Budweiser Puts Its Diesel Trucks Out To Pasture

Anheuser-Busch’s goal is to reduce emis­sions and fuel costs, while doing some­thing green(ish) and has announced that it is going to replace all 66 of the heavy duty trucks at its Hous­ton brew­ery, with 66 new trucks, that instead run on com­pressed nat­ur­al gas.

The trucks in its exist­ing fleet are not old or falling apart — they are tough, reli­able diesel-pow­ered work­hors­es that pull 53-foot trail­ers loaded with 50,000 pounds of beer. Each truck rolls vir­tu­al­ly around the clock — putting in an aver­age of 140,000 miles in a sin­gle year haul­ing beer to whole­salers. They move sev­en­teen mil­lion bar­rels of beer each year.

It’s sig­nif­i­cant that A-B feels com­fort­able swap­ping an entire fleet that runs on CNG. The inten­tion of shift­ing to nat­gas, says James Sem­brot, A-B’s senior trans­porta­tion direc­tor, is to reduce car­bon emis­sions and fuel costs, while doing some­thing green(ish.).

For the past six months Anheuser-Busch InBev has been test­ing two CNG trucks with­in the fleet. “We’ve been run­ning the tar out of them, with no issues at all. We’re thrilled,” says Bil­ly Lawder, direc­tor of trans­porta­tion engi­neer­ing at A-B.

It was Ryder Sys­tem that ini­tal­ly brought this idea to A-B. Ryder owns those 66 now-anti­quat­ed diesel trucks. Nation­wide, Ryder owns and leas­es 160,000 heavy-duty trucks. Five years ago none of Ryder’s trucks ran on CNG. Now it sud­den­ly has 1,000 of them, made by the likes of Freight­lin­er, Vol­vo and Nav­is­tar.

In 2011 it opened its first NGV main­te­nance facil­i­ty in Cal­i­for­nia, and will be build­ing out its Hous­ton garage for the A-B fleet. Accord­ing to Scott Per­ry, the s.v.p. at Ryder who man­aged the A-B rela­tion­ship, the move toward heavy-duty CNG is pos­si­ble thanks to the efforts of Cum­mins  which last year intro­duced its 12-liter CNG-pow­ered engine.

The oth­er vital piece of this deal: state sub­si­dies. Texas tax­pay­ers, through a pro­gram over­seen by the Texas Com­mis­sion on Envi­ron­men­tal Qual­i­ty, gives out grants of $45,000 toward the pur­chase of a new nat­ur­al gas pow­ered vehi­cle. For A-B’s 66 new rigs, the grants will total about $3 mil­lion.

Texas cur­rent­ly has 100 NGV fill­ing sta­tions, adding 35 just in the past year. Texas is pro­duc­ing ever increas­ing vol­umes of nat­ur­al gas from shale. Not only do NGV’s emit 23% less car­bon diox­ide than diesel trucks, but also much less car­bon monox­ide, nitro­gen oxide, and vir­tu­al­ly zero par­tic­u­lates.

How many more nat­ur­al-gas-pow­ered vehi­cles (NGVs) are in Ryder’s future? A lot, espe­cial­ly when tax­pay­er mon­ey is avail­able. Per­ry points to fore­casts from the likes of the U.S. Ener­gy Infor­ma­tion Admin­is­tra­tion as well as Resources For the Future, con­clud­ing that near­ly a third of heavy-duty trucks could be NGVs by 2035, up from bare­ly 2% today.

But that’s only going to hap­pen if a bunch of oth­er con­di­tions are met (with or with­out gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies).

– The trucks have to be reli­able and plen­ti­ful.

– There needs to be suf­fi­cient build out of re-fuel­ing and main­te­nance infra­struc­ture.

– Nat­ur­al gas has to stay cheap­er than oil (on an ener­gy-equiv­a­lent basis).

The Hous­ton brewery’s full fleet of CNG trucks should be in place by the end of the year.

Read the orig­i­nal Forbes arti­cle

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