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How Old Dominion Freight Line is leveraging technology

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At Old Dominion Freight Line, sustainability is a promise that goes hand in hand with ongoing growth.

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“We keep that promise by leveraging new technology, and training our employees and drivers,” says Thomas Newby, the company’s vice president of equipment and maintenance.

One part of that focus at Old Dominion is on the adoption of technologies to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency outlined in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) SmartWay program. In 2015, Old Dominion received a SmartWay Excellence Award, recognizing the company as “a leader in freight supply chain environmental performance and energy efficiency.”

The award, according to EPA, is given to “environmentally responsible carriers that move more goods more miles with lower emissions and less energy. Award recipients demonstrate how businesses in their industries can save on fuel costs, shrink their carbon footprints and contribute to healthier air.”

“Our customers request that we align our operations with SmartWay guidelines,” Newby says. “Following many of the existing guidelines actually does more than just make us a good corporate citizen by reducing greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants. It also has a positive effect on our bottom line by saving fuel.

“We’ve adopted wide-based tires, idle reduction and automatic tire inflation systems and improved aerodynamics to boost MPG,” Newby continues. “For example, we’re spec’ing Wabash aerodynamic skirts on all of our linehaul pup trailers and adding aerodynamic skirting and fairings on our power units, and we are continually testing and evaluating various powertrain combinations.”

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Operating practices

Old Dominion is improving fuel efficiency by deploying longer combination vehicles and improving logistics, among other operating practices. Additionally, extensive, ongoing driver training enhanced by on-board telematics is reducing fuel consumption.

“In one year,” Newby relates, “driver training resulted in a drop in fuel consumption of almost 2%. Driver acceptance of our vehicles, along with fuel economy and lifecycle costs is an important factor in our specification and purchasing decisions. In all cases, we use return on investment metrics to measure the impact of these programs and practices on our bottom line.”

Old Dominion is also adopting environmentally friendly practices at its shop facilities. Currently, the carrier has 38 shop locations strategically located throughout the U.S. and is opening a 39th facility this year. Its staff includes 538 trained technicians and support personnel. With more than 220 locations nationwide, the company also utilizes outside service providers, selected by its regional maintenance managers.

Old Dominion was honored in 2010 with the “Top Green Shop” award from Citgo and Fleet Equipment for implementing ideas that it continues to use today. Along with tilt-wall construction that decreases the need for continued building maintenance and provides increased insulation, included are updating shops with energy efficient lighting and large fans for air circulation and radiant heat. Also in place are rigid waste recycling programs for used oil, filters, and antifreeze and scrap metals.

Important relationships

ODFL-Newby

Thomas Newby

Supplier partnerships are important to Old Dominion and work well when providers know the fleet’s needs and are able to adapt to changing operations. Newby also says that those relationships are especially important when issues arise.

“Old Dominion and other trucking companies have struggled with the aftertreatment systems and sensors that are required to meet emissions standards,” Newby relates. “At times, those problems create additional downtime in the shop and on the road, and can drive up the expense for updated diagnostic tools, as well as additional technician training.”

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Another issue that Newby says seems to be materializing is that the quality of fuel in certain regions of the country is causing problems related to the increased tolerances designed in today’s engine fuel systems. “That can drive up costs,” he points out, “especially when it creates an issue downstream, spoiling the aftertreatment system.

“As the industry moves ahead to meet EPA rules that are causing engine manufacturers to tighten tolerances, and the use of bio blends is on the rise, we are concerned that fuel quality is not keeping up with new engine requirements,” Newby continues. “If this issue is not addressed it will create a huge additional expense for fleets by causing the need to invest in fuel cleaning equipment or having to absorb the additional cost of downtime.”

Growing business

Founded in 1934 with a single truck running between Richmond and Norfolk, Va., Old Dominion has grown into one of the largest trucking businesses in the country. Currently the company operates 7,708 power units, supplied primarily Freightliners along with a mix of Volvo models, and it has 21,540 28-ft. Wabash trailers and 8,664 longer dry vans from a variety of manufacturers.

Based in Thomasville, N.C., Old Dominion fields its equipment from 224 service centers. The single-source provider of less than load (LTL) freight transportation services provides complete nationwide coverage across all regions of the U.S., allowing businesses to ship goods both inter and intra-regionally. Its nine major regions are connected via 32 transfer points. The company offers Truckload and special services transportation, as well as warehousing and distribution services.

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Across its vast and growing network, Old Dominion focuses on facilities that are as advanced as its fleet. Two examples are LEED-certified service centers and a warehouse equipped with a solar power system that produces enough energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,500 tons per year.

“Sustainability is something that is foremost in our minds at all times,” Newby adds, “and it is especially important as Old Dominion continues to expand.”

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