A future-proof combination – CNG engines and automatic transmissions

With operations throughout Florida, Georgia, Texas and California, Saddle Creek Transportation is one of many US commercial truck fleets that are using Allison's automatic-equipped compressed natural gas (CNG) prime movers bring to their business.

“Last year, we took a look at ways we could really make a significant difference both to our cost structure and to provide additional value to our customers,” according to Mike DelBovo, president of Saddle Creek Transportation.

“We looked at a lot of things that could incrementally improve our company and then we found something that could make a big difference – natural gas technology for our trucks.”

Saddle Creek's fleet consists of about 400 trucks – including several new Freightliner prime movers equipped with compressed natural gas (CNG) powered Cummins engines and Allison 3000 Series fully automatic transmissions. This combination has already proved so successful that they have ordered more units.

“Savings is a big part of it. We're looking at very high diesel fuel prices again, and we're able to procure our natural gas for just a little bit more than half that cost,” according to DelBovo. “It's a great savings and helps pay for the investment of the trucks. The rest of the story is really one of sustainability and providing that sustainability edge to our customers.”

“We're a regional hauler and that means we do some shorter haul moves. Delivering to cities, we have a lot of stop-and-go traffic, and we're backing into tight places all the time,” said DelBovo.

John Erwin, Saddle Creek's director of transportation, said, “This was a big change for us, going to the automatic transmission. A lot of our drivers had never driven the automatic, so it was a big unknown for them.”

Allison's Load Based Shift Scheduling (LBSS) has also been very beneficial for Saddle Creek. “We have a variety of weights that we pull every day. With the load-based shifting, it adjusts to optimize as we change every day. It helps on the fuel economy,” Erwin concluded.

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