TTSI's discusses their journey to become the leader in green trucking technology in this month's digital brochure from Business Review. Written by: Abigail Phillips / Download the PDF.
Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) is more than just your average logistics firm. The Company, established in 1989 is taking a lead in the race for zero carbon hauling, testing new equipment and methodology to eradicate carbon emissions from the world of trucking. Alongside its bid for sustainability, the Company also specializes in three different types of supply chain management; Harbor and Rail Dray, Regional Trucking and Construction Logistics. Under its umbrella, TTSI can collect shipping containers and deliver them to customers, it can run truckloads of goods across the country and it can work alongside major construction projects moving dirt, scrap metal and associated byproducts. The Company works with some of the major retailers in the country, as well as large construction projects building bridges, tunnels and utility lines.
TTSI is proud of its commitment to reach zero carbon and is working tirelessly with a handful of other key players and organizations to make this a reality. The move to a more sustainable future was triggered when US ports enacted the Clean Air Action Program. TTSI was one of the first companies to convert its entire fleet to clean diesel, however soon begun to understand the extent of The Pioneers of Green Trucking Technology 4 and extends the range of the motor. As it stands, TTSI is getting between 220 – 250 miles from its prototype truck while carrying about 20kg of hydrogen on board. The vast majority of all research has been conducted in-house.
The next step is to take the Hydrogen Fuel Cell truck from the prototype stage into the demonstration stage and TTSI has been awarded a grant from the Department of Energy to help make this happen.
“We would like to demonstrate as many trucks as possible so we are looking for opportunities for additional grants. We really want to test this truck to the maximum in terms of performance. We don’t know how long the batteries, the fuel cells, the convertors are going to last and that is really what we want to find out in the demonstration stage,” says LaRosa. During the interview, LaRosa also discussed the fact that he was not opposed to testing electric trucks, however he cited weight restrictions as a potential stumbling block. “Our belief is that one day batteries will be viable, but that is somewhat in the distant future because of the groups were looking for. “We knew they were not going to stop until they reached zero emissions on vehicles,” says Founder, President and CEO Vic LaRosa.
As a result, the Company began researching the latest and greatest technologies on the market and discovered liquefied natural gas. After more than $6 million investment TTSI was not totally satisfied with the end result, the main problem for LaRosa and his team being, the trucks “were still emitting carbon.” The Company also had concerns about the power, performance and output of the liquefied natural gas trucks.
Just as TTSI was looking out for a new avenue to pursue, LaRosa met the CEO of Vision Motors at a conference. The very next day he went to look at its Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology in practice and was extremely impressed with the results. Essentially, trucks run with a Hydrogen Fuel Cell are electric vehicles, with the hydrogen acting as a range extender. The hydrogen and the water mix, creating water, which in turn shoots off an electron. The electron is stored in batteries weight of them. In our application, weight is everything and in our case all we need to do is add more hydrogen and we can continue running the truck. It’s not like we have to go to a charging station and actually plug it in,” he says. “We are not opposed to testing electric trucks for example we are working with Trans Power in San Diego at the moment, but we are concerned with weight limitations, with the current configuration of battery technology,” says LaRosa.
The Hydrogen Fuel Cell trucks are run using a chemical reaction – no combustion is involved, thus zero emissions. On top of that, LaRosa and his team feel very strongly that hydrogen is also a very safe component. “It’s safer than diesel and much safer than natural gas,” he says.
“The issue you have with diesel is it will spill on the ground, which is very expensive and messy to clean up. The issue with natural gas is it forms a cloud and if you ignite that cloud it can be very dangerous. The nice thing about hydrogen is its lighter than air, meaning it vents very quickly. Furthermore if you spark a leak, hydrogen burns off very quickly because the heat is so intense,” says LaRosa.
TTSI has carried out extensive research on hydrogen with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy. From this research LaRosa notes “people in the know about handling fires do not fight hydrogen fires because they burn off so quickly.”
He goes on to state that all tanks have been very thoroughly tested and have been located on the truck in an area (just behind the cab), which experiences very little impact should there be a collision. “We are optimistic that this is a very safe platform,” he says.
Owing to the fact that TTSI is testing new technology and working with alternative fuels, training is high on its agenda. Currently employing 80 full time employees and more than 500 independent contractors, TTSI works hard to ensure every representative of the Company is fully aware of safety, best practice and how the vehicles work. “There is a very extensive training program for drivers of the hydrogen vehicles - we work in conjunction with the Department of Transportation to train our employees to handle alternative fuel,” says LaRosa.
Driving of the truck is also a very different experience compared to driving a conventional diesel vehicle. “There is a lot of regenerative energy coming from the braking and the downhill movement of the truck so you have to learn how to feather the gas pedal. There is a lot more torque in this vehicle as well. It’s a very different driving experience, but also a very comfortable and easy driving experience because of its automatic transmission. You do have to be trained on how to get the maximum benefit from driving the truck properly in terms of mileage however,” he says.
In terms of future development, TTSI has a purchase order for 100 Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles, which will go through initial demonstrations. If they turn out as expected, the Company plans to add an additional 300 vehicles to that order in California. The long term aim of the business is to role this fleet initiative out on a national basis as it continues to expand.
Being so heavily focused on sustainability has also facilitated that growth. As LaRosa explains, “word of mouth travels very heavily in this business and we have been very fortunate in obtaining a lot of business from our clean air initiatives. We have seen a spike in interest from that.” When asked about the future of the Company and where it hopes to be in five years time LaRosa responded: “We would like to be in all deep water ports, we would like to be 100 percent zero emission compliant, and we would like to see the business continue to grow.” With its strong vision, stable leadership and forward thinking approach to business, this seems likely.