JULY 2008

Casella pilots International diesel-electric hybrid waste vehicle
Fuel consumption is expected to drop by 30 to 40% for fleet

Managing fuel costs was difficult for companies when oil was still fairly inexpensive. Now, with oil prices topping $140 a barrel, managing fleet fuel consumption has become a bigger challenge than ever.

To meet this challenge, Casella Waste Systems, Inc., based in Rutland, Vermont, has implemented a new vehicle pilot program. Their new truck is an International DuraStar® diesel-electric hybrid. The vehicle, manufactured by Navistar, Inc., was put to work collecting organic waste in late May.

Casella, which has operations in 14 states, has a combined fleet of over 3,000 vehicles, and also owns several depots to house and service them. With a fleet of that size, the rising fuel costs can lead to a significant expense. This new pilot will allow Casella to judge the cost efficiency and environmental implications of integrating additional hybrid vehicles into their fleet.

According to Joe Fusco, a Casella vice president, “This is the first International vehicle placed in the waste industry. We expect the truck to reduce fuel consumption by 30 to 40 percent and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 65 percent. We’re exploring all kinds of propulsion technology because with fuel costs like they are, our big challenge has become finding a way to use less of something that we’ve always been able to use a lot of before. So we’re also exploring liquid natural gas and biodiesel powered solutions.”

He went on to say that, “For [Casella], the question we need to answer is, ‘what is the right balance of operational costs versus maintenance challenges?’ We implemented this pilot program 1) to see what makes the most sense environmentally, and 2) to see what makes the most economic sense for the company.”

Several discussions were held before it was decided to allow Casella the opportunity to test the vehicle for waste collection.

“Navistar is always looking for new customers and markets opportunities, and [Casella] is always looking for ways to improve efficiency,” says Fusco. “If the DuraStar works as an engine and has the good operational and maintenance profiles we expect, then it is certainly something we would be interested in expanding to other parts of the fleet.”

While Casella plans on taking advantage of the federal and state grants available for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles, according to Fusco, these are not the company’s main incentive.

“We’re a charter member of the United States EPA’s Climate Leaders program. We’ve pledged to decrease our GHG emissions company wide by 10 percent in the next five years. The addition of hybrid vehicles to our fleet would certainly allow us to meet that reduction goal.”

John W. Casella, chairman and CEO of Casella, also stresses the company’s environmental concerns. “This hybrid recycling truck is an important step forward in our commitment to reduce our GHG emissions, reduce our overall consumption of fossil fuels, and insulate our business from the volatility of fuel costs. We continue to look for other applications to put hybrid vehicles into service to further reduce our environmental footprint and diesel fuel costs.”

Jim Williams, Navistar’s director of sales and distribution, expects that the pilot will yield positive results.

“This is just the beginning,” he says. “With diesel prices at an all-time high, an average fuel economy improvement of 30 to 40 percent translates into thousands of dollars in savings per truck, per year.”