engine speed optimization, smooth acceleration and braking, anticipatory driving, efficient route selection, speed control and idle reduction.
Note from SmartWay on payload
The SmartWay truck tool allows companies to report all types of trucks and trailers used in Canada. For fair comparison, truck carrier operations are broken down into thirteen fleet categories. When shippers use SmartWay to compare carriers, it is at the fleet category level. This ensures “apples to apples” comparisons.The SmartWay program can offer you advice on how to define your fleet in a way that best reflects your operations and body types so that you can be compared fairly with your peers.
SmartWay presents fleet data using 2 units of measure: g/t-km (best used for heavier payloads) and g/km (best used for lighter payloads).
Mullen Group’s trucking companies do SmartWay their own way
If you think optimizing fuel economy and managing emissions across a fleet of 10 trucks is challenging, try doing so for 10 trucking companies.
Okotoks, Alta.-based Mullen Group operates a trucking and logistics segment that is comprised of 10 carriers, as well as an oilfield services segment made up of 16 additional companies, many of which provide trucking services. Each individual company in Mullen Group is granted the autonomy to make decisions that work best for its own operations; but best practices are shared across the group.
This is also how Mullen Group has approached the SmartWay program. Since as far back as 2006, cross-border trucking firms within Mullen Group have been signing on to the SmartWay program, tracking their fuel performance and benchmarking their operations. Now that the program has come to Canada, Mullen Group is looking to get its domestic fleets such as Jay’s Moving & Storage on-board as well.
“It originated with our cross-border fleets, so when you look down the list you’ll look at companies like Mill Creek, Kleysen, Payne Transportation, Tenold and Mullen Trucking being involved. That was kind of the start of our introduction. With the launch of SmartWay Canada by Natural Resources Canada, that opens up the door for some of the other companies within our group,” said Randy Mercer, director of Health, Safety and Environment for Mullen Group.
Getting individual carriers signed on to the SmartWay program can be an onerous process at first, but once they’ve joined, it becomes easier to maintain their SmartWay status, Mercer explained.
“When you first participate in the program, there’s a lot of up-front paperwork and documentation that you have,” he said. “Fleet truck counts, trailer counts, APUs, idle policies - you have to go through the whole gamut. But after the initial application, it’s more of a yearly update, so it’s very time-consuming to start off with the program but after that, it’s mostly maintenance.”
Despite the administrative challenges that joining SmartWay initially incurs, the benefits of belonging to the program are obvious, since SmartWay’s objectives to help fleets manage and improve their fuel economy while transporting goods in the cleanest most efficient way possible are aligned with a carrier’s own goals to reduce costs and improve profitability.
“To get buy-in from our senior leadership has been relatively easy,” Mercer said. “Most people are on-board with it. It’s not a difficult sell.”
The trucking companies in Mullen Group will travel about 250 million kilometres this year, so even a seemingly small reduction in fuel consumption will deliver big savings when extrapolated across the entire business.
Because Mullen Group’s trucking companies run a mix of company-owned and lease/operator-run trucks, it was imperative that owner/operators also supported the program if it was to achieve success. Mercer said they have been receptive to the program and eager to participate because in the end when owner/operators follow best practices in fuel efficiency that helps them save money. “A good part of the SmartWay program is reducing fuel and, of course, that equates to saving cash,” Mercer said.
Mullen Group companies who are part of SmartWay have also found their involvement has resonated with customers. “Absolutely, we use it in our marketing,” said Mercer. “We’ve got a SmartWay logo on our websites throughout our business units. SmartWay is a joint venture between the shipping and transportation communities so there are a lot of big names in the shipping community that participate in this program as well.”
How to improve your performance:
SmartWay can link you to a free online program for professional drivers, the SmartDriver E-Learning training program. This course, offered through Natural Resource Canada’s FleetSmart program, provides information on how to be a more fuel-efficient driver. FleetSmart also provides in-class fuel efficient driver training, free tools and resources on topics such as fuel management, aerodynamic technologies and strategies for reducing idling, as well as a wide range of videos for easy learning. For more information, contact the SmartWay team at 1-855-322-1564 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In participating in SmartWay, Mullen’s trucking firms have focused on spec’ing fuel-efficient equipment, properly maintaining it and reducing idle-time. “General maintenance is a big component to a fuel-efficient vehicle, but you also look at other things,” said Mercer. “You look at APU (auxiliary power unit) usage, idle policy. Do you have an idle policy? Do you govern your vehicles’ speed?”
Driver training is another important component of Mullen Group’s SmartWay strategy. By training drivers on defensive driving skills using the Smith System and other available training programs, Mercer said drivers have become safer and more fuel-efficient.
“It doesn’t matter which defensive driving course you teach, progressive shifting is a key to good fuel savings. Backing off the accelerator when approaching a light, maintaining good following distance - all these things are key contributors to brake wear, tire wear and fuel consumption. A good defensive driving program pays incredible dividends back to you. You get a good, defensive driver, plus you’re reducing the maintenance costs on the vehicle and you’re saving fuel.”
Because Mullen Group operates such a diverse fleet - and fleets within the fleet - it allows each company to make its own choices with regards to SmartWay. “We try to give them a lot of latitude to run their own organization the way they see fit and decide which policies they want to jump onto and not paint every company with the same brush and the same colour. They’re all independently run and operated,” Mercer pointed out.
Still, the trucking companies within Mullen Group are happy to share what has worked best for them and which initiatives failed to meet expectations.
“One of the benefits of being such a large organization is that we can share best practices amongst each other and we do that as best we can on a weekly basis,” Mercer said.
Another advantage of belonging to the SmartWay program, and one that’s easy to overlook, is that employees feel good about being associated with a company that’s actively looking to reduce its impact on the environment. “I think it’s important and I think our employees grasp onto it and also think it’s important,” Mercer said. “The more you can think about the future of our planet, the better off we’ll all be in the long run.”
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