Biodiesel Driving Business to National Fleet

The sustainability trend has swept across the transportation and fuel industries in recent years. Biodiesel has helped G&D Integrated, a for-hire carrier, meet its own environmental goals and win business. 

Helping the Environment and Profits

G&D Integrated has found that sustainability is not only about its own goals, but also what it can do to meet its customers’ goals to be environmentally friendly.

“We’ve noticed that there are more and more customers asking us to participate in their sustainability efforts,” says Vince Buonassi, group manager of transportation programs at the for-hire carrier. “We’ve actually been awarded freight based on our biodiesel usage.”

Those customers are found worldwide and do business in heavy equipment manufacturing and parts fulfillment, agricultural machinery, automotive parts and components, food containers and food packaging.

Located in central Illinois, G&D Integrated’s services include transportation, warehousing, and distribution and logistics. On the transportation side, it offers point-to-point hauling, dedicated contract carriage, ocean container drayage and freight brokerage.

Its fleet of 430 vehicles travels up to 26 million miles annually. The diesel-powered units run year-round on a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel, which is known as B20.

Biodiesel has been key not only in the company’s sustainability efforts but also in growing its business. For instance, biodiesel usage is showing up in some RFPs and, Buonassi says, has been “directly related” to the company winning bids. It also has helped G&D Integrated strengthen its relationship with East Coast ports that want to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Many of our customers analyze their entire supply chain for environmental impact, and some have even gone as far as incorporating sustainability into their purchasing departments,” he says.

Significant carbon reduction

The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from G&D’s use of biodiesel is equal to nearly 230,000 fewer gallons of gasoline consumed each year. Particulate matter is reduced by 2,854 pounds annually. The numbers come from the B20 Club, a program from the Illinois Soybean Association and the American Lung Association.

“We’re talking a material difference here,” Buonassi says.

G&D Integrated started using biodiesel several years ago after its fuel supplier, Ag-Land FS Inc., introduced the company to the fuel.

“They were claiming that this product would not only cost us less money but also would not result in any efficiency losses,” Buonassi says.

He has found that to be true and says biodiesel has not caused G&D Integrated to increase its rates.

Fuel that performs

G&D Integrated started with a B11 blend before quickly moving up to B20. Each time, it rigorously tested the fuel.

“What we observed was there was absolutely zero degradation in performance,” Buonassi says.

In fact, biodiesel added lubricity. It has also performed well in cold weather. Buonassi credits partnering with a quality vendor like Ag-Land FS to getting a good product. The fuel comes from REG.

“A company like REG has production facilities that make top-of-the-line, quality-controlled biodiesel,” he says. “And they’re sourcing different forms of feedstock that go through testing before being converted to the end product.”

It’s an end product that Buonassi credits with helping G&D Integrated stay ahead of the curve.

“There’s really no sense in fighting the tide of sustainability,” he says. “A lot of other truck carriers will. At G&D, we feel it's our duty to be good environmental custodians, and it makes business sense for us.”

The Bottom Line

Environment

G&D Integrated's biodiesel use reduces:

  • Carbon dioxide emissions by the equivalent of 230,000 gallons of gasoline annually
  • More than 2,800 pounds of particulate matter

Performance

No drop in fleet performance compared with petroleum diesel.
Uses up to a B20 blend in cold weather.

Business

G&D Integrated has been awarded business because of biodiesel use.

Watch: G&D Integrated Explains Biodiesel Benefits

Before G&D Integrated fully embraced biodiesel, it extensively tested how it's fleet performed. See the results.

Looking Under the Hood at Biodiesel

Diesel technicians whose fleets run on biodiesel blends say performance stays strong with the renewable fuel.

As a diesel technician with 15 years’ experience, Joe Siadak knows truck engines well. But biodiesel taught him something new. 

When Mahoney Environment, where he is lead technician, decided to run its fleet of Class 7 and Class 8 trucks on biodiesel blends, Siadak had some concerns. He thought his team would see more fuel system failures and increased filter change intervals.

The reality, however, is there's been no impact on the performance of the 160-truck fleet, which collects used cooking oil from restaurants nationwide.

“It was very surprising that the failures and added work I expected to see just didn’t happen,” Siadak says. “It was as if we made no change at all.”

On board with biodiesel

His story is not unique. While some people make assumptions about biodiesel, the people who know diesel vehicles best inside and out — mechanics and technicians — and have experience with biodiesel say their fleets run great on the renewable fuel.

"I'm 100 percent on board with biodiesel," says Roget Ritchie, maintenance manager at Rochester Public Transit in Minnesota. "Our equipment has lasted and done a really good job." Rochester Public Transit has been running its buses on biodiesel blends for nearly 20 years. It started at a B2 blend, meaning the fuel is 2 percent biodiesel and 98 percent petroleum diesel, and gradually moved to higher blends. Today, the 55-bus fleet uses B20 in warmer months and B10 in the winter. "With the B10 in the winter, we haven't had any issues at all," says Ritchie, a diesel technician for nearly 40 years. "We change filters every 6,000 miles, and the equipment has run fine."

Fewer maintenance issues

One of the benefits of biodiesel is it adds lubricity that is lacking in ULSD. Diesel vehicles rely on fuel to lubricate the fuel injection system, including the fuel pump and injectors. Without enough lubrication, these components can experience unnecessary wear and damage. Proper lubricity management can also help engines run smoother, more quietly and cooler. 

"While we do not tear down injectors to see the impact firsthand, our injector replacement certainly has decreased since we started running on biodiesel," Siadak says. "I attribute this to the increase in lubricity the biodiesel provides."

Rochester Public Transit also has had fewer injector issues since moving up to B20 a few years ago, according to Ritchie.

Biodiesel also has a higher ASTM spec for Cetane compared with petroleum diesel. And Siadak says biodiesel’s cleaner burn has contributed to fewer after-treatment failures from plugged diesel particulate filters.

A good solution

There are other benefits to fleets that use biodiesel. One is that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas and engine head emissions compared with petroleum diesel. Another is that biodiesel is often less expensive than petroleum diesel.

What Siadak and Ritchie are ultimately responsible for is keeping their fleets in peak condition. And in that respect, biodiesel gets the job done. 

“I’ve been working on Rochester buses since the mid1980s, and biodiesel has been as good if not better for the equipment than diesel,” Ritchie says.

And Siadak says anyone who thinks biodiesel hurts performance should look under the hood.

“If two trucks were side by side and one ran biodiesel and one didn’t, you would not be able to tell the difference,” he says.

Mahoney Environmental

  • Located in Joliet, Illinois
  • 160 trucks
  • Travels 9.5 million miles annually
  • Uses up to B20 

Rochester Public Transit

  • Located in Rochester, Minnesota
  • 55 buses
  • Travels 1.2 million miles annually
  • Uses up to B20