MANAGER: Pete Overgaag

TITLE: President & owner

FLEET: Hollandia Produce, Carpinteria, CA

OPERATION: A multi-faceted agricultural concern specializing in greenhouse-grown vegetables.

PROBLEM:

Being green is almost second nature to Pete Overgaag — indeed, he's green “four ways,” as he likes to tell an audience.

First, for starters, his family's business, Hollandia Produce, just notched its 41st year in the agricultural business. The second way it's green deals with the company's shift to “greenhouse farming.”

“We grow all our produce hydroponically, including butter lettuce, 3 in 1 lettuce, upland cress, and red butter lettuce, delivering it fresh and alive,” he explains. Growing lettuce this way also helps Hollandia substantially reduce the number of pesticides it uses, since the greenhouses keep insects out.

Third, the business completely changed the color of its trucks, moving from a traditional blue — harkening back to one of the three colors of the national flag of Holland, where Overgaag's parents emigrated from in 1968 — to deep emerald green to reflect the produce grown by the company as well as its environmental sensibilities.

That brings us to the fourth green in Overgaag's mantra. When one of Hollandia's tractor-trailers came due for replacement in late 2010, he decided to purchase a compressed natural gas (CNG) powered Peterbilt Class 8 daycab tractor.

However, Overgaag notes there's a silent yet critical “fifth” piece to the company's green strategy as well — how it plans to save money with its new green tractor-trailer, especially in terms of reducing the fleet's maintenance budget.

SOLUTION:

Surprisingly, he discovered, the biggest savings projected to be produced by Hollandia's new green vehicle will come from the trailer.

For starters, the Utility VS2RA reefer trailer is equipped with underside fairings to help reduce drag, boosting the fuel efficiency of the entire vehicle 12 to 24% depending on how and where it operates (the aerodynamics save the most fuel at highway speed while doing little in stop-and-go style operation).

Yet it's the hybrid diesel-electric Thermo King Smart Reefer unit that really improves the cost-savings profile of this new green equipment in a number of important ways, Overgaag says.

“First, it's a ‘plug in’ reefer, so when it's backed into our 10,000-sq.-ft. cold storage warehouse for loading, we don't have to operate its diesel engine in order to cool it down,” he explains. “That's huge because we load our trailers during the day, meaning the reefer can stay in operation for 10 hours sometimes.”

The drivers disconnect from shore power at night when they start making their delivery runs, Overgaag notes.

The significant reduction in operating hours for the reefer's diesel engine saves money in several critical ways, he points out. “First, it's saving us a lot of fuel. Second, those reduced operating hours means we need to perform less maintenance on the unit itself,” Overgaag says.

Translation: The Thermo King dealer two hours away in Los Angeles will probably only need to send one of its mobile maintenance technicians out to Hollandia's location once a year to conduct preventive maintenance chores versus three times a year for comparable diesel-only reefers.

“We're not just saving on the maintenance itself here; we're saving on the trip time charges for having a mobile technician come out here as well,” Overgaag notes. Such savings are predicted to be pretty significant because the reduced “wear and tear” on the hybrid reefers resulting from more plug-in usage means Hollandia can extend its trailer ownership cycle by five years.

“Overall, we expect to be able to keep our hybrid reefer trailers for 10 years,” he explains, noting that might even be expanded in the future as more of the distribution centers Hollandia currently delivers to begin to offer plug-in capability for refrigerated trailers.