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.
Archived Partner Profiles
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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