T. Boone Pickens Recognizes Waste Management's Natural Gas Conversion

More than 3,000 heavy-duty trucks operate on alternative fuel
Jul 8, 2014 10:35 AM ET

Our natural gas story

By David Steiner, president and CEO for Waste Management

During a panel presentation alongside famed energy executive T. Boone Pickens, Waste Management celebrated a number of key milestones related to its fleet of natural gas vehicles. This includes:

  • Having more than 3,000 heavy-duty natural gas trucks on the road
  • Being one of the largest commercial fleet consumers of natural gas in North America
  • Reducing an estimated 30 million gallons of diesel every year
  • Lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 80 thousand metric tons each year

I’m extremely proud of these achievements, not only for what it means to our fleet, but what it means to our customers, our communities and the environment.  Since the mid ‘90s, when Waste Management first signed a contract with T. Boone Pickens to use natural gas, we’ve come a long way.

At that time, Waste Management had deployed its first natural gas truck in Palm Desert, California, which was part of a pilot project with the state’s South Coast Air Quality Management District.  T. Boone Pickens, representing Pickens Fuel Corp., now Clean Energy Fuels, signed the contract to provide fuel for the project, and thus earned a special place within our company’s history.

In the years that followed, we gradually expanded the number of vehicles, reaching more than 100 by the year 2000. Making the transition came with challenges, particularly with regard to the mechanics of a natural gas engine. In fact, if you were to name a mechanical problem to one of our techs back then, he or she would’ve told you we’d seen it.

That’s because as we learned to operate these vehicles, we frequently encountered things like broken valves, damaged cylinder heads, leaking fuel tanks and bad turbochargers. In many ways, we were students of a new kind of maintenance program – one that took time and patience to fully develop.

However, we persevered and we adapted. We knew that the rewards of a natural gas fleet would ultimately come in the form of improved efficiency, lower emissions and quieter trucks for our communities. Over time, all those mechanical problems improved, and by the end of 2007, we had nearly 500 natural gas trucks on the road.

After reaching that milestone, we announced a major sustainability initiative that included investing $5 billion in new fleet technologies to improve our fuel efficiency and reducing our fleet emissions 15 percent by 2020 – a goal we achieved (and even exceeded) in 2012. 

Looking to the future, 90 percent of our entire corporate-wide truck purchases will be natural gas vehicles; an investment surpassing $1 billion. Because of this, Waste Management will displace an estimated 30 million diesel gallons annually and reduce 80 thousand metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. By the end of this year, we will also have 75 natural gas fueling stations throughout North America, 47 of which will allow third-party access.

Good for business. Good for communities. Good for the environment. That’s why we’ll continue to be a leader in the alternative fuel space and why all of us at Waste Management are excited about the transformation of our fleet. It’s been quite a journey, and we’re looking forward to the road ahead.