By John Holl
In 2009, Sunny Delight enacted a sustainability program, aimed at reducing its carbon footprint as well as holding true to its bottom line and profitability. To that end, in May the company incorporated a compressed natural gas fleet (CNG) in its Southern California territory. The company formed a partnership with Transplace and Glacier Transportation deployed the fleet. Officials with the company say it is already reducing costs and greenhouse gasses.
“Removing three trucks from the road in Southern California results in an estimated annual reduction of 1,988 metric tons, which equates to a 26 percent reduction compared to diesel,” says Clint Dearing, director of operations for Transplace. “Another benefit is the improved ability to forecast fuel cost for the fleet given the reduced variability of price of natural gas versus diesel.”
The two entered into a five-year partnership focused on cities like Los Angles, Carson, Riverside and Mira Loma. In working with Sunny Delight and Clean Energy, Transplace says it has been able to keep the program cost neutral. This is important because Sunny D’s Southern California dedicated fleet already was very competitively priced, says Dearing, who noted that the beverage producer understands the initial increased equipment investment on the part of the carrier.
“The longer-term expectation is that cost savings will factor into future decisions as the infrastructure and technology continue to progress,” he said.
The switch to CNG came about in 2011 when Sunny D’s CEO Billy Cyr spoke at the Shipper Symposium, a conference hosted by Transplace. While networking the room Cyr was impressed with what he heard about CNG technologies and how it could benefit his company.
So, the company asked itself: Does the energy source have the infrastructure to support the business? Are there existing providers capable of getting up and running on fairly short notice without having to purchase or retrofit existing equipment?
“It quickly became obvious that Natural Gas was the way to go,” says Dearing. Then the team had to figure out if they should use CNG or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Consulting with Clean Energy the company was able to look at the locations of fueling stations for each fuel type overlaid on Sunny Delights current distribution network in Southern California. It also revealed that Glacier Transportation had the CNG equipment available on short notice, making the decision somewhat easier, but still with considerable thought.
Dearing says that the capacity and availability of filling stations was among the most important considerations. With more being added each month it is important and companies that are thinking of going the CNG or LNG route make sure their information is current.
“Other factors to consider include the grade encountered in your distribution network, availability of existing capacity, and existing maintenance infrastructure,” says Dearing. “We are excited about the future as the larger engines become available that will extend the range and negate any concerns over grade.”
Sunny Delight is one of the fastest growing juice-based drinks producers in North America and in addition to its citrus punch it also makes Fruit20 flavored waters, Bossa Nova superfruit beverages, Veryfine juices, Crystal Light and more. Transplace has been a long-term provider for Sunny D.
Other investments, Dearing says, that must be made are on maintenance and training. He notes that momentum is now being seen as partners like Sunny Delight are demonstrating a willingness to work with providers in the long-term interest of all parties.
With success already being seen in Southern California Dearing says discussions are ongoing to expand the CNG program to markets including Dallas and the Northeast.
“As the technology continues to improve, we will also be looking to incorporate more and more long haul Natural Gas powered trucks into the network,” he says.