It’s been quite a past year when it comes to green fleet initiatives, and this year we are highlighting 30 Top Green Fleets that are leading the way. A number of trends are accelerating moves to alternative fuels and drivetrains, as well as increasing focus on fuel economy and freight efficiency, which you can see reflected in this year’s honorees.
This year, a major United Nations report on climate change found that the climate is going to continue to heat up, leading to more severe weather and other consequences. In order to avoid a doomsday scenario, it said, we need to seriously start moving away from fossil fuels now in order to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by around 2050.
More and more corporations are announcing sustainability and climate goals, often as part of broader ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) goals. Annual sustainability or ESG reports set out these goals and track the company’s progress. For private fleets, decarbonizing the fleet is often an important part of meeting the parent company’s goals. For-hire fleets are finding they need to improve their sustainability or ESG scores in order to meet customer demands. And some fleets just see it as the right thing to do.
There is also increasing growth of emissions regulations. California is pushing manufacturers of Class 2b-Class 8 vehicles with combustion engines to sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of their California sales from 2024 to 2035. This year, New York announced similar rules, and other states are looking to follow. In Europe there is a major push to decarbonize freight movement. Given the global nature of today’s truck makers, that technology is also making its way to our shores.
Given all that, it’s little wonder that the past year has seen the arrival of commercially available Class 8 battery-electric trucks from most of the major truck makers, as well as a flood of light- and medium-duty battery-electric delivery trucks and vans from new names and old. Even the North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s Run on Less event focused on electric trucks this year.
But just when we thought those electric trucks were pushing natural-gas-powered trucks into the background, we’ve seen increased interest in natural gas, as well, driven by Cummins’ new near-zero-emissions engines and the increasing availability of renewable natural gas. There are innovative hybrid concepts, too, using renewable natural gas to extend the range of battery-electric vehicles. And other renewable fuels are becoming available, such as renewable diesel and even renewable propane autogas.
Still on the horizon are fuel-cell-electric trucks, although heavy-truck makers are pouring research and development efforts into what many believe will be a necessity to decarbonize long-haul trucking. However, some of our fleets will be giving early versions a spin in the near future.
On top of all that, diesel prices have risen to their highest since the end of 2014, and crude oil prices don’t show signs of improving anytime soon. Whether a fleet is running conventional engines or electric, operating in the most efficient ways helps save fuel or extend battery range.
Meet 30 of the greenest fleets in the U.S.
Albertsons Companies, the second-largest grocery chain in the U.S., committed this year to setting a science-based target to reduce carbon emissions. The company took delivery of two Volvo VNR Electric trucks at its distribution center in Irvine, California. They will be paired with electric-powered transport refrigeration units from Advanced Energy for zero-emission grocery delivery. Albertsons operates 1,400 Class 8 trucks nationwide, all certified under the
Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay program. It maintains sustainability goals in all sectors of its operations. A biodiesel program converts used cooking oil from California stores into fuel that powers a portion of its truck fleet.
Amazon rolled out the first of 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles from Rivian in Los Angeles in February and will expand to up to 15 more U.S. cities by the end of the year. It plans to have 10,000 vehicles on the road as early as 2022 and all 100,000 vehicles deployed by 2030. It’s just one of a variety of solutions Amazon is using to decarbonize its freight transportation network. In 2020 it ordered battery-electric trucks from Lion Electric, and this year began testing hydrogen-powered trucks. It also launched compressed natural gas tractors fueled by renewable natural gas sourced from landfills and dairy farms, planning to operate 2,700 of these tractors in North America, the UK, Germany, and France by the end of 2021.
St. Louis, Missouri
Anheuser-Busch says it will be among the first companies to receive zero-emission long-haul trucks and has already transitioned parts of its short-haul fleet to low-emission fuels such as renewable natural gas. This year, the brewery giant was a participant in the North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s Run on Less Electric demonstration program with a BYD Class 8 8TT tandem-axle cabover day cab tractor. The company regularly evaluates to make sure it’s using the most efficient mode of transportation in its network, be that rail, intermodal, truck, etc. Route optimization uses smart routing technologies and production planning to reduce total miles and empty miles, including engaging innovative external routing partners such as TransFix, Uber, and Convoy. Anheuser-Busch tracks and encourages fuel efficiency improvements. Its ultimate goal is to transition to zero-emission vehicles where it’s possible, and to use low- emission fuel options everywhere else.
