By Doyle Sumrall
NTEA Senior Director of Business Development
Green is a topic of almost every conversation and meeting in which I am involved. Given the day-to-day challenges we all face, it’s refreshing to discuss green initiatives with NTEA members because these conversations are overwhelmingly positive. Sometimes, our discussions center on the stimulus funds and which areas of the economy they are or will be impacting. We also talk about providers of green technologies and products, and in many cases, discuss strategies to help NTEA members green their businesses and provide green products to fill the growing demand.
When industry changes occur, companies need to accept that they are real. Green is a real change for a variety of reasons, the most basic of which is that it’s a good idea. Doing the same amount of work with less fuel has been the goal of fleets and individual truck owners for decades. Today, the U.S. government is firmly behind it and is pushing with its $1 billion-plus checkbook. (See Sidebar 1, which shows slides from recent NTEA presentations and results of the Association’s fleet and member business conditions surveys.) Another driver of the green movement is companies’ real desire to clean up air pollution and to tell their communities and customers that they are having a positive impact on the environment.
Incorporating green in truck equipment can be achieved in a variety of ways. You do not need to start selling equipment only on hybrid or alternative fueled trucks to provide green products. The entire concept is much like the Lean movement in operations — you need to eliminate waste and improve productivity. On a basic level, this can mean replacing the 500-watt spotlights on a truck with LED equivalents that draw only 65 watts but deliver the same amount of light.
Marketing is the key to successfully selling green — using solid math and a good sales presentation to impart the benefits of a green approach. You can use some simple engineering to explain the fuel use or CO₂ reduction created over the life of the truck by the products you’re recommending (see Sidebar 2 to learn these calculations).
More aggressive fleet managers are focusing on the life-cycle costs of the equipment they are buying. They know that in five to seven years, when they are still trying to get productivity out of the trucks they are purchasing today, fuel costs will be higher. As such, it’s important to learn the language of green and to present your proposal in the terms fleet managers need — the life-cycle cost of their equipment.
There are many ways to improve life-cycle costs. You can replace three trucks with two and cut the carbon footprint of the trucks involved by 1/3. You can increase the miles per gallon (MPG) of a truck getting 6 MPG by a ½-gallon and achieve an 8% reduction in the truck’s CO₂ output. You can also reduce vehicle weight by 300 lbs. with a lighter material and save the fuel that would have been necessary to move the weight for the life of the truck. While these basic changes have only small effects when calculated for a day or week, the five- to seven-year life of a work truck will bring much larger returns.
Harnessing technology is also creating opportunities as well as challenges. Some upfitters are learning to program the computers on trucks. By using the truck computer to do simple things like wig-wag lights versus adding a control box, you can cut the cost of the total package. Such actions translate into reduced life-cycle equipment costs. However, this is all new technology, which requires training and the use of new tools. The thought of having an electronic engineer and a tech with a laptop in the install bay might sound a bit “out there,” but it is becoming a reality for many upfitters.
Many companies are now analyzing their own green strategies (or lack thereof) and asking how they can get started. In this instance, the government may be able to help. The last few issues of NTEA News (see the “NTEA News” section of NTEA.com) featured articles on Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs). These organizations are located all over the U.S. and offer technical support that can help NTEA members improve operations, implement new systems and increase productivity. MEPs typically have ties not only to federal government funds, but to state money as well, and can help you identify ways to get matching funds to reduce waste in your operation.
Keeping with the green theme of this article, consider setting up some basic measurements and tracking your improvement over time. Identifying the total pounds of trash hauled off your site each month and dividing it by the number of units that are completed in the same time period can provide a rough amount of waste/units. Setting a reduction goal and tracking the results of recycling and other cutbacks is a great way to show both team members and customers your commitment to greening (and may save you a few dollars in the process).
