Ever buy a cold or hot pre-made sandwich from a convenience store, maybe where you gas up the car? Then there's a good chance that it was a Deli Express product made and delivered by E.A. Sween, a family-owned foodservice company
that claims to be the largest sandwich supplier in the U.S., operating in 26 states with its own fleet of trucks.

Perishable sandwiches of course means reefers, and commercial operation means diesel power - things the company, founded in 1955, has a lot of experience with.

Recently, the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company ordered an innovative truck design that's improving fuel economy by nearly 50% while significantly increasing sustainability, productivity and cost effectiveness.

"We're pleased that we could so significantly improve our fleet's carbon footprint through an innovative solution that uses a traditional fuel source and also saves money without sacrificing customer satisfaction," says Gregg Hodgdon, fleet operations manager.

First, Sween decided to change how it carries the products in the new trucks. It switched from single-temperature with cold-plate walls to one with dual-temperature capabilities, at zero- and 35-degree compartments. It also changed the store-ordering procedure from as-demanded to pre-orders submitted once a week by Deli Express sales people.

Sween worked with Thermo King, which supplied the refrigeration unit; Isuzu, which made the NRR chassis; Johnson Truck Bodies, which produced the lightweight shell; and Automotive Resources International, which analyzed the operation and calculated the design's impact on cost and efficiency.

The new truck features a heating system that enables thawing to occur on board rather than in a warehouse. Before, frozen sandwiches were moved to a thawing area each night, then loaded onto trucks in the morning prior to distribution. The dual-temp approach eliminates the middle step.

The refrigeration unit's roof-mounted condenser has a slim, aerodynamic profile to cut wind drag en route. Electric standby operation at stops and at warehouses reduces fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. The unit uses a low amount of refrigerant, which reduces its impact on the environment.

The new, lighter-weight truck design emits 700 fewer pounds of carbon per month than a conventional reefer truck, according to a sustainability study conducted by ARI, a global fleet services provider specializing in complex car and truck fleets. Based on these results, E.A. Sween Co. leaders anticipate that the trucks will emit 4.2 tons less carbon dioxide annually.

Thermo King recently honored E.A. Sween's commitment to energy and operational efficiency and sustainability by presenting the company with an "Energy Efficiency Leader Award."