A struggling economy, a fleet looking for cost reductions, and a chance encounter resulted in a Fishersville, VA, lumber company improving its carbon footprint. “The silver lining with the fuel run-up was it exposed problems with our [fuel] buying habits,” says Blue Ridge Lumber Co. president Thomas Sheets.

Blue Ridge is “the ultimate green company because we use the entire log,” Sheets says. Established in 1981, the lumber company, which has 200 employees and over $30 million in sales annually, has several locations and ships over 1,500 containers of veneer logs and lumber from ports in Norfolk, VA, worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Italy, China, Japan and Taiwan. The company also ships throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico with its Mack and Peterbilt truck fleet of 18.

The company began its “green” phase 15 years ago when it started turning sawdust into methane gas, which is then used to dry the lumber.

Hauling lumber, which can be quite heavy, means Blue Ridge trucks rarely leave one of its three Virginia facilities (Fishersville, Goshen or Monterey) less than maxed out on weight. Consequently, fuel use and cost remains high. But a chance meeting with a representative from Stamford, CT-based Clean Diesel Technologies helped ease that burden.

“It was a by-chance meeting…he left his card and he called,” Sheets says of the encounter. “We talked several times.”

One of the selling points for Sheets, though, was the reason the sales representative was in town to start with — Wilson Trucking. Wilson, an LTL carrier with over 2,700 trucks, is also based in Fishersville and Sheets regularly communicates with the carrier. The representative was in town checking in with Wilson, a Clean Diesel customer.

“That still wasn't enough for me,” Sheets says, pointing out that Blue Ridge wanted to see the results for itself. “Our simple little test of ‘just prove it to me’” led to a four-month, on-road test on three of the company's trucks, Sheets says. The results showed that Clean Diesel's Platinum Plus fuel-borne catalyst produced a 12.7% reduction in both fuel consumption and carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions. “It bore out what the claims were,” Sheets says.

Clean Diesel says Platinum Plus will “reduce emissions and enhance the performance of emission control systems [while] increasing fuel economy and reducing the carbon footprint of engine applications.”

“We are pleased that the success of our technology in the Blue Ridge fleet enables them to serve as an industry-leading example,” says Dr. Bernhard Steiner, CEO of Clean Diesel.

The way Platinum Plus works is to create catalytic action in the combustion chamber through the fuel so that it treats the exhaust stream in three different states — solid, liquid and gas. The net results are “extended power across the entire crank angle cycle, resulting in additional available energy, improved utilization of fuel” and a reduction in “engine-out emissions.”

The additive is available as either an onboard dosing system or can be added to bulk fueling tanks, as Blue Ridge does. It also enhances fuel water shedding, lubricity and stability, and keeps injectors, valves and combustion systems cleaner, Clean Diesel says.

“We were getting close to $4 a gallon for diesel fuel and I said I had to do something,” Sheets says of the decision to try an additive. So far, there have been no operational issues.

In an effort to become even greener, Blue Ridge has begun recycling more of its waste and is converting the steel bands used to wrap loads of lumber to reusable plastic ones where possible.

But in the end, it was a chance meeting that might turn out to be one of its biggest green initiatives.