In 2010, the City of Chicago received a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Cities grant of $15 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, which the Chicago Area Clean Cities (CACC) Coalition used to launch a new project the Chicago Area Alternative Fuels Deployment Project (CAAFDP). As part of that new project, Foodliner, a national carrier of bulk food products, received $100,000 to use for the purchase of six CNG vehicles for the fleet at its Franklin Park, IL, facility.


Foodliner, Inc., is a national carrier of bulk food grade products with a nationwide fleet of approximately 1,900 trailers. The fleet of 42 vehicles at the company’s Franklin Park, IL, facility makes daily deliveries to Coca-Cola in Milwaukee, WI, and two bottling plants in the Chicago area. Freightliner has, for years, been committed to incorporating sustainability development into its fleet and is an industry leader in efforts to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards for heavy-duty diesel engines.

The Economics of CNG Vehicles

Foodliner, like many regional fleet operators, has been looking to natural gas for the potential fuel savings it offers. Yet, they wrestled with the economics. Would the fuel cost savings offset the additional cost of the technology, which can be upwards of $80,000, according to some experts1

Some estimate that, for a truck that runs at least 80,000 miles a year, the savings of about $1.50 per gallon that natural gas offers over the cost of diesel could help a fleet operator achieve a return on investment in a CNG truck in about two years. If so, that is a compelling promise for regional fleets like Foodliner, whose trucks typically have a longer life-cycle than those with long-haul, over-the-road applications.

Making the Move to CNG

In line with its corporate commitment to producing fewer emissions, Foodliner was at the leading-edge of technology with its purchase of six CNG trucks in 2010. “We had been considering making the move to CNG vehicles,” says Kyle Neumann, Foodliner’s Director of Maintenance. “The [DOE Clean Cities] grant spurred us to think seriously about it.”

Foodliner received $100,000 in Clean Cities funding and $175,000 in federal tax credits to cover the “green” portion of the trucks (i.e. the incremental costs above the base diesel truck costs). They purchased six dedicated CNG Class 8 Freightliner chassis trucks (M2-112) equipped with the Cummins Westport (CWI ISL-G) 9-liter heavy-duty natural gas engines. Foodliner committed over $550,000 in additional funding to pay for the base truck costs.

Foodliner took delivery of the new trucks in January 2010. “We were a little bit ahead of everyone in CACC. So, were actually ahead of the infrastructure. We struggled to get out of the gate. We actually couldn’t run all six of the trucks because we couldn’t find lanes where we could get fuel.”

Driving Range

“As it turns out, we were on the bleeding-edge of technology,” agrees Al Brillhart, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Foodliner. “When we purchased the CNG units, they were the first of their kind for heavy-duty equipment. They’re business class and handle all of the local freight from bottlers here in the Midwest.”

According to Brillhart, the range of the original fuel tanks was limited to about 125 to 155 miles. Refueling was done at the fast-fill, public access CNG fueling station at Gas Technology Institute (GTI) headquarters in Des Plaines, IL. “We’re also working with a local food company to use some of their lanes for our CNG units to operate back and forth in the Illinois marketplace.”

“The infrastructure has changed quite dramatically since the beginning and continues to change, so that helps us,” Brillhart continues.

There are now four public or shared access stations in downtown Chicago, a few spread throughout the suburbs, as well as one near both O’Hare and Midway, and additional stations in Wisconsin on the way to Milwaukee.

Natural Gas Engines: Challenges and Benefits

The Freightliner trucks were equipped with the Cummins Westport ISL G CNG engine an 9-liter, spark-ignited engine available with 320 horsepower and 1,000 foot-pounds of torque. According to the manufacturer, the recommended maximum GVW (gross vehicle weight) for the engine is 66,000 pounds.

As it turns out, the engine was actually undersized for the heavy loads that the Foodliner trucks need to haul. “It’s small for what we’re trying to make it do pulling 80,000 pounds,” says Neumann. “We’re really working that engine.” The company is looking to the new, larger next-generation ISX12 G natural gas engine for the next round of vehicle purchases.

Cummins Engine

Yet, the CNG engine does offer a number of benefits. “It has been a great opportunity to reduce emissions,” says Brillhart. According to the manufacturer, the ISL G was the first heavy-duty engine to meet 2010 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards. Over time, a CNG engine will not accumulate the buildup of deposits and particles typically associated with diesel engines that can cause wear and additional maintenance.
And it’s quieter. According to Freightliner, natural gas engines run 10 times quieter than comparable diesel engines?aiding significantly with driver comfort and convenience. 2

The Cummins-Westport ISL G 9-liter natural gas engine produces 320-horsepower and 1,000 foot-pounds of torque, delivering “diesel-like” performance. It was the first engine to use a three-way catalyst, making it the first EPA-certified 2010-compliant engine.

Fuel Cost Savings

Over the three full years that the CNG trucks have been in operation, Foodliner reports accumulated mileage of 431,881. Comparing the fuel cost per mile, the cost per mile for the CNG trucks was $.06 less than the diesel trucks. “One issue that we have found with CNG is that there is a lot of variability in price, due to a lack of competitive stops,” says Tim Stueck, Foodliner’s CFO. According to Stueck, total fuel savings for 2012 was $9.421.

A Video Success Story

In February 2013, MotorWeek, a weekly television series produced by Maryland Public Television that features car and truck reviews, featured the “Foodliner Success Story” as an example of one way that the CAAFDP is contributing to petroleum displacement goals in Illinois.


Lessons Learned and Next Steps

Foodliner is looking to purchase additional trucks in 2014 and is considering two options: CNG or dual-fuel vehicles (65{7f64623feb15e8ba3e2cc4fa119ce7bf1799c4d1be9e5e533264580cd485c622} CNG, 35{7f64623feb15e8ba3e2cc4fa119ce7bf1799c4d1be9e5e533264580cd485c622} diesel). They are optimistic about the performance of the next-generation Cummins Westport engine, the ISX12 G natural gas engine, which will offer up to 400 hp and 1450 lb-ft of torque and a recommended maximum GVW for line-haul applications of 80,000 pounds. “The new engine will provide a better feel for handling and dealing with day-to-day freight,” says Brillhart.
With an engine and transmission that, in combination, will enable the company to put a power take-off (PTO) for the hydraulic pump on the tractor, Foodliner will be able to deliver to anybody.

Foodliner, Inc., one of the McCoy Group of companies

9200 King Street
Franklin Park, IL 60131

1“US truckers considering natural gas over diesel say transition costs still too high,” International Business Ties 3/22/13

2The Freightliner Natural Gas Tour:

This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-EE0002541.

This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that?its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

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