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Easy Being Green: Sustainability by CNG-fueled truck

By on May 2, 2012
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Thomas Phillips • Carpinteria, Calif. • Driving for 21 years

I got into the trucking industry in the early ’90s after working in construction and being laid off for the second time in 12 years. I decided it was time for a change and enrolled in a local trucking school here in California. I earned my commercial license and have been in the industry ever since. Once I’m in my truck, I’m my own boss, and I’m responsible for myself. It’s a comfortable way to make a living.

I worked for perhaps a dozen or so companies before I learned about Hollandia. I was in between jobs, and when I started searching for work again I came across an ad in the local paper for a truck-driving position with Hollandia. I applied and was lucky enough to receive the position. That was five years ago.

The company is a lettuce farm that focuses on sustainability and packages each head in its own mini “greenhouse” casing with the roots still attached. Every decision made strives to further the green movement, from the way produce is grown to how it’s transported.

Prior to working for this company, I never really thought about environmental issues as they related to trucking. I always thought it was embarrassing to drive a truck that wasn’t as well maintained as it should be, to see trucks smoking or rough idling, but the status quo was a diesel truck, so I never considered other options.

That changed when Hollandia announced it would be shifting to a semi truck powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) more than a year ago. Today, I’m fortunate enough to drive the company’s only CNG-powered truck with its own trailer cooled by a hybrid electric refrigeration unit. I’m in charge of taking the lettuces to the produce district in Los Angeles.

When the company first announced the change, I was apprehensive on one hand but anticipating it on the other. Now, I wouldn’t trade it.

The vehicle itself is built for optimum efficiency. Fairings on the tractor reduce airflow between the tractor and trailer, and skirting underneath the trailer improves aerodynamics. This design boosts fuel efficiency up to 12 percent and reduces drag by 24 percent. On top of that, we use super saver tires and wheel assembly on the tandems to further proficiency.

Driving the CNG-powered truck is comparable to a diesel-fueled truck. I drive approximately 90 miles from Carpinteria, Calif., to Los Angeles every night, and on cruise control it goes down the highway just as well, if not better than, a diesel truck. The difference is on surface streets. The truck is coupled with an Allison six-speed automatic transmission, so you have to anticipate stops, brake accordingly and use the throttle responsibly.

Thanks to the glimmering, green finish on the tractor and the graphics of produce on the trailer, the truck turns the heads of fellow drivers on a regular basis. In fact, its look has turned a few of my peers green … with envy.

I enjoy being part of a company that does everything it can to reduce its carbon footprint, and I hope to spend the rest of my working days here.

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