Gregg Hodgdon, CAFM, director of fleet operations at Deli Express, is shown above left with Scott Bates, truck product manager for Thermo King, in front of the fleet’s new, fuel-efficient truck.

Gregg Hodgdon, CAFM, director of fleet operations at Deli Express, is shown above left with Scott Bates, truck product manager for Thermo King, in front of the fleet’s new, fuel-efficient truck. 

Using alternative fuels isn’t the only option for fleets seeking to go green. Minnesota-based Deli Express/E.A. Sween Company, a national food purveyor, chose to go a different route to achieve its goals of reduced fuel consumption and a smaller carbon footprint: improving on traditional fuel performance.

With the help of key suppliers, the company was able to develop a fuel-efficient, lightweight, and cost-effective truck without sacrificing customer satisfaction.

Tradition with a Twist
Deli Express boasts several Isuzu NPR ECO-MAX trucks in its fleet, with more on the way. The results of utilizing these new vehicles have exceeded the company’s highest expectations, according to Gregg Hodgdon, CAFM, director of fleet operations for Deli Express.

“These vehicles are demonstrating nearly 50-percent better fuel economy than the rest of our fleet and are emitting about 700 lbs. less carbon dioxide every month,” Hodgdon said. Over a 12-month period, the NPR ECO-MAX trucks will emit 4.2-tons less carbon dioxide.

Hodgdon has led E.A. Sween’s Deli Express fleet for the past 11 years, first as the fleet manager, and now as director of fleet operations. In this role, he oversees nationwide fleet operations for Deli Express’ private business distribution, as well as the consolidated 7-Eleven business.

“These results are proof that it is possible to improve a fleet’s carbon footprint through weight reduction and efficient technologies while still utilizing a traditional fuel source,” Hodgdon said.

An additional benefit: Deli Express drivers prefer the new trucks to their predecessors. “Our drivers love the NPR ECO-MAX,” Hodgdon said. “It’s closer to the ground, so they don’t have to stretch to get in and out. We love the design of the whole truck.”

Searching for a Solution
Hodgdon and Deli Express began their quest for a greener, more fuel-efficient truck that would not sacrifice performance, durability, or ergonomics more than two years ago. With the assistance of the company’s fleet management partner, ARI - Automotive Resources International, Hodgdon explored a variety of alternative technologies to determine which fuel type could work best for Deli Express.

“We realized that it was indeed possible to make a positive, sustainable change with traditional fuels,” according to Hodgdon. “But, it would require an innovative truck design that could significantly improve fuel economy without compromising the power, reliability, and convenience that Deli Express drivers demand.”

Introduced for 2011, the 12,000-lb. GVWR NPR ECO-MAX features Isuzu’s 4JJ1-TC 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that generates 150 hp and 282 lb.-ft. of torque, more than enough, Hodgdon noted, “to move the driver, the daily cargo load, and the lightweight body without breaking a sweat.”

Like all current Isuzu trucks, the NPR ECO-MAX boasts a B-10 engine life rating of 310,000 miles, meaning that 90 percent of 4JJ1-TC engines will reach that mileage before requiring an overhaul.

As with the entire Isuzu truck lineup, the NPR ECO-MAX meets EPA 2010 and California Air Resources Board (CARB) HD-OBD emissions standards and is clean-idle certified in all 50 states. Isuzu medium-duty trucks also offer selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) injection to reduce NOx emissions by 85 percent.


Finding the Right Fit
To provide an efficient refrigeration unit to complete the new truck, Deli Express selected Thermo King’s new V-520 RT Spectrum direct drive unit. The Spectrum is suited to handle the company’s requirements for both the fresh and frozen compartments of the truck. 

A heating system enables productivity gains by allowing specialized thawing applications to occur on the truck, rather than in a warehouse. The refrigeration system is capable of maintaining the required temperatures throughout the geographic reach of Deli Express, which includes both hot and cold climates. 

The Spectrum uses electric standby to reduce fuel consumption and corresponding emissions. The unit also uses a low amount of refrigerant, which reduces its impact on the environment.

Delivering the Desired Concept
Deli Express operates a fleet of 235 trucks, 110 cars, and 80 cold storage trailers, along with 100 trucks for 7-Eleven, its largest customer. Route trucks provide direct store delivery in 26 states.

The time span from concept to delivery of the first specially equipped Isuzu trucks was 18 months, with a steady stream of vehicles being delivered down the supply pipeline and being integrated into the Deli Express fleet.
Working with clients and equipment suppliers to develop customized solutions to issues of efficiency, sustainability, performance, and dependability is nothing new for Isuzu, according to Shaun Skinner, executive vice president and general manager of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America. “We strive to provide all of our customers with the exact trucks they require, whether they are trying to achieve low cost of operation, minimal downtime, exceptional hauling capability, power, fuel economy, or environmental friendliness — or all of the above,” Skinner said.

Helping Others Achieve Sustainability
Hodgdon was recently honored for his innovation to develop an efficient and lightweight diesel truck that provides significant fuel economy savings and emissions reduction. Deli Express was recognized as one of four Sustainable Fleet Award winners at the 2012 NAFA Fleet Management Association Institute & Expo in St. Louis in April.

For other fleets looking to achieve similar environmental goals, there’s no need to “reinvent the wheel.” Hodgdon and his team of suppliers will be presenting their results during a session at the 2012 Green Fleet Conference in Schaumburg, Ill., scheduled for Oct. 2-3, 2012. Hodgdon will be joined by Scott Bates, truck product manager for Thermo King; Edward Crawford, executive director of strategic marketing for Isuzu Commercial Truck of America; Jonathan Schultz, product manager for Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies; and Craig Neuber, director of strategic consulting for ARI.

The session is designed to help educate fleet managers on how they can maximize their supplier resources to help further their sustainability goals. For more information, go to