From a 100,000-square-foot facility in Eden Prairie, Minn., Deli Express/E.A. Sween Co. each year delivers more than 75 million sandwiches to 26,000 convenience, grocery and drug stores, vending machines and other food outlets. Its vehicles deliver its branded sandwiches and other items to customers in 26 states. With the mileage the company’s fleet logs each day, it pays as much attention to its means of delivery as it does to what’s actually being transported.
The rising cost of gas coupled with rising concern about greenhouse gas emissions weigh heavily on all fleet operations. Gregg Hodgdon, head of Deli Express/E.A. Sween Company’s fleet operations and a Certified Automotive Fleet Manager, says he has always had a passion for sustainability and has spearheaded sustainable initiatives throughout his career. This year, he made finding ways to reduce fuel expenditures and improve the company fleet’s carbon footprint a prime initiative.
“Supported by Deli Express/E.A. Sween Co.’s fleet management partner, Automotive Resources International [ARI], I explored a variety of alternative technologies to determine which fuel type could work for the organization,” Hodgdon explains. “After determining that alternative fuels weren’t the best fit, Deli Express/E.A. Sween Co. realized that it was indeed possible to make a positive, sustainable change with traditional fuels. The [solution is] an innovative new truck design that could significantly improve fuel economy without sacrificing customer satisfaction.”
New Delivery Route
The search for a more efficient delivery system turned out to be a logistical matter in itself. Hodgdon and ARI gathered a group of suppliers to create a truck suited to Deli Express/E.A. Sween’s particular needs while also delivering the cost, energy and emissions reductions the company was seeking.
“[We] quickly identified the suppliers that could collaborate in determining the best way to turn the concept of a fuel-efficient, lightweight and cost-effective truck into reality,” Hodgdon says. “These partners shared my innovative vision for sustainability and understood the value this project could ultimately drive to Deli Express/E.A. Sween company’s bottom line.”
Deli Express/E.A. Sween’s transportation design dream team included Isuzu for the diesel engine, Johnson Truck Bodies for the lightweight shell, Thermo King for the refrigeration unit and ARI, whose truck expertise and analytical tools would help calculate the design’s impacts on cost and efficiency.
“The four vendors worked in tandem with Deli Express/E.A. Sween. to ensure that all required components would work in concert together and that the combination would ultimately yield the most significant fuel efficiency increase possible,” Hodgdon explains.
Piece by Piece
Deli Express/E.A. Sween chose Isuzu’s ECOMAX – a turbo-charged, four-cylinder, 3.0L engine that delivers 150 hp and 282 foot-pounds of torque. The system includes an electronic high-pressure common rail fuel injector system that helps maximize fuel economy and a premium low cab-forward design that offers superior visibility and maneuverability. With its B10 engine life rating of 310,000 miles (meaning only 10 percent of production samples have failed), an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission and a 12,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating, it fit the company’s desire for a chassis that was powerful and yet efficient. Even the one-millimeter thinner gauge steel frame provided the same tensile strength as its predecessor while helping to reduce the truck’s overall weight.
For the truck body, Deli Express/E.A. Sween turned to Wisconsin-based manufacturer Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies. The company’s GuardianLT is designed and manufactured with foodservice and delivery fleet clients in mind. Though larger than previous designs, the current GuardianLT’s lightweight, durable design offers significant weight savings and can be used on various chassis types.
In addition to reducing the truck body’s weight to save on fuel, the GuardianLT’s high thermal performance also reduces fuel and electricity consumption without skimming on performance, which means the body helps maintain desired temperatures using less energy.
The real player in temperature control, however, is the refrigeration unit and Deli Express/E.A. Sween chose the V-520 RT Spectrum direct drive unit manufactured by Thermo King. The slim-profile, aerodynamic roof-mount condenser provides the necessary refrigeration capacity and temperature regulation in both hot and cold climates. The unit’s electric standby feature reduces fuel consumption and emissions and enables rolling warehouse applications so products can be stored on the truck for later sale. It also requires less refrigerant, reducing its environmental impact, and an innovative heating application allows thawing to happen on the truck.
Dubbed the ECOMAX truck, Deli Express/E.A. Sween has 12 trucks on the road with more planned for production. The company projects that by 2020 80 percent of its fleet will be green. The vehicles in use already have shown a nearly 50 percent improvement in fuel economy. ARI’s most recent emissions analysis of the ECOMAX reports 700 pounds less of carbon dioxide emissions each month compared to the old truck. The figure estimates 4.2 tons less of carbon dioxide emissions each year for each truck.
“These results are proof that it is possible to improve a fleet’s carbon footprint through weight reduction and efficient technologies while still utilizing a traditional fuel source,” Hodgdon explains. He predicts continued fuel cost savings and CO2 reduction as Deli Express/E.A. Sween integrates more ECOMAX units into its fleet.