Averitt was a founding member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program. Since joining SmartWay in 2004, Averitt has achieved a 38% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, a 88% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, and saved an estimated 6.2 million gallons of diesel fuel, even as it has grown from a small, local LTL carrier to a global logistics provider. It uses low-emissions diesel tractors, route and mode optimization, weigh-station bypass, low-viscosity engine oils, auxiliary power units, speed limiters, aerodynamic add-ons, and automated transmissions with predictive cruise and coast modes, and gathers data to measure fuel efficiency on an individual tractor level.
A member of the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership, Biagi Bros. is known for green fleet operations in the beverage marketplace, including clean-diesel trucks, compressed natural gas trucks, and LEED-certified facilities. This year, the company participated in NACFE’s Run on Less Electric challenge with a Peterbilt Model 579EV battery-electric day cab, shuttling wine between Sonoma to Napa. Biagi Bros. also is deploying 12 new natural-gas-powered trucks through Clean Energy’s Zero Now program to be powered with renewable natural gas.
City of Long Beach
Long Beach, California
The City of Long Beach fleet, approximately 2,200 units, supports police, fire, airport, towing, refuse, street sweeping, and more. It uses a variety of alternative fuels: renewable compressed natural gas, renewable liquefied natural gas, renewable diesel, renewable propane, and full-electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The fleet is currently 49% alternative fuel, and the non-safety fleet is 68% alternative fuel. In 2020, 54% of fuel used was renewable, and the 2022 plan is for 74%. An interdepartmental Zero Emission Vehicle Task Force is guiding the transition of all possible city vehicles to electric. Where electric vehicles are not yet feasible, renewable natural gas is an answer, in Cummins near-zero-emissions engines. Renewable diesel is used for emergency response vehicles not able to convert to natural gas.
Dependable Highway Express
Los Angeles, California
A little over a year ago, Dependable Highway Express became one of the first fleet operators in North America to deploy Volvo VNR Electric trucks, which it has since integrated into its daily routes throughout Southern California. This summer, DHE deployed three more Volvo VNR Electric trucks and plans to take delivery of 10 more in 2022. In addition, DHE teamed up with SunPower and Kuehne+Nagel for a sustainable freight initiative to transport solar photovoltaics products using solar-powered Volvo VNR Electric trucks. The trucks will run warehouse distribution routes for SunPower from its facility in Ontario, California, where they are recharged daily by electricity generated by on-site solar panels. DHE installed more than 2,300 solar panels on the roof of its Ontario facility and employee parking canopies in 2020, which generate enough renewable electricity to power its building, the Volvo VNR Electric fleet, employee electric vehicle chargers, and battery-electric freight equipment such as electric forklifts and Orange EV electric yard tractors.
San Antonio, Texas
Frac sand solutions provider Detmar Logistics has the ambitious goal of having a fully electrified fleet by 2026. It has begun a transition to hybrid diesel and hybrid electric compressed-natural-gas tractors, working with Hyliion. Detmar, which owns and operates 127 trucks and hauls over 200 loads of fracking sand per day, placed an initial order of 10 Hyliion Hybrid Electric units. And it has reserved 300 of the Hyliion Hypertruck ERX, a next-generation electric powertrain that is recharged by an onboard natural gas generator, enabling long range and quick refueling. Flaring at oil and gas extraction sites is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitting practices in the industry. However, infrastructure to convert flare gas into usable CNG continues to grow, so it can power trucks such as Hyliion’s CNG Hybrid and Hypertruck ERX.
Los Angeles, California
DHL has been testing electric heavy-duty trucks in Sweden with Volvo, and a year ago, it started piloting BYD Class 8 battery-electric trucks in the Los Angeles market. DHL Express U.S. was a participant in NACFE’s Run on Less Electric with a Transit 350HD cargo van from Lightning eMotors. The company’s target globally is to reduce all logistics-related emissions to zero by 2050. By 2030, it plans to have more than 80,000 e-vehicles on the road and 60% of its last-mile delivery vehicles electrified. For line-haul trucks, DHL is moving to sustainable fuels and route optimization and plans to increase its use of sustainable fuels in line haul to more than 30% by 2030. It supports the development and market availability of hydrogen and electric trucks and it’s even ordered electric planes. In the U.S., DHL’s alternative fuel vehicle fleet includes fully electric, hybrid-electric, and clean diesel. DHL Express has 72 all-electric battery-powered vans on order from multiple vendors for use in California and New York.
Estes Express Lines
Estes Express, which has more than 8,000 tractors, is expanding its renewable natural gas fleet, as well as growing its supply of electric forklifts. It has been installing solar-powered systems in four of its terminals and implemented a reuse and recycle program. Earlier this year, Estes ordered an additional 50 natural-gas-powered trucks with Cummins-Westport’s near-zero emissions natural gas engines and Hexagon Agility’s compressed natural gas/renewable natural gas fuel systems. The company signed an agreement to fuel its CNG trucks with RNG. The new order was in addition to Estes’ existing 21 CNG/RNG trucks operating throughout Texas.
