There’s more behind the renewed surge of interest in alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas than the comparatively high price of diesel.
Shippers, especially retailers, are driving transport operators such as Saddle Creek Logistics Services toward alternative fuels to meet sustainability goals.
Retailers, whether big box stores or smaller operators, have a direct connection with the end consumer, says Brad Rolland, a director atSaddle Creek.
“They’re the ones you’re going to see on TV advertising daily and weekly specials. They have a direct relationship with that customer,” said Rolland.
“The retailer could absolutely advertise on the store level, on TV or in print, or even on the side of a trailer — this store is powered by CNG,” he said.
Click Play to Hear Interview
Rolland speaks from experience. Lakeland, Fla.-based Saddle Creek Logistics Services is using 40 CNG-powered trucks and plans to eventually add 80 more.
These aren’t small delivery vans, but heavy-dutyFreightliner tractors with Cummins engines capable of hauling loads of up to 49,000 pounds 500 miles or more.
The CNG tanks for the heavy trucks were designed by Agility Fuel Systems.
In the accompanying video from the recent NASSTRAC conference, Rolland offers a tour of one of Saddle Creek’s CNG trucks from mud flaps to spark plugs.
Saddle Creek began testing CNG power last year and deploying trucks in January as part of a 10-year partnership with fueling station operator Clean Energy.
The company plans to add 40 more CNG-powered trucks inLakeland, Rolland said in an interview, and then place more fueling stations and trucks at other locations.
“Clean Energy really got us started with this a little over a year and a half ago,” he said. “They educated us, and we did our due diligence on natural gas.”
Clean Energy’s fueling station at Saddle Creek’s Lakeland headquarters can fuel up to 120 trucks.
CNG is most popular as a fuel for local fleets, such as waste-haulers or transit buses. Saddle Creek needed a longer-haul solution for its warehousing customers.
“We had to be able to make the trip to Miami and the trip to Jacksonville and back, so we had to get CNG tanks that could get that 550 mile range,” Rolland said.