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Going Green and Lightweight: How Suez North America Saved $20,000

Suez North America is an environmentally friendly water utilities company, providing water and wastewater services as well as recycling and waste recovery services to almost 8 million people in North America. Known for placing sustainable environmental practices at the forefront of their operations, Suez employs innovative strategies to shrink their environmental footprint. The corporate headquarters for Suez’s North American operations are found in Paramus, New Jersey. In northern New Jersey alone, Suez serves 800,000 people with clean, sustainable water, while preserving the local waterways.

Bruce Ottogalli, transportation manager, oversees Suez’s fleet in New Jersey and New York. As the company’s only transportation manager, he is responsible for maintaining, servicing and updating the fleet’s work trucks – an integral part of Suez’s operations.

“As a sustainable company, the biggest thing for us is to have a limited environmental footprint with the vehicles, curb our carbon footprint and go green,” Ottogalli said. “We’re limited in our area as we can’t use propane or natural gas, because the suburban areas we serve don’t have that kind of fuel to fill our trucks.” Because the fleet’s vehicles must be powered by diesel or gas, Ottogalli has had to find other ways to follow the company’s green mandate.

Spec’ing Trucks for an Environmentally Friendly Fleet
Suez replaces their fleet trucks every 10 years, and in 2016 the fleet was due for an upgrade. Keeping the green mandate in mind, Ottogalli had some specific requests for his truck suppliers.

First, the truck bodies had to be aluminum – this would allow the rear body of the truck to be recycled when it was no longer being used in the fleet. The chosen upfitters, Jersey Truck Equipment and Auto Truck, were supplied the cab chassis from Ford and the aluminum truck bodies from Reading Truck Bodies.

Second, the vehicles needed to be lighter than the previous trucks for better fuel economy. “We replaced most of the F-650s with new F-650s, but we also replaced three F-650s with F-550s, to allow our trucks to get around better in the tighter streets of some of the cities we work in,” Ottogalli said.

Third, the new trucks had to be equipped with anti-idling devices – this fuel-saving technology has been installed on all new Suez vehicles since 2016. The LGS Group supplied Suez with the Ecostar Systems by Intermotive Vehicle Controls, which were installed on the vehicles in Suez’s own shop.

Equipment Upgrades
With the truck updates also came equipment updates. Suez trucks are equipped with air compressors, as the crew uses air tools to make repairs to water mains. “Jackhammers are required to break pavement for us to access the water mains, while other air tools are used to blow away material near the water main and complete the repairs,” Ottogalli explained.

With this fleet upgrade, Ottogalli took the opportunity to speak with the crew to find out what was on their wish list. The crew’s No. 1 request was to have more space on their trucks. To free up space, Ottogalli sought to replace their bulky, 1,000-pound diesel-driven air compressors with something more compact and lightweight. Ottogalli recalled learning about VMAC air compressors at NTEA’s The Work Truck Show in 2013 and thought an under-the-hood air compressor solution would solve the space and weight challenges. As VMAC dealers, Jersey Truck Equipment and Auto Truck were able to outfit the trucks with VMAC UNDERHOOD 150 Air Compressors.

The VMAC UNDERHOOD 150 Air Compressor is powerful enough to power one jackhammer and complete the necessary jobs. “We get air on demand, and it puts out the air that we need. For our application, it’s well worth it,” Ottogalli said. 

A More Sustainable Fleet
Between January and October 2017, Suez was supplied with Ford F-550 and F-650 trucks and equipped them with VMAC UNDERHOOD 150 Air Compressors. In total, these changes resulted in thousands of pounds of weight savings.

“With the aluminum body and VMAC, we dropped 3,200 pounds from the curb weight of the F-650,” Ottogalli said.

The VMAC UNDERHOOD 150 Air Compressors weigh just 200 pounds compared to the 1,000 pounds the previous compressors weighed. The under-the-hood placement of the VMAC air compressor also achieved the crew’s goal to have more space freed up on the truck – there’s now about 3 extra feet of storage available in the back of the truck. 

It Pays to Go Green
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that for every 100 pounds of weight reduction, a vehicle’s fuel economy can be saved by up to 2 percent. Suez’s grand weight reduction of thousands of pounds, coupled with the vehicle-driven air compressor and anti-idling devices, creates the perfect combination for maximum fuel savings, leading to some notable improvements to the department’s bottom line.

It’s now been just over a year since Suez received its first new truck, with the fleet being fully completed in October 2017. With less than a year of having the fleet fully upgraded, Suez has already seen big payoffs, with almost $20,000 in diesel fuel savings.

The new trucks run on gas instead of diesel, and the new VMAC UNDERHOOD 150 air compressors run off the truck engine instead of requiring additional diesel fuel to run. Overall, about 8,000 gallons of diesel have been saved, and it hasn’t even been a full year with the new fleet. “Besides saving almost $20,000 dollars in such a short time, we’ve also reduced our carbon footprint by about 155,000 pounds,” Ottogalli said. 

Environmentally Friendly Options From VMAC
Known for being lightweight and compact, each of VMAC’s air compressors are significantly lighter than many competitive compressors. In Suez’s case, VMAC was 800 pounds lighter than their diesel-driven compressors. But in addition to being lightweight, VMAC also has its own kind of anti-idling technology, which is present in various air compressors. This proprietary technology automatically idles the compressor’s engine up and down with air demand, and it turns the engine off and on with air demand, limiting engine idling. VMAC air compressors are an attractive option for utilities and public works companies, as well as government fleets, due to their green technology. 

The Future is Eco-Friendly
Suez’s innovative and eco-friendly business practices can serve as inspiration to other companies looking to limit their mark on the environment, and, as a bonus, save money. But it’s only possible with forward-thinking and creative individuals such as Ottogalli, who was empowered to make substantial changes to his fleet, from changing to aluminum bodies to choosing VMAC UNDERHOOD air compressors.

“It’s great to report the fuel and cost savings year over year since making these changes to the fleet,” Ottogalli said. “It’s rewarding to see that we continue to reduce our environmental impact, and it’s great motivation to continue finding new ways to keep innovating.”

About the Author: Anne Fortin is a digital marketing specialist for VMAC Global Technology Inc.

Green Fleets