FedEx this year announced an ambitious goal to achieve carbon–neutral operations globally by 2040. More than $2 billion of initial investment will target three areas: vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration. By 2040, the entire FedEx parcel pickup and delivery fleet will be zero–emission electric vehicles. By 2025, 50% of FedEx Express global PUD vehicle purchases will be electric, rising to 100% of all purchases by 2030. GM’s Brightdrop unit recently completed the first of a batch production of 500 units of its EV600 delivery van for FedEx, and it’s also working with companies such as Electric Last Mile Solutions and Sea Electric. FedEx will continue to invest in alternative fuels to reduce vehicle emissions, and reducing miles driven and fuel used through best-practice driving behaviors, optimized routes, and intermodal rail use. It’s also exploring autonomous delivery bots and drones.
Grocery-store chain Giant Eagle this year announced a goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, with an initial target of 50% carbon dioxide reduction by 2030. In the past eight years, the company has cut the carbon dioxide emitted throughout our operations by 22%, including converting approximately 70% of its truck fleet to alternative fuel. Among its goals over the next 10 years are 100% conversion of Giant Eagle’s 200-plus truck fleet to alternative fuels.
J.B. Hunt Transport
J.B. Hunt’s goal is to reduce its emissions intensity (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2-e, per million company-operated ton-miles) 3% by 2025, and it plans to convert at least 25% of its day cab and straight truck fleet to an alternative power fuel source by 2035. In its sustainability report for 2020, J.B. Hunt reported it avoided an estimated 3.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions by converting over-the-road loads to intermodal. And it helped drivers avoid an estimated 4.3 million empty miles with J.B. Hunt 360, a multimodal digital freight marketplace. The company works to maximize fuel economy by investing in the most efficient equipment and technologies, and the fleet uses biodiesel, natural gas, and electric vehicles. It sees electric vehicles as a good fit for its final mile segment, and in 2020 launched a pilot of the Freightliner eCascadia all-electric Class 8 truck. To get long-haul fuel-cell electric trucks into production by 2024, the company is collaborating with Navistar, General Motors, and OneH2, with a plan to start testing FCEVs in late 2022.
Farmington, New York
Leonard’s Express is a big believer in trying out new technology and tools to save fuel and reduce emissions. For instance, a new solar/electric trailer hybrid the company is testing on three units charges the batteries from the axle while the truck is on the road. While the trailer is dropped, it uses both the stored battery charge as well as solar panels for power. It’s trying to get a tractor with a Hyliion hybrid drive-train to test, as well. SPI.Systems’ SPI Exhaust Reaction System, or Spier, alters the chemistry of combustion through reuse of exhaust gases to cut emissions and boost fuel economy. The company also uses more traditional methods: in-cab driver coaching from Vnomics, idling and mpg trend reports, new-hire training, APUs (both diesel and electric) tractor and trailer aero add-ons, and a fuel bonus for drivers.
M&M Cartage, a regional and local company, runs more than 100 out of its 260 heavy-duty trucks on renewable natural gas. The company partnered with Kentuckiana Cleanfuel to help build some of Kentucky’s first CNG fuel stations. It also uses biodiesel. For fuel economy and freight efficiency, pre-planning, with proper truck utilization and freight pairing, helps eliminate empty miles. M&M keeps up with equipment advancements and phases out older equipment, replacing with newer, more fuel-efficient technology and aerodynamic accessories. A new three-building campus will incorporate features such as a geothermal system for heating and cooling, solar panels, and becoming a “zero waste to landfill” organization.
Manhattan Beer Distributors
New York, New York
Manhattan Beer Distributors recently took delivery of the first of five Volvo VNR Electric trucks it’s adding to its fleet of more than 400 delivery trucks to service customers in the New York City area. The company began building its low-emission fleet in the ‘90s, which today includes more than 160 Volvo CNG trucks. The company plans to eliminate diesel within four years by switching 35 trucks a year to either electric or compressed natural gas — most likely electric, if these first few trucks perform as expected. In addition, the roof of Manhattan’s headquarters is covered with a 191,000-square-foot solar array that provides 1 megawatt of electricity annually.
Matheson Postal Services
Matheson Postal Services is a subsidiary of Matheson Trucking Inc., which has moved mail coast-to-coast for the U.S. Postal Service since 1964. The company is a leader in the adoption of natural gas trucks on its contracted mail routes, currently running close to 100. Matheson recently placed an order for another 40 near-zero-emissions CNG trucks, including Kenworth’s CNG-fueled T680 tractors featuring Hexagon Agility fuel systems, scheduled to be delivered in late 2021 and early 2022. The company is gradually phasing out the diesel trucks in its 225-truck fleet and replacing them with ones that run on CNG.
