Tops Never Stops…Playing With Gas

Natural GasTops Markets (Tops), a Western New York grocery chain, recently announced a $14 million project that will swap out its fleet of diesel trucks in favor of trucks powered by natural gas. Geared towards reduced fuel costs and a greener portfolio, the company will also build a $2 billion natural gas fueling station at its distribution center. Supplies for the station will be delivered by American Natural Gas, based in Saratoga Springs. Tops has signed a full-service lease agreement with Ryder System, Inc., with an expected delivery of the trucks in mid 2015.

The store’s current fleet consists of 55 diesel trucks. Executives initially planned on replacing only a few units, but decided on the entire group once cost benefits were realized. Ronald Ferri, senior vice president of distribution and logistics stated, “As we got into the economics of it, we said if we’re going to do this, let’s convert the entire fleet because that’s where you’re able to leverage the scale of the project.”

The project is expected to save the company more than 50% of its annual fuel costs as it will avoid using over 1.2 million diesel gallons per year. Ryder System will also assist Tops with fleet maintenance at the grocery chain’s service facility, which is being upgraded to comply with natural gas standards.

Use of natural gas as a fuel for commercial trucks is nothing new, and has been increasing steadily over the last few years. Tops is not the only Western New York business making the switch. Waste Management and Try-It Distributing also use natural gas to power their trucks. Tops reports that each of its trucks can travel 500 miles on one tank of gas, and have the ability to refuel at any American Natural Gas station across New York. Conversion of this fleet is expected to reduce 6.2 million pounds of CO2 per year.

Consumer vehicles that use natural gas are few and far between, with only a few models currently on the market, and two additional options set to be released in 2015. However, approximately 15% of public transit buses in the U.S. run on natural gas. California and New York, both progressive-minded states, lead the pack for areas most prevalent in the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. It is heartening to know that cleaner fuel options are becoming more accessible, and being used by both consumers and businesses alike.



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