Cold Star Freight Warms to CNG

When Cold Star Freight Systems became one of the first Canadian companies to buy CNG Class 8 tractors, owner Kelly Hawes wasn't thinking about setting a precedent. He just wanted a truck that would cut costs, not corners. That and improve emissions while breaking the dependence on diesel.

Hawes founded the Victoria, British Columbia firm in 1999 based on the idea that a transportation and storage company should use the same safeguards as the rest of the food-processing industry. When it came to the fleet, he wanted his 35 vehicles to meet a comparable set of requirements.

He found the answer to that challenge when the company bought 10 new Mack® Pinnacle™ models running on compressed natural gas from Brian Burgoyne and Mack Sales & Service of Nanaimo Ltd.

Cold Star Freight Photo 1Right out of the gate, the Pinnacle models delivered. Outfitted with 12-liter Cummins Westport ISX-G engines rated at 400 HP and 1,450 lb.-ft. of torque, the Pinnacle DayCabs have delivered a 20-percent savings, he said. “And we are confident that we will make 30 percent.”
The Pinnacle’s 191-in. wheelbase, 12,000-lb.-capacity front and rear axles and twin 45 DGE (diesel gallon equivalent) tanks give each vehicle a 700-kilometer (435 mile) range between refueling—more than enough to pull 55,000 lb. loads of groceries and food products from the mainland to Vancouver Island and vicinity.

But the Class 8 CNG models offer far more than fuel savings to Cold Star.

Reliability is the primary benefit. “Our trucks are running 22 hours a day, five to six days a week. We have multiple drivers jumping into the same truck. We need reliability and durability. That’s why we went to Mack. We did experience a minor issue when we first received the CNG trucks that was caused by sensitivity in a particular area of throttle operation. Very small changes in the throttle plate would result in large changes in air flow. Once the trucks were calibrated to address this issue, the trucks have been performing extremely well.”

Reliable service is just as important as dependable equipment. “The guys in Nanaimo are absolutely fantastic,” said Hawes, who has purchased Mack vehicles for the past five years. “They know we can’t break down, that we need a shop that is flexible. We were confident they would support us after the purchase.” Driver satisfaction is a big plus with the new models. “We used to buy competing trucks and the knobs would fall off and the truck would look junky, and pretty soon nobody cared about it. With the Macks, everything from the switches to the door handles last. The drivers take pride and keep them looking good, because they want a decent working environment.”

Cold Star Freight Photo 2Standardization has helped with drive acceptance of the CNG vehicles. “The reason we went with Mack was that we could spec them exactly the same as our diesel trucks,” Hawes said. “By doing that, I have a direct comparison of fuel mileage and cost. And there is no difference between the CNG trucks and the diesel Macks as far as the driver’s experience.”

Fueling is simple and quick. “They’re in and out in less than 15 minutes—the same as with our diesel trucks.” And the trucks are clean. “There’s no soot and they’re dead quiet. I jumped in and took one for a run and couldn’t hear the engine. I had to look at the tachometer to know when to shift.”

Of the company’s 21 company tractors, 14 are now Mack—a trend that Hawes plans to continue. “I don’t think of Cold Star as trucking company. I think of us as a warehousing and distribution company that needs trucks to do what we do,” he said. “I don’t want to focus on maintenance and repairs. I want to know that the trucks we buy are doing the job. Mack is a work truck. It does what it's supposed to do."