Resource Conservation

On the Road With the Environment in Mind

On the Road With the Environment in Mind
Ground transportation is an important part of Nordstrom's business. Trucks travel thousands of miles every day moving merchandise from distribution centers to stores. Making deliveries on time is a top priority and so is reducing the carbon footprint of the trucks we use.

Over the years, Nordstrom has implemented transportation-focused initiatives that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Things like packing trucks more efficiently and setting speedometers to a certain speed have provided great results. But we could be better. So in October 2011, the company kicked off another new initiative – the compressed natural gas (CNG) tractor pilot program.

CNG trucks have benefits

Nordstrom has been using three CNG tractors, or trucks, for distribution center-to-store deliveries in the Los Angeles and San Diego area. The trucks replace diesel trucks that were previously used. The CNG trucks offer several benefits over their counterparts: their carbon footprint is significantly less, they're quieter and they are potentially more cost effective.

"We've always been willing to try out new things in our transportation program, especially when there could be a positive impact on the environment."
- Steve Sorenson, Nordstrom domestic transportation manager

"We've always been willing to try out new things in our transportation program, especially when there could be a positive impact on the environment," said Steve Sorenson, Nordstrom domestic transportation manager. "This CNG pilot was a great opportunity. So far we're pretty pleased with what we've seen."

Compared to diesel trucks, the three CNG trucks are creating 10 to 15 percent less carbon dioxide, which equates to about 5000 pounds a month of CO2 savings. The CNG trucks are also producing much less (and in some cases none) of other particulates found in diesel such as benzene, lead and sulfur. And they're about 80% quieter than their diesel counterparts. "This is a nice added benefit for the communities that surround our stores," said Sorenson.

The future of CNG

With all of these fantastic attributes, why not convert the entire Nordstrom fleet to CNG trucks? Unfortunately, it's just not that easy - yet. California has an extensive system of CNG fill stations, but other areas do not.

"Right now, if a CNG truck travels too far out of California, it might run out of fuel and won't be able to re-fill," Sorenson said.

But CNG is becoming more prevalent. Most major cities now use CNG trucks for garbage pick-up, but that's because they have a large enough fleet to have their own fueling station. "As more CNG stations pop up around the country that would of course help us if we decide to expand our program," Sorenson said.

Long-range cost effectiveness is also something that is being reviewed. Although CNG fuel is currently more cost effective than diesel fuel, other factors must also be considered. Cost of things like maintenance of the trucks will be considered over the length of the pilot program and weighed against the other benefits the trucks provide.

"We'll test these three trucks for six months to a year and then we'll be able to evaluate our next steps," said Sorenson. "We expect to learn a lot. And if our future doesn't mean expanding to even more CNG tractors, we'll look for the next opportunity to make a difference."

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