National Ready Mixed Concrete Company
National Ready Mixed Concrete recently added 24 near-zero-emissions natural gas concrete mixers to its Southern California fleet, bringing its total NZE fleet to 117 trucks. The trucks are fueled with 100% renewable natural gas sourced from dairy manure that has an average carbon intensity score of -200. NRMCC’s fleet of concrete mixers, cement and material haulers travel throughout Southern and Central California. The fleet is fueled in part at its private natural gas station built at its Vernon plant. Three more private RNG stations are scheduled to be installed by the end of 2021.
Western regional freight hauler New Legend, doing business as Legend Transportation, ordered 50 Freightliner eCascadias this year as part of plans to switch all of the company’s local running lanes to an all-electric fleet by 2023. It expects to start taking delivery in early 2023. The first trucks will be deployed to its Los Angeles lanes, but as the company grows, it plans to bring zero-emissions transport to more large cities.
NFI has been a leader in sustainability for some time, from appointing a fuel-economy “czar” to the adoption of natural gas, biodiesel and propane, to electrification. It already runs more than 40 electric Class 8 trucks from Freightliner and Volvo, and more are on the way. Next year, NFI will start receiving an order of 30 Freightliner eCascadias and 30 Volvo VNR Electric trucks. It is building a 100%-electric drayage fleet at its Ontario, California, facility, which it expects to be the first fully zero-emission freight logistics fleet in the state. NFI was a participant in NACFE’s Run on Less Electric this year, with a Volvo VNR Electric running out of its Chino, California, location, as well as a Kalmar Ottawa T2E yard tractor.
A regional and long haul fleet of nearly 500 trucks, Nussbaum maximizes fuel economy and freight efficiency with equipment improvements and driver programs geared toward performance measurement and training. In 2020, its fleet mpg was 9.05, and it expects to do even better this year. The company continually researches and improves its spec. For instance, it’s moving from a 6x2 axle configuration to 6x4s with an extremely low gear ratio that requires less engine power. Trucks and trailers feature aerodynamic skirts and rear flap Transtex aero devices. Hubcap covers, longer cab extenders, air dams, and single wide tires all improve efficiency. The wheels are custom offset to reduce air drag. Even the license plates are placed to lessen wind resistance. Trucks also use solar panels and battery-powered auxiliary power units. Halo automatic inflation units on the tires help optimize rolling resistance, and drivers have tire pressure readouts on a tablet in their truck. Nussbaum is experimenting with trailer lift axles for empty/light loads and conditional tag axles that would enable a truck to power only one axle when it reaches highway speeds. Beyond equipment, Nussbaum trains and incentivizes drivers with a driver scorecard program that measures driving style/habits such as throttle usage, smoothness, and speed settings. A proprietary training / continuing education program, Certified Red, gives more in-depth training on efficient driving and results in higher mpg numbers for drivers.
Purchase, New York
Fleet efficiency is part of PepsiCo’s sustainability agenda, in both its beverage and food divisions. Its PepsiCo Foods North America Class 8 fleet is 48% compressed natural gas vehicles, 75% of that renewable last year and it is moving to 100% renewable. At its Frito-Lay manufacturing site in Modesto, California, the implementation of zero-emission and near zero-emission technologies over the past year has reduced fleet absolute GHG emissions by more than half and lowered fleet diesel usage by nearly 80%. Nearly 60 tractors, box trucks, yard trucks, or forklifts are powered by electric, lithium-ion technologies or renewable natural gas. Frito-Lay recently participated in NACFE’s Run on Less Electric with a Class 6 Peterbilt Model 220EV.
The company continues to optimize PepsiCo Beverages North America vehicles by reducing the weight of the tractor and trailer specification. PBNA is also accelerating deployment of its Geo Box delivery system, which replaces bay delivery trucks with specially designed trailers that are pre-loaded at the warehouse. This reduces the number of trucks needed on the road and reduces fuel use through optimized loads and routes. The company made an initial reservation for 100 all-electric Class 8 Tesla Semi tractors that will be deployed across both its snacks and beverage businesses.
Flatbed carrier PGT Trucking recently signed a letter of intent with Nikola to lease 100 Tre heavy-duty fuel-cell-electric trucks following the satisfactory completion of a demonstration program. Deliveries are anticipated to begin in 2023 when production starts at Nikola’s Coolidge, Arizona, manufacturing facility. PGT also plans to deploy Locomation’s Autonomous Relay Convoy system, a platooning concept also shown to improve fuel efficiency.
