CCJ Innovator: M&M Cartage

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Updated Mar 9, 2020
M&M Cartage is investing $7.5 million in new CNG-powered trucks and a new headquarters with green efficiencies.M&M Cartage is investing $7.5 million in new CNG-powered trucks and a new headquarters with green efficiencies.

In 1972, Don Hayden began working at M&M Cartage under his father’s tutelage. Hayden always enjoyed working for his dad and being around trucks. Diesel must have been in his blood, he says.

In the late 1990s, Hayden was the one making the decisions and on his way to becoming chief executive officer of the Louisville, Ky.-based family business in 2003. Moving forward, diesel does not fit in his plans for M&M Cartage.

About four years ago, Hayden turned down a path that would lead to a decision to convert to natural gas. It all started by studying the new technical developments and products that soon would be entering the Class 8 market.

“I started trying to learn all I could,” he says. By the end of 2011, Hayden was convinced that natural gas would be a viable option for M&M Cartage, which hauls dry van and flatbed truckload shipments in 24/7 relay operations between its terminals in Louisville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Morristown, Tenn.

The company’s current business model is a far cry from its origins as an expedited hauler for commercial airlines and less-than-truckload carriers in Louisville and surrounding regions. Over time, M&M Cartage had to cede airfreight business to FedEx, but in the early 1980s, it already was pursuing new post-deregulation opportunities in truckload transportation.

Going forward, M&M Cartage will be a leader in green transportation, Hayden says. As part of this goal, the company will invest $7.5 million in building materials and capital equipment. The construction of a new headquarters with green efficiencies soon will be underway. Adding new trucks powered by compressed natural gas already has started.

Last year, Hayden decided to begin replacing 120 of the company’s 170 trucks with new CNG-powered trucks, a conversion that falls in line with M&M Cartage’s replacement strategy for its fleet. All of the 120 tractors are model-year 2006 and older.

The company’s lifecycle strategy has been to overhaul engines and cab interiors at the 800,000- to 1-million-mile mark. At 1.6 to 2 million miles, it then replaces trucks after 10 years in service. With this strategy, all 120 are due for replacement by 2016.

Hayden says when running the numbers, the knowledge he gained about CNG equipment entered into the analysis. The numbers were convincing enough to make the natural gas leap – even without grants or other financial incentives from state or federal government agencies.

“If my forecasts are right, there are some serious savings here and efficiencies,” he recalls thinking at the time. “If that’s the case, I’ve really got to pay attention and do more homework.” Once Hayden’s analysis was finished, he continued to visit with vehicle and engine manufacturers. During this exploratory period, he met with the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition, a nonprofit group that provided the additional resources and assistance that M&M Cartage needed to make natural gas fit within its operations.

As M&M Cartage went down this path, Hayden remembers a colleague in the trucking industry asking which customer was forcing this change on his company.

“Nobody is pushing us,” he replied. “We are hoping to make ourselves more marketable and attractable. Our customers have the same desires and concerns.”

Zero-waste operations

As Hayden continued to explore CNG, he paid a visit to a truck manufacturing plant, where something besides natural gas captured his interest. The manufacturer took pride in its plant being a zero-waste facility. All byproducts and waste from the manufacturing process were being reused and recycled. Even the paint sludge had a second life.

“How are they doing that?” Hayden recalled wondering. He couldn’t help but think about the two dumpsters M&M Cartage was filling with refuse from one office and maintenance facility.

Besides converting his fleet to natural gas, Hayden began working on plans to build a new facility. The site selection process has been completed, and construction likely will start in early 2014. By the time the new headquarters opens in the third quarter, Hayden anticipates having everything in place to be a zero-waste Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified facility.

Features planned for the new property include a large rainwater retention basin and solar panels to generate electricity for exterior lighting. The new headquarters will have between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet of warehouse and cross-dock space and be equipped and certified for maintenance of natural gas vehicles.

M&M Cartage is working with Kentuckiana Clean Fuel on an onsite CNG station scheduled to be in operation early next year. The station will be used as the primary fueling location for its own fleet and will be open to the public for both fast-fill and time-filled natural gas fueling. The company currently uses two offsite fuel facilities: one at Waste Management Inc. in Louisville, the other in Sellersburg, Ind.

As part of planning the move to CNG vehicles and to the new facility, Hayden worked with the Louisville mayor’s office and Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development to create a tax incentive plan worth $800,000 to spur the investment, which will create 45 new jobs by the end of 2015. While some of the new employees will be drivers, a larger portion will be technicians. The company has developed a strategy to recruit the right candidates and provide them with training and certification to work on natural gas vehicles, he says.

Hayden also plans to create a new company position – a “green captain.” Job responsibilities will include staying informed and helping to execute options and strategies to reduce waste and emissions.

Evolving changes

M&M Cartage placed its first CNG tractor into service in February. While the tractor was one of the first models available and had some limitations, the company has been able to use it on regular routes.

“The decision was all about trying to get ahead of the curve,” Hayden says. As M&M Cartage steadily switches the majority of its fleet to newer CNG-powered trucks with the latest technologies, the company does not have immediate plans to expand its fleet beyond 170 trucks, he says.

In addition to fulfilling his duties as M&M Cartage CEO, Hayden hopes to serve on the executive committee of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition to promote the use of alternative fuels in transportation. In this role, he will be helping other carriers explore the benefits of natural gas. He also believes the experience will provide networking opportunities to work with like-minded shippers.

“For the path forward, we will inspire our employees, customers and anybody who comes across us,” Hayden says. “We want to make an impact on people who want to make changes.”