The carrier’s operating area extends throughout the Midwest and Southeast. Some routes run into California, which this year began requiring aerodynamic devices such as side skirts and low rolling resistance tires on new trailers. By 2013, any trailer entering the state must have side skirts and fuel-efficient tires, unless fleets enroll for phase-in plans. But those new regulations in the Golden State are not what prompted Holman Transportation to try the Freight Wing side skirts. “We only run about three to four percent of our miles in the state of California,” Holman says.
Rather, Holman says, he tried the side skirts simply because “we’ve always tried to be progressive when it comes to saving fuel.” He tried them first on a pair of new trailers in 2009. “After about three months we could see that the mileage and performance were definitely better, and every driver that towed them liked them. We decided then and there we were going to use them on the whole fleet.”
Hydrogen Fuel Cells Improve Productivity
United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) is the largest wholesale distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods and related products in the United States. In addition to 28 distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada, UNFI provides value-added services to its customers, including marketing and promotional materials, merchandising, category management and store support services. UNFI could not continually exceed customer expectations without the assistance of its lift truck fleet, which the company uses to move product efficiently through its distribution centers as part of its material handling operations.
Through its long-standing commitment to the environment and corporate sustainability initiatives, UNFI researches and identifies sustainable technologies for use in its facilities, including solar panels for the roofs of its distribution centers and energy-efficient lighting. During the past three years, the company has examined ways to reduce its energy consumption, which led it to investigate a new power source for its lift trucks—hydrogen fuel cells. UNFI was interested in the technology as an energy-efficient alternative to the lead-acid batteries that traditionally power the company’s lift trucks.
UNFI is a nationwide customer of The Raymond Corp., so it was only natural that Tom Dziki, chief human resources and sustainability officer at UNFI, turned to Raymond and Abel Womack Inc., its authorized Raymond Sales and Service Center for more than 10 years, for an education on hydrogen fuel cell technology.
By working together, the companies identified UNFI’s Sarasota, FL, facility as an ideal site to begin using hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks, and all of UNFI’s Raymond trucks in Sarasota were converted to hydrogen fuel cell technology on June 25, 2010. The project required extensive planning and coordination between UNFI, Raymond, Abel Womack and Raymond Handling Consultants, the authorized Raymond Sales & Service Center responsible for serving UNFI’s facility in Sarasota.
In 2007, UNFI asked Abel Womack for more information about hydrogen fuel cell technology. UNFI was aware that Raymond had been researching the technology at its headquarters in Greene, NY. Representatives from Abel Womack encouraged Dziki and other UNFI personnel to attend a hydrogen fuel cell seminar Raymond was sponsoring at an industry trade show for them to learn more about the technology.
At the time, UNFI decided to wait for further testing to ensure the viability of the fuel cell technology. As time went on, UNFI continued to work with Raymond for updates on advancements in hydrogen fuel cells. UNFI also began to meet with hydrogen fuel cell manufacturers, and asked Raymond and Abel Womack to consult in the decision-making process about which manufacturer to work with, and how the technology could be implemented.
Representatives from Abel Womack met with UNFI to discuss Raymond’s experience with fuel cells and to participate in meetings with hydrogen fuel cell manufacturers to help UNFI identify the most appropriate vendor with whom to work. UNFI selected Plug Power as its manufacturer of choice.
“Raymond tests a variety of fuel cells in its equipment to make sure they provide the necessary performance and power requirements,” Dziki says. “When we spoke to the people who were doing the testing at Raymond, I felt very comfortable with the solutions we selected because we knew Plug Power and Raymond had worked together to be sure the lift trucks and the fuel cells would perform the way we needed them to.”