Progressive Waste Solutions: CNG Makes Sense

“Our company uses roughly 40 million gallons, or about 115 million litres, of fuel per year, and even at a 30% savings, that is still a significant dollar amount.” David West, Vice President of Purchasing, Fleet and Maintenance at Progressive Waste Solutions

“Our company uses roughly 40 million gallons, or about 115 million litres, of fuel per year, and even at a 30% savings, that is still a significant dollar amount.”
David West, Vice President of Purchasing, Fleet and Maintenance at Progressive Waste Solutions

Even with the additional infrastructure and upfitting costs, this fleet is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars on fuel per year since making the switch to CNG.

When Progressive Waste Solutions set out to covert their fleet to CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), their goal was to green their fleet, save money on fuel, as well as reduce their dependence on foreign oil.

For Progressive, the CNG journey began back in 2011 with a single CNG-powered demonstrator truck. The experiment went so well, that today over 410 of the 3,700 vehicles on their North American fleet run on CNG, and that number will grow in months and years to come.

The cost savings alone are well worth noting. “In Vancouver,” explains David West, Vice President of Purchasing, Fleet and Maintenance at Progressive Waste Solutions, “we are saving about $22,000 a year per truck, when you compare diesel with CNG.”

West explains the math in more detail. “Until diesel prices fell recently, we were at an average price here in Canada of about $1.08/L. If I were to compare that to natural gas, even with all the extra inputs – because it’s not just the cost of the commodity – you have an electrical component because you have to compress the gas, an infrastructure component because you have to put CNG into the vehicles, and you have an increased cost of $35,000 – $40,000 per vehicle for upfitting. Even with all that said and done, we’re still saving about 45 – 50% on fuel. Our company uses roughly 40 million gallons, or about 115 million litres, of fuel per year, and even at a 30% savings, that is still a significant dollar amount.”

CNG limits

But CNG is not the answer to all your fleet woes. Even Progressive – a company that’s committed to CNG – isn’t converting 100% of their fleet to natural gas. “In a lot of markets, CNG doesn’t make sense – either for practical reasons or for financial reasons,” West explains. “On the practical side, your yard may be too far away from a CNG supply. Financially, in our estimation, we don’t want to put gas vehicles in a place that only has 10 or 12 routes – the return on the financial investment wouldn’t make sense.”

When a fleet has a large number of trucks in a single location, the $3.5 – $5 million investment in the infrastructure necessary for a CNG fueling station makes sense because the fleet can spread the cost over a larger footprint, West says. On the other hand, a small number of vehicles in a given location wouldn’t justify the multi-million-dollar investment.

Climate concerns

Many fleet managers wonder how well CNG works in the colder parts of Canada. “In cold climates we store our fleets inside,” West explains. “If we were considering using CNG trucks in parts of Canada that get really cold, we would look at installing additional features on the trucks that would allow them to run in the colder weather. For instance, we would add hydraulic heaters, natural gas heaters, and coolant heaters. Running a CNG-powered truck in cold weather is not a problem. Once the truck is running it’s fine. But getting it started in truly cold conditions is the challenge – as is the case with non-CNG vehicles as well.”

Today, Progressive runs 85 CNG trucks in Vancouver, 100 in Barrie, 42 in Montreal, and many more in the United States. Next year they’ll be running an additional 65 CNG trucks in the Toronto area. “For us,” West says, “CNG makes sense.”

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