In its 2020 sustainability report, Pitt Ohio noted that it had been 10 years since the company began a journey to make sustainability a core competency. Last year it reported a 1.5% improvement in total mpg across the fleet and a 4.8% reduction in diesel gallons. It credited additional focus on preventive maintenance as well as improvements in the fleet. The company works to develop fuel-efficient power train specifications with its OEM partners; actively monitors idling; and focuses on tires and air pressure. It has added trailer telematics to improve utilization. Out of more than 1,300 heavy-duty trucks, two are battery-electric, 30 are natural gas. The company also uses biodiesel and propane. Looking forward, it said, it will continue to improve mpg and work with manufacturers to test and implement electric trucks, especially where it can use energy from its renewable energy DC-powered microgrid.
Quality Custom Distribution
A national foodservice logistics supplier, a division of Golden State Foods, QCD will deploy 14 Volvo VNR Electric models in its Southern California last-mile delivery routes by the end of 2022. Volvo Trucks is scheduled to begin delivering the Class 8 battery-electric trucks to QCD this fall to operate out of its distribution center in Fontana, California. Eight high-power charging stations will be installed to power the electric trucks. The company also uses Neste MY Renewable Diesel for truck tractors in California and Oregon.
Johns Creek, Georgia
Less-than-truckload carrier Saia’s fleet initiatives include modernizing equipment to improve fuel efficiency, transitioning to alternative fuels when practical, and using new technologies to become even more efficient at routing drivers, loading trucks and handling freight. All its 53-foot and 28-foot trailers are outfitted with trailer skirts and fuel-efficient tires, and tractor speed is governed at 68 mph. This year, the company added five compressed natural gas tractors at its Fontana, California terminal, as well as two Volvo VNR Electric trucks deployed in the region in April. It also uses renewable diesel in a portion of its fleet.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
Beginning in 2022, Schneider will add 50 Freightliner eCascadias to its Southern California intermodal operations, making it one of the largest battery-electric truck fleets in North America. The company has plans for more BEVs and route options, noting that the scaling of zero-emission vehicles is a key component of its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 7.5% per mile by 2025 and by 60% per mile by 2035. It also plans to double its intermodal size by 2030 and to achieve a net-zero status within its facilities by 2035. Schneider this year released its first corporate responsibility report. In it, it points to fuel-efficient truck specs such as terrain-mapping predictive technology, automated manual transmissions, ultra-low-viscosity engine oil, aerodynamic under treatments, low-rolling-resistance tires, electric APUs, side extenders, automatic tire inflation systems and aero trailer tails.
Total Transportation Services
Rancho Dominguez, California
Total Transportation Services Inc. is “committed to drastically reducing pollution, protecting future generations, and leaving as small a footprint as possible on our precious environment,” and it’s doing that by testing a wide range of alternative-fuel vehicles, including battery-electric, CNG, CNG hybrids, and fuel cell trucks. TTSI’s goal is to switch its fleet to 100% clean natural gas, battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and the ultimate goal is to be completely zero emissions. Among its latest initiatives, TTSI is partnering with Kenworth to run zero-emissions T680 fuel-cell-electric trucks under the Shore-to-Store demonstration project led by the Port of Los Angeles. It’s is scheduled to trial a Hyzon Class 8 fuel-cell electric truck in the fourth quarter. And in 2022, it’s scheduled to start testing Nikola battery-electric trucks (fuel-cell trucks in 2023) with plans to eventually buy 100 of them if all goes well. And as it tests the latest electric and hydrogen trucks, TTSI is continuing to invest in near-zero-emissions natural gas trucks running on renewable fuels.
Providence, Rhode Island
United Natural Foods Inc. is adding 53 all-electric transport refrigerated trailer units to its fleet at the company’s Riverside, California, distribution center. The all-electric TRU uses a high-efficiency refrigeration system powered by roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels, a wheel-momentum generator, lithium-ion batteries, and a unique auxiliary power unit. The new units will help UNFI get ahead of proposed CARB zero-emission requirements for TRUs and help it meet its climate action commitments.
UPS, which has invested more than $1 billion over the past decade in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations, continues to work toward its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. By 2025, it plans to have 40% alternative fuel in ground operations. UPS is buying more than 6,000 compressed natural gas vehicles between 2020 and 2022, almost doubling its CNG fleet, along with a purchase commitment for 250 million gallon equivalents of renewable natural gas. In 2020 UPS announced plans to purchase up to 10,000 custom-designed electric delivery vans from Arrival, the first of which hit the road for testing this year.