Ozinga cements switch to trucks using natural gas
By Carrie Napoleon Sun-Times Media correspondent June 29, 2012 10:40AM
Driver Dale Govert cleans the new natural gas-powered concrete mixer truck at a wash station between jobs at the Ozinga company in Gary, Ind. Wednesday June 27, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
CROWN POINT — Bottom-line finances may be the driving force that ultimately changes the way businesses, government bodies and even individuals look at foreign-oil consumption.
That was the case for Mokena-based Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete Inc. The company at the end of 2011 finished replacing 13 rear-mixing ready-mix diesel concrete trucks in Illinois with a fleet fueled by compressed natural gas.
Ozinga on Thursday unveiled its first front-mixing compressed natural gas ready-mix truck in Indiana during a press conference held in conjunction with South Shore Clean Cities. The Ngen Next Generation Initiatives truck by McNeilus will be field-tested out of Ozinga’s Gary regional office. On Wednesday the new truck was on the job for the first time as part of the testing.
Officials expect the savings in fuel costs will give them a return on their investment in just three years, according to Tim Ozinga, director of communications for the fourth-generation family-run company. A typical mixing truck is in service for 10 years.
He said when Ozinga began looking to replace its fleet of mixers six years ago it investigated all options.
“Natural gas far exceeded any other option available,” Ozinga said. Compressed natural gas will help the company reduce its reliance on foreign oil, reduce its diesel emissions and reduce the overall cost of fuel.
The company is in the process of looking at options in converting the rest of its fleet of approximately 500 different vehicles to natural gas, an American-made product, as well.
“We don’t want to be shipping our jobs overseas. We don’t want to be spending money overseas if we don’t have to,” Ozinga said.
Using natural gas versus diesel fuel is resulting in a $1 to $1.50 per gallon equivalent in savings. The trucks were designed with tanks large enough to provide enough fuel for the entire work day. They refuel overnight at the plant.
Ozinga driver Eric Daley has logged 4,300 miles on one of the CNG trucks in Illinois since it was brought into the fleet. Daley said like many of his fellow drivers he was skeptical at first of the performance a natural gas fueled truck.
“The power is there just like a diesel,” Daley said, adding the CNG fueled truck is much quieter than a traditional diesel truck so he and the crew no longer have to shout to be heard on jobsites. It also is much cleaner.
“It doesn’t blow any black smoke,” he said.
Carl Lisek, executive director of South Shore Clean Cities, said that because work vehicles like mixing trucks tend to idle all day, making the switch to a cleaner-burning alternative fuel has a significant impact on air quality. Lisek said it is important for businesses like Ozinga to lead the charge making the change to an alternative fuel because of its benefits and not solely due to tax incentives. Ozinga changed to CNG without the use of grants.
He said SSCC is looking for opportunities to form public-private partnerships with entities like Ozinga, to create the infrastructure network needed to support widescale implementation.
Beginning July 1, SSCC will work with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to implement green fueling partnerships with industry and municipalities in the region.
“Today is the beginning of what we see the immediate future to be,” Lisek said.