There are as many ways of embracing sustainability as there are fleets, and location often plays a large part in choosing the best strategies. For Loffredo Fresh Foods, an Iowa-based produce and specialty foods distributor, its fleet strategy revolves around reducing the amount of fuel burned and using biodiesel blends.
Loffredo Fresh Foods delivers fresh-food products to more than 3,000 business in the Midwest. It has about 30 tractor-trailers for larger customer deliveries, but the majority of its fleet, around 60 units, are straight trucks, mostly with 26-foot refrigerated bodies.
Brian Loffredo, president and CEO of the fifth-generation company, says one of the company’s first sustainability initiatives came about 10 years ago, when it started recycling literally tons of food scraps coming from its facility that cuts up fresh produce. Today, instead of that waste going to the landfill, Loffredo redirects 5 million pounds of food scraps a year to cattle farmers across the state.
It was a first step in making sustainability part of its corporate culture. Loffredo has been a member of the Green Business Bureau for some time. The operation recycles all its cardboard and has been moving into recycling more and more materials.
“We’re a 130-year-old company, so I guess it’s a blink of time in the scheme of things, but we’re all so accustomed now when we walk around the office to turn a light out when someone’s not in an office,” Loffredo says. “It becomes part of the culture.” Facility updates include more efficient lighting that’s motion-controlled. “We’re big believers in every little thing we do adds up to a bigger benefit.”
A Greener Fleet
For the fleet, Loffredo Fresh Foods works with its leasing company to operate modern, fuel-efficient equipment. Its latest bodies and trailers automatically shut off the cooling units when the door opens, and it has moved to more cycle sentry rather than continuous run on the refrigeration units.
Omnitracs’ Roadnet route optimization software allows the company to more efficiently route its drivers, reducing miles driven and fuel burned. “That’s one thing we're really proud of, one thing we really do well is using that dynamic routing to reduce gallons burned,” Loffredo says.
The company also is using telematics to track idle time and aggressive driving and coach drivers on bad habits.
“Why do we leave a reefer on for 24 straight hours, and it was 30 degrees outside? That telematics data, there’s so much out there to actually help train drivers.” The conventional wisdom that a driver shouldn’t turn a truck off during a route because they don’t know if it’s going to start “is old thinking from the 1970s and ‘80s,” he says. “For the most part, now trucks are starting when you turn the key, especially because we’re always running a newer fleet, so we can save so much fuel just by turning the truck off.”
In 2019, the fleet started using biodiesel, working with REG (Renewable Energy Group), also based in Iowa. “Here in Iowa, it’s not only better for the environment, it’s better for the economy,” Loffredo explains. “We want to support local growers, local industries.”
It was not without caution. The company started out with a 5% biodiesel blend, only at Loffredo’s Des Moines location. “It’s worked really well, even in a minus-zero environment,” so the company started expanding its use to other locations and to a higher blend, B11. He said the leasing company they work with was originally unsure about the wisdom of moving to a biodiesel blend, but in the two to three years since then, the maintenance team has not seen any additional wear and tear or repairs needed on the engines. Originally, they did not plan to use biodiesel in the winter, but now they do – just a lower blend.
“What we've seen is these companies like REG are getting a better and better understanding of biodiesel additives used throughout the winter to keep things flowing. So we’ll go up to B20 nine months out of the year, and then we'll scale back to B5 with some sort of an additive in the winter.
“One thing that’s exciting, we’ve been talking with REG about being able to use 100% bio and possibly spec’ing a dual-tank capacity on trucks. Realistically we’re still a few years out on that, but that’s [the kind of] initiatives we need to be a part of.”
Another possibility for the future: battery-electric trucks. The company has many shorter routes that would be well-suited to medium-duty BEVs. He’s even gone so far to get a site survey to determine that it would be relatively easy to install charging stations on the property. “Down the road, we’d love to get into all-electric trucks, and our building has the infrastructure to support that.”
And, he notes, Iowa is a leader in energy from wind power. It produces the highest percentage of electricity produced by wind – 60% as of 2021 – of any state, according to the Iowa Environmental Council. So the electricity that would be used by battery-electric trucks in the future will also be from a renewable, sustainable source.
Vendors, Customers, and Sustainability
Loffredo’s focus on sustainability is also extending into its choice of vendors. “We’re having more discussions than ever [with our growers] on, how are they treating not only their employees but treating the land? What kind of practices are they doing? You know, a lot of our growers are having to be more sustainable because of their water issues. They’re having to think in new ways to grow that is less harmful to the environment.”
The company also is increasingly looking for growers that are closer and innovative with sustainable and efficient growing methods such as greenhouses and hydroponics, meaning fewer miles traveled, less fuel burned, and fewer emissions.
And on the customer side, Loffredo says, some of its larger accounts, such as larger school districts, are now asking questions about sustainability practices as part of the contract renewal process. “We get a lot of good information from the fuel company on the metric tons of carbon we’ve saved, and that’s great information to send out.”