Reducing Carbon Footprint & Fuel Costs
WestAir, the leader in industrial gases and equipment in the Southwest U.S. set an aggressive goal to shrink both its carbon footprint and fuel costs by converting its extensive fleet of trucks from diesel to natural gas.
WestAir serves customers in many competitive industry sectors, from lab and life sciences to metal fabrication and food and beverage. Delivering products on time and in perfect condition is a crucial service that WestAir provides to clients. With its clients’ needs in mind and a commitment to the environment, WestAir knew it would need to partner with another industry leader to help them make the conversion.
WestAir’s Journey: From Concept to Conversion
As the company began to explore natural gas transportation options, there were challenges, notes Steve Byers, President and Chief Operating Officer of WestAir Gases. The cost of the conversion would be substantial, trucks would need to be modified to meet practical and performance standards, new health and safety issues would need to be addressed, drivers would need to be re-trained, and a maintenance system that operated 24/7 would need to be created. At the same time, it was important that WestAir maintain its top-notch customer service, in keeping with the company’s guiding philosophy: Large Enough to Serve, Small Enough to Care.
“We could only achieve our goal with an extraordinary partner,” says Byers. “One who understands the time pressure we operate under and shares our sense of urgency when it comes to delivering at optimum level for our customers. The only way we can differentiate ourselves from the competition is by doing what we do better – delivering on time, every time. It only takes one bad experience to ruin a reputation, and we must minimize that risk at every step in our execution.”
Expertise Made Ryder the First Choice
WestAir was able to jump the cost hurdle to convert to natural gas largely because Ryder had already begun preparing for the conversion nationally by obtaining incentives from local governments committed to going green. Ryder has a program dedicated to finding these subsidies. Ryder’s business model makes the company uniquely positioned to help the advanced fuel vehicle industry reach critical mass. Ryder is a charter member of the NGV Fleet Forum, a member of the Department of Energy’s National Clean Fleets partnership and a recipient of the 2011 NGV Achievement Award.
Armed with government subsidies that Ryder obtained for WestAir’s conversion to a natural gas fleet, it was now time to ensure the new trucks could meet WestAir’s delivery needs. Ryder’s pre-built natural gas trucks did not have the custom bodies required by WestAir. Together, the two companies designed a natural gas truck with the custom bodies necessary for moving the tanks and other equipment that WestAir required. Special attention was made to getting the weight of the trucks just right so they could perform at optimum natural gas consumption levels between fuel stations. The redesigned trucks are more flexible, so when a power unit goes in for service, WestAir just switches and hooks up another one – a time-saving element that was never present in its daily distribution system prior to the conversion. In addition to flexibility, the trucks’ maneuverability and fuel usage are improved and Ryder provides mobile maintenance – allowing certified technicians to service any truck wherever it may be in WestAir’s delivery network.
Drivers for WestAir are empowered to play an important role in the company’s conversion to natural gas. Ryder provided training to help them successfully navigate the changes with the new vehicle technology and stay safe in the process says Austin Romesberg, Vice President of WestAir Gases. “Even though we have seasoned drivers, the new fleet required different delivery schedules due to the fueling process and new ways of addressing daily challenges – such as shifting routes to accommodate fueling, learning new health and safety procedures and working with trucks that have a greater range of maneuverability. Ryder’s total dedication to innovation, creating highly specific and unique solutions, and provision of exemplary service not only helped WestAir increase its performance levels and sustainability practices, it also significantly boosts the company’s ability to grow,” states Romeberg.
Within the next five years, WestAir expects to double its business, extending its footprint throughout the Southwest United States and beyond. The company also hopes to enter the natural gas fuel station market as proven experts in the natural gas field – having achieved the conversion itself. Now armed with its green fleet, that important goal looks even more achievable, Byers says. “We love to share the fact that we are going green,” he adds. “It’s not only the right thing to do, but many customers truly appreciate this effort.”
To do the right thing, both for the environment and business, it takes leadership, innovation and flexibility. Together, WestAir Gases and Ryder are delivering custom natural gas solutions that are greener, smarter and ever better.