Snack-king Frito-Lay North America said Tuesday it plans to add 67 compressed natural gas (CNG) tractor-trailers to its fleet vehicle system, which operates in seven U.S. cities, by the middle of July. The company is testing 18 trucks with 8.9-liter Cummins Westport engines.

Frito-Lay operates more than 1,200 tractor-trailers in its national fleet, and it has calculated that it should save the equivalent of $2.50/gallon compared to current diesel prices. When fully deployed the 67 CNG tractor-trailers may reduce diesel fuel consumption by Frito-Lay by up to 900,000 gallons annually.

“Within the next six to seven years, 75% of the tractor fleet could be converted to CNG or LNG,” spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez told NGI. Eventually the company expects to run the most of its longer-range vehicles on either CNG or LNG. At the same time, the PepsiCo unit plans to add to its plug-in electric vehicle fleet of box trucks, which since 2010 have covered more than a million miles delivering the company’s products.

“Frito-Lay is aiming to become the greenest fleet in America,” Gonzalez said. “The long-term goals are to reduce fuel consumption by 50% and GHG emissions [by] a similar amount by 2020.”

Frito-Lay’s CNG trucks will be operating in six states — Arizona, California, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, and it will add the natural gas vehicles as part of a regular vehicle replacement strategy. “We aren’t buying them ‘stand-alone’ or in addition to the existing fleet,” said Gonzalez, adding that they don’t expect an significant challenges in moving to natural gas.

With regular octane gasoline prices hovering around $3.90 a gallon well ahead of the summer driving season, according to the AAA, the utilization of natural gas as a transportation fuel is starting to gain traction.

Last week Hertz Corp. said it would begin in May offering CNG rental vehicles at the Oklahoma City airport (see Daily GPI, April 13). Chesapeake Energy Corp. helped the nation’s car rental giant make the announcement of its pilot program.

This is the start of adding CNG vehicles to its rental fleet, Hertz said. It plans to start by offering eight CNG Honda Civics and two CNG GMC Yukons at Will Rogers World Airport. All the vehicles will be equipped with GPS systems to help customers find CNG fueling stations.

As for the pilot program, Oklahoma was seen as having two advantages: an established CNG fueling infrastructure with more than 70 planned or existing public stations around the state, and a number of the nation’s leading natural gas producers, such as Chesapeake.

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