Act Naturally

With BevOps/Fleet Summit upon us (which very likely is happening as you read this), I’ve got alternative fuel on the brain. A recent trip to Indianapolis helped put me into that frame of mind. That was the host city for a second consecutive year—next year will be the trifecta—of the Work Truck Show and if there was one take away from the three-day event in the home of the Indy 500, it’s that CNG’s moment has truly arrived.

CNG (compressed natural gas) seemed to be in the air (no, not literally) at the March event, which showcases the latest and greatest in commercial vehicles. Virtually every press conference from the major fleet equipment suppliers had something to do with CNG. Many cited the stats released by the International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles, which estimates that there will be more than 50 million natural gas vehicles worldwide within the next decade, or about 9 percent of world transportation fleets. That’s nearly quadruple the 13 million that are on the road now. About 150,000 of those are in the U.S.

Part of what has made CNG the go-to alternative fuel is that the infrastructure is already pretty much in place. Fleets can tap into existing natural gas lines with on-site refueling stations. It also helps that CNG has demonstrated a dramatic reduction in smog-producing pollutants and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Oh, and it costs, on average, more than a buck less than the equivalent volume of gasoline. That’s a highlight that’s certainly not lost on fleets dealing with this year’s oppressive fuel prices. Natural gas is also free of the sort of price volatility that goes with sourcing fuel from foreign oil, especially when the bulk of it—about 60 percent to be exact—comes from unstable regions of the world. Contrast that with natural gas, 98 percent of which is produced in North America.

So it’s timely that the current Fleet of the Year honoree, Golden Eagle—which we’re honoring at our BevOps/Fleet Summit Awards dinner—achieved the distinction for its progressive work with CNG vehicles. Golden Eagle’s senior VP of business operations Bill Osteen also is on the speaker roster at this year’s event, detailing the practices that earned his company the award.

According to our 2012 Beverage Supply Chain Report in this month’s issue, a little more than 4 percent of respondents’ fleets currently are using CNG vehicles, while around 10 percent say they plan to incorporate CNG in the next year.

That’s just one of the topics you’ll find in the report, which combines—just as BevOps/Fleet Summit does—insight on beverage fleet management with that on warehouse and facilities operations. It’s the first time we’ve combined both aspects of the beverage supply chain into a single comprehensive document. There is something in it for companies of all sizes and it should prove to be a useful guide for whatever operational investments you plan to make in the near future.

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