By Al Muskewitz

The primary colors in Mesilla Valley Transportation’s corporate logo are red, royal blue and purple – the hues of the desert southwest where the company is based – but the color that runs through the entire organization is green.

The versatile carrier with headquarters in El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, N.M., is unquestionably the greenest trucking company in the industry. It is a reputation the management team has worked hard to develop and one they embrace and promote.

Environmental responsibility and focus on fuel conservation have been major initiatives since Royal Jones and Jimmy Ray brought their two trucks together to form the company in 1982. The carrier has been recognized by several organizations for its proactive environmental stance and its innovative policies have saved the company millions in fuel costs, which in turn benefits its 1,900 drivers and delivers savings to its nationwide lineup of customers.

“Mesilla Valley Transportation is committed to running the greenest fleet in the country and setting an example for fleets around the world,” Jones said. “The air we all breathe will be better due to our efforts, not to mention that the whole country would be less dependent on foreign oil if all would follow our lead.”

Actually, the company’s focus on fuel efficiency was rooted in necessity as fuel costs nearly ended Jones’ dream of having a bigger trucking company before it barely got started. It didn’t take him long in the business to realize the fuel mileage his trucks were getting was cutting into the bottom line.

So in quick time, with better care and focus – and a little engineering – fuel efficiency increased and so did the profit margin.

“My dream of having this bigger company almost died and I went back and looked at all my records, all the trip envelopes, and I realized these trucks were only getting about four miles to the gallon,” Jones said. “Back then, that was the average, but when I drove my own truck I got five, five and a half.

“So just by going back and doing the math on what those guys were doing, I couldn’t change the freight rate, I couldn’t change the payments, I couldn’t change how much I paid them, what could I change. I’ve got to lower my expenses. I looked at the fuel. I told my drivers, most who’ve stayed with me for over 30 years, if we don’t get these trucks to five miles per gallon, this deal’s over. They got it to five a half.”

And that’s when diesel fuel was a dollar a gallon. When diesel was first topping five dollars a gallon, trucking company executives across the country were nervously wondering how high the price of fuel would go and how much the increase was going to set them back and hit their bottom line.

But MVT already was ahead of the game.

With Jones’ forward thinking and the advances he brought from his motorsports background, the company was already out front with regards to saving money on fuel costs.

Jones’ passion is racing and he has brought the engineering and fuel-saving concepts he developed in that sport to the trucking industry. Sometimes he would joke you could put his trucks on a NASCAR track with several others and they would win the race hands down.

But MVT does more than talk the talk of eco-friendly trucking. It also walks the walk.

The company avails itself of the newest technologies to remain as efficient and green as possible and even has its own division to help other carriers meet their own unique aerodynamics challenges.

Where the typical 18-wheeler now averages 6.5 miles to the gallon, MVT and its engineers have devised solutions to bring its most modern equipment to just under 9 mpg, using nearly 600,000 gallons of diesel less per month than the industry average based on 15 million miles of driving per month.
That translates to an annual savings to MVT of about $22 million against the industry average. The difference between 8 and 9 mpg alone saves about $7 million.

How does that help the environment? Fuel-efficient MVT trucks emit 16.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide less a month than the average fleet. Ten percent of its fuel is biodiesel, which emits zero pounds of CO2 (B20 fuel is provided at the main terminal in El Paso).

“People for years were just accepting of the fact trucks got four miles to the gallon,” Jones said. “When I first started this business, the truck I used to drive, I could get five and a half and we’ve just continued down that path and taken fuel to another level and understanding. Fuel mileage is nothing more than the lack of need for horsepower to propel this object on flat level ground from A to B.”

Besides promoting specialized driver training towards MPG and idle time, the company raises its green profile by running equipment that is among the most environmentally conscious in the country. It checks every vehicle with 17 points of eco-emphasis from the front bumper of the tractor to the rear lights of the trailer.

Among those points are moving all fifth wheels forward to reduce the gap between cab and trailer to improve aerodynamics, switching to single wide-based tires and equipping all trucks with direct-drive transmissions and idle reduction devices. In addition, it reuses oil for EnergyLogic heaters in the shops, retreads tires on trucks and trailers and recycles cardboard packaging and batteries.

And it is constantly doing testing through MVT Solutions, an independent company that partnered with MVT to offer their services to even more fleets and technology providers. During its first year of operation alone, Solutions conducted more than 100 tests, ultimately saving the company $3 million.

“Drivers are in a constant battle against wind resistance,” Jones said. “We’re always trying different ways to make the driver’s job easier by reducing drag while simultaneously giving them the horsepower and energy needed to move his truck down the road and meet our customer’s needs as safely and efficiently as possible.”

MVT drivers have a stake in practicing good fuel efficiency. The company incentivizes its drivers through monthly cash bonuses, and awarding a new car to the driver with the best fuel mileage in the fleet each quarter and a $25,000 bonus to the driver with the best fuel efficiency for the year. To be eligible for the prizes a driver must run a specific number of miles with zero accidents and a perfect log/CSA score.

In recently celebrating its 40th year of operations, the company announced driver Rudy Ann Nieuwsma as the latest quarterly winner and Robert Sandoval as the MPG Driver of the Year (for the fourth time).

“When we came up with more and more perfect trucks we thought we could just make the perfect truck that would get the greatest mileage,” Jones said. “Then I realized a bad guy or gal can still get in and drive it like a race car and use it hard, so we created some games.”

Driver Nick Guarnieri, one of the previous quarterly car winners, gets it.

“It’s important because trucks do let out a lot of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and getting the most mpg out of your truck can help the environment,” he said. “Nine mpg on truck doesn’t sound like a lot because cars get like 40, but we’re hauling the heaviest stuff so if you get the most out of your truck you can do something to the environment.

“If all the trucks were getting good mpg on the highway, the environment would be a little different than it is now.”