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"Sustainability" has become a buzzword that impacts multiple areas of logistics, says Michael DelBovo, president of Saddle Creek Transportation. Among the company's more recent ventures in that area is the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as fuel for its trucks. Saddle Creek has already purchased 40 out of 80 planned units with that capability. "We're very excited about this new initiative," he says.
CNG is a more attractive fuel than diesel because it is cleaner-burning and available in ample quantities. It results in the emission of 95 percent less particulate matter, amounting to an annual reduction of 103,000 pounds of carbon per truck. "That's like planting 85,000 trees a year," says DelBovo. What's more, use of the fuel results in quieter operations, making possible economical night deliveries in residential neighborhoods. DelBovo says Saddle Creek will be seeking waivers allowing it to operate trucks during off-hours. In a partnership with Freightliner, it was planning on taking delivery of the first specially designed units in the last quarter of 2011.
Trucks designed to run efficiently on CNG are "substantially" more expensive to purchase, DelBovo acknowledges, but the lower cost of fuel makes up for the additional cost. In addition, because it dissipates in the atmosphere, natural gas has far less of an adverse environmental impact than diesel fuel. "You can never spill a drop," he says. "There's a much smaller carbon footprint."
One present-day drawback to the increased use of CNG is a scarcity of fueling locations across the country. Saddle Creek has signed a 10-year contract to develop CNG stations in partnership with a large construction company. At the outset, the companies are building a station in Lakeland, Fla., with pipes located underground to protect against disruptions caused by weather. Regular and compressed natural gas can be delivered by pipeline from more than 600 miles away, DelBovo says.
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