Vermont-based Bourne's Energy, a family-owned company that delivers fuel and propane to households and businesses, has a long-term goal of producing a usable biofuel in Vermont.
Bourne's Energy chose to lease two hybrids from Ryder, including this propane-hauling truck, displayed next to President Peter Bourne.
Bourne's Energy chose to lease two hybrids from Ryder, including this propane-hauling truck, displayed next to President Peter Bourne.
The company has been providing biofuels, "bioheat," as well as solar water heating solutions to its customers for years. But that wasn't enough of an environmental push for the energy provider.

President Peter Bourne felt the company had a responsibility to set an example to the company's customers on what they should be doing to go green, and this meant looking at its own operations. With a fleet of 13 vehicles hauling fuel and propane throughout area and burning fuel at the same time, the company's delivery trucks were the ideal place to start.

Recently, the company took delivery of two hybrid vehicles that it leased from Ryder through its RydeGreen program. The trucks are Durastar Hybrids from International, designed for medium-duty, in-city use.

"We see transition to hybrid delivery vehicles as a solid business decision, as well as testament to a long-term environmental commitment that goes above and beyond mandates and regulations," said Bourne. "If there is a way to serve our customers while using less fuel, that benefits the bottom line for everyone. But perhaps more importantly, we also feel that as a community fuel dealer, we have an obligation to lead the way in showing our customers how to reduce their carbon footprint in every way possible."

Bourne found these trucks to be the perfect application for the company's delivery fleet, because the trucks have to run all day as they pump fuel into homes and businesses. With the hybrid configuration, the power take-off runs on an electric charge for about 15 minutes while the driver pumps the fuel out. It allows for maximum battery storage. The PTO is not activated until the driver is ready to turn the pump on, saving fuel and reducing emissions from idling.

The company expects that implementing the trucks into the daily delivery routes could result in about 30 to 40 percent improvement in fuel efficiency as well decreased diesel emissions. Bourne says each truck will save about three hours a day on idling, which amounts to about 30 hours a week in total savings. The company will evaluate these savings in April, when it will consider adding more hybrid trucks if the venture proves successful. "I'm looking for the proof and the pudding," Bourne says.

Before the company could take delivery of the leased trucks, it had to address the issue of hauling hazardous materials. The vehicles had to be customized to meet hazmat transport requirements, and Ryder worked closely with Navistar to accomplish this. The vehicle's fan that cools the hybrid's lithium batteries would blow flammable fumes, and these fumes needed to be blown into fresh air. A special device was installed on the vehicle, which takes in air from the front of the vehicle, where fumes are more diluted and nonflammable. This prevents the fumes from being pulled by the cooling fan into battery heat.

According to the company, this is one of the first home heating fuel/hazmat applications for a hybrid in the Northeast. Bourne has even bigger dreams for the initiative, with the hope that his efforts will set a good example for the rest of the oil delivery industry by making this type of equipment standard in three to four years.

Bourne's Energy has already been setting an example with its no idling policy, which prohibits its drivers from idling unless the truck is on the move. Onboard computers and GPS devices keep track of idle time. Even if a driver is waiting for the truck to warm up, filling out paperwork or loading, he cannot allow the truck to idle.

According to Bourne, if the hybrid project proves successful, they'll most likely deploy the hybrids in half of the entire fleet. Even if the company simply breaks even on the costs with the trucks, it will be seen as a success. "It's not a money issue."

From the January 2010 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.