Future of Natural Gas Looks Bright for NFI

NFI recently converted one of its fleets in Texas to LNG-fueled Peterbilt Model 384s, allowing the operation to reduce its emissions by 15 percent. The environmental impact of the full-service lease with PacLease has Bill Bliem, NFI senior vice president of fleet services, feeling optimistic.

“Our move to LNG with this specific fleet makes economic sense,” Bliem says, “while allowing NFI and our customer to be socially responsible by reducing our carbon footprint. It’s a win-win.”

Operating more than 2,000 trucks throughout the United States, Bliem says the supply chain solutions provider buys its trucks, and has its own maintenance facilities due to its sheer size. “It’s the economies of scale,” he notes. “But when it came to natural gas, we varied from the norm and went with a full-service lease.”

According to Bliem, new technology comes with inherent risk and some uncertainty. “We want to be on the leading edge and we feel natural gas vehicles and the fueling infrastructure have come a long way over the past couple of years but, many unknowns still exist. And, that’s why we decided to lease our trucks from Rush Truck Leasing and PacLease. Our lease allows us to run the trucks, and run them hard – we’ll average 155,000 miles a year per truck – and we won’t have to worry about maintenance, downtime or selling the trucks and figuring out a market value when it comes time for replacement. Since all of those variables are factored into the full-service lease, all we do is operate the trucks and pay a set monthly lease fee.”

The Peterbilt 384s NFI is leasing are equipped with Cummins Westport ISX12 G engines rated at 400 hp and 10-speed Eaton transmissions. The tractors haul 57-foot van trailers and feature 150-gallon LNG fuel tanks which are approximately 82-gallon diesel fuel tank equivalents.

Bliem says he talked with other national leasing companies, but his comfort level with Rush Truck Leasing and PacLease was magnified since there was a direct connection to Peterbilt. “They know the trucks better than anyone else,” says Bliem.

“We’ve also found Rush and PacLease to be an impressive group and very responsive to our needs – they put us at ease. When the tractors came in, they, along with Clean Energy Fuels (which provides fueling infrastructure) provided training for us. This LNG 101 session answered all the questions drivers had about vehicle operation and fueling. And, it allowed us to seamlessly move into natural gas vehicles.”

The contract with PacLease also gave NFI some assurances. “Unforeseen issues have been dealt with in advance,” says Bliem. “For example, we have substitute vehicles with PacLease should there ever be the need. That means we’re assured of uninterrupted service for our customer. And to us, that’s paramount. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing we have a partner in PacLease that is as committed to us as we are to our customer.”

What’s more, Bliem says, “There is no question that Peterbilt makes a quality truck – they make some of the best trucks in the industry. The comfort of the Peterbilt 384 is great, and the drivers just love driving the vehicles. Plus, we’re finding the LNG trucks are much quieter than our diesel units -- they like that as well.”

What does the future hold for NFI and natural gas vehicles? “We’re certainly looking to expand our footprint with LNG and CNG further,” says Bliem. “The industry is still relatively young and with the size of our fleet and the routes we travel, the fueling infrastructure needs to continue to mature. As it does, you can bet we’ll be looking at natural gas vehicles to fill the space.”

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About NFI

NFI is a fully integrated supply chain solutions provider headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ. Privately held by the Brown family since its inception in 1932, NFI generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue and employs more than 7,000 associates. NFI owns facilities globally and operates in excess of 20 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space. Its company-owned fleet consists of over 2,000 tractors and 7,000 trailers, operated by more than 2,500 company drivers and 250 Owner Operators. Its business lines include transportation, warehousing, intermodal, brokerage, global, real estate, trailer storage, and solar services. For more information about NFI, visit www.nfiindustries.com, or call 1-877-NFI-3777.