If you want to dive right in to greening your organization, pick up a copy of the Self-Assessment Workbook for Small Manufacturers on the Department of Energy Web site at www.iac.rutgers.edu/technicaldocs.php. As a word of caution, this is a very long and detailed assessment. I think the results could be beneficial, but after some review, I feel it will take time and some technical support to complete. The NTEA is currently working with an MEP to develop a simpler tool you can use to get a basic assessment and resulting report to target improvements. This resource should be available in the near future.
As you consider the benefits of greening your company, the NTEA encourages you to consider a change in the way you do business, not just an event conducted once for a specific deal or for one segment of your operation. There are many companies entering the truck equipment market from other industry segments because they have been green for awhile and see this segment as an opportunity to sell green products. These firms are green and know how to market their approach to business. The Association hopes the ideas presented in this article and the resources the NTEA plans to provide in the future will help you capitalize on this new element in the work truck industry and gain insights on how to market your green efforts and products.
Calculating the green value of a product change can be approached in a simple or complex manner. Some might say to go all the way back to the root element extraction of each product and build it up from there. The NTEA suggests an easier approach because most of the products used in the truck equipment industry are made from the same materials with basically the same methods and are delivered by similar transportation systems.
One simple method would be to identify the recycled content in the steel, aluminum or other commodities you are using to build equipment. Most suppliers can tell you the percentage of recycled material in their products. They can also verify that the wood and other elements are coming from renewable sources.
If you’re seeking a more detailed approach, tie your product or system to the life-cycle cost of the work truck. Many fleets have told the NTEA that what really puts the rubber on the road is the amount of fuel they will save over the life of the truck. In most cases, you can use a simple five- to seven-year life and calculate the life-cycle effect.
Earlier in this article, I referenced the difference in power draw by changing from standard 500-watt work lights to LED lights, creating the same light value with 65 watts of power draw. Following is an example of how to calculate the fuel savings and CO₂ reduction this change would create.
4 lights * 500 watts – 4 LED equivalents at 65 watts = 1,740 watt savings
Alternator mechanical power in = ----------------------------------- = 2,900 watts
A diesel engine gets approximately 35% fuel efficiency, so to calculate the watts of fuel you will use, divide the power by 35%. This total represents the fuel used in terms of power. You then need to convert this to gallons (the normal way people buy fuel) by multiplying the watts by one second (time) to get the joules of energy, which is easily converted to gallons/second. Then, divide by the 146,000,000 joules in a gallon of diesel and multiply by the number of seconds in an hour to calculate fuel use per hour.
2,900 watts 8,286 joules 3,600 seconds
---------------- = 8,286 joules ---------------- X ------------------- = .204 gallon/hour
1 second 146,000,000 1 hour
With this, you can now calculate the total fuel savings in the five-year life of the truck:
5 years x 15 hours/week x 52 weeks x .204 gallon/hour = 796 gallons of diesel saved
CO2 emissions from a gallon of diesel = 2,778 grams x 0.99 x (44/12) = 10,084 grams = 10.1 kg/gallon = (Source EPA)
You now know that your CO₂ reduction = 22.2 pounds/gallon x 796 gallons = 35 pounds
Tower draw is very low in this example, and it would be difficult to truly measure and identify these savings in a real-world application. But the same approach can be applied to shutting off the engine and running the LED lights versus running the standard lights for 7.5 times as long before starting the truck to charge the batteries. The savings would be greater and this would be plausible in the real world.
Thanks to Colin Casey, manager, hybrid product development for Navistar, Inc., for his insights and help in validating these calculations.
Key Terms and Web Links
Life Cycle Cost:
The total cost of owning a work truck measured either in cash flow or in present value.
• NTEA Vehicle Life-cycle Cost Analysis Program — www.ntea.com/vango/core/orders/product.aspx?catid=5&prodid=217
The carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted during a given period.
• EPA Truck Calculator — www.epa.gov/smartway/calculator/loancalc.htm
Other Useful Links
• Manufacturing Extension Partnership — http://www.nist.gov/mep/