RALEY'S TRIES NEW TRUCK FUEL AND SEEKS LONG-TERM SAVINGS

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Raley's Supermarkets here is seeking a soluble solution to the ever increasing fuel emissions issue. Unlike some other companies that are implementing a combination system of liquid natural gas and diesel fuel, a segment of Raley's truck fleet uses 100% liquid natural gas.In addition, the retailer hopes to achieve long-term savings with the increased use of alternative fuel.

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Raley's Supermarkets here is seeking a soluble solution to the ever increasing fuel emissions issue. Unlike some other companies that are implementing a combination system of liquid natural gas and diesel fuel, a segment of Raley's truck fleet uses 100% liquid natural gas.

In addition, the retailer hopes to achieve long-term savings with the increased use of alternative fuel. In total, eight road trucks and two yard trucks, out of a fleet of 64, are currently running on the environmentally friendly fuel. Raley's is evaluating the success of the liquid natural gas trucks and is looking to add about 10 LNG/diesel combined-fuel system trucks to its fleet within a year. The retailer's decision to go "natural" was made for several reasons, according to Stan Sasaki, transportation manager for the California retailer.

"We are an environmentally conscious company," Sasaki said. He added that California's emissions policy, which regards diesel exhaust as a potentially cancer-causing substance, also played a part in the company's decision to try the alternative fuel.

Where some companies were experimenting with a combination of liquid and diesel fuel on one or two trial trucks, Raley's outfitted 10 trucks to use liquid natural gas only.

"We needed a critical mass in order to warrant a fueling station," said Kathleen Tshogl, manager of governmental and regulatory affairs for Raley's.

With 10 trucks running on the liquified natural gas, Raley's can purchase fuel by the truckload, which in the long haul could represent a long-term savings. To date, the retailer has the only liquified natural gas station around, which the transportation manager said can have its drawbacks.

The LNG trucks are mainly used for "flatland and valley" trips, due to the lack of power produced by the engines. And with only one fueling station, the trucks also have a limited travel capacity, about 400 miles.

Sasaki said he believes the liquid natural gas engine will ultimately result in a savings. He added that the engines burn "a lot cleaner than diesel" and should need less routine maintenance, which could result in a longer life for the engine.

"Where a diesel [engine] would last about 750,000 miles, the liquid engine should last about 1 million miles," Sasaki told SN.

Cummins Engine Co., Columbus, Ind., is seeking to upgrade the liquid natural gas engine to increase engine power and gas mileage, according to Sasaki.

"The new L10 LNG engines for Raley's road trucks will include an upgrade in power from 300 to 325 horsepower," said a source familiar with the situation. However, he added that an engine would require about 400 to 450 horsepower to effectively work on hills.

The engines are set to be tested in two of Raley's road trucks beginning in the first quarter of 1999, "for a one-year field test," said the source. He added that the new L10 LNG engine should go into full production by the third quarter of 1999.

To help increase power, Raley's is also looking into adding 10 LNG/diesel combined-fuel system engines.