Frito-Lay Pledges a Major Shift Toward Natural-Gas Trucking
On Tuesday, Frito-Lay announced it would add 67 trucks that would run on compressed natural gas, known as C.N.G., to its fleet. Eventually, the company said, a majority of its longer-range vehicles would run on C.N.G., as well as liquefied natural gas for longer-distance hauls.
The C.N.G.-powered trucks would save the equivalent of $2.50 a gallon compared with diesel at current prices, as well as reduce greenhouse emissions by 23 percent when compared with diesel rigs, the company said. Currently, 18 trucks burning natural gas in 8.9-liter Cummins Westport enginesare undergoing a pilot test.
“The good news is that it’s a win-win for us, both in terms of our sustainability strategy and reducing our costs,” Michael O’Connell, senior director of fleet capability at Frito-Lay, said in an interview. “The payback for the extra cost of the natural gas trucks is a year and a half, so it’s a little bit of a no-brainer. We retire approximately 125 tractors a year, and we plan to replace as many of them as we can with natural gas.” He said it could take six to seven years to convert all of the company’s tractor-trailers.
Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, operates the seventh largest private delivery fleet in the United States.
Chris Trajkovski, the national fleet-sustainability manager for Frito-Lay, said the 67 trucks would be fully deployed by the middle of July. In use, they would save the company about 900,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually, according to Mr. O’Connell.
Aside from high diesel prices, the growing market share for natural gas in the heavy truck sector reflects the proliferation of affordable natural gas in the United States — itself a function of increased domestic exploration and new extraction techniques like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Daniel Ustian, president and chief executive of the truck builder Navistar, said in an interview that natural gas could command 10 to 20 percent of the tractor-trailer market in a year.
Converting the nation’s tractor-trailer fleet to natural gas is a keystone of the plan offered by the Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. “We have to target the heavy-duty vehicles, which is where you can get the volume,” Mr. Pickens said in an interview with Wheels in 2010. Last year, the delivery service U.P.S. said it would add 48 heavy tractor trucks running on liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G., to its fleet. At the time, the U.P.S. fleet had more than 1,100 natural gas vehicles in service, including 11 other L.N.G.-powered tractors.
Frito-Lay also plugs in. In 2010, the company announced it would add a fleet of 176 electric box trucks, which have since traveled a million miles delivering the company’s products.
“On certain drive cycles the electrics work extremely well,” Mr. O’Connell said. “We’re currently finalizing the purchase of 100 additional 24-foot electric box trucks from Smith Electric. And we’re testing trucks from Electric Vehicles International.”