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Local transport companies, tech business collaborate on emission-reducing system

Leonard's Express partnered with SPI.Systems and Regional International to develop system to reduce emissions. (photo provided)
Leonard’s Express partnered with SPI.Systems and Regional International to develop a system to reduce emissions. (photo provided)

Ontario County’s Leonard’s Express has adopted a new green technology for its diesel trucks.

The SPI Exhaust Reaction System, or SPIER, was developed by Rochester native and retired General Motors Corp. engineering executive Jack Schickler. Schickler partnered with Leonard’s express and Regional International Truck and Trailer to invent the system that is based on altering the chemistry of combustion through the reuse of exhaust gases.

The system’s sustainability comes from reducing waste while cutting emissions and boosting fuel economy.

“The chemical engineering has created an energy release in the engine that has a potential 300-times that of normal combustion, and it’s all free and has always been there for us to employ,” said Schickler, of SPI.Systems.

Schickler also partnered with the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at Rochester Institute of Technology for engineering trials. Leonard’s loaned trucks for testing at Regional International in Henrietta.

“Expanding the evaluation makes a lot of sense to us. We have been very impressed with the results in our initial pilot evaluation. Between the fuel savings and the maintenance reduction from the significant reduction in emissions, we fully expect to see the product pay for itself in under 18 months, and possibly under a year,” said Leonard’s CEO Ken Johnson.

Leonard’s operates more than 650 long-haul trucks nationwide and in Canada. Johnson also is very active in several state and national industry groups.

Jim Carello is a co-inventor of SPIER and is chairman of the Dealer Council for Navistar Inc.

“It’s been rewarding to see our joint testing efforts over the last two years result in such a great win for Rochester, with benefits to both the U.S. economy and the environment,” Carello said.

Testing and analysis at RIT showed an 18 percent fuel economy gain in highway testing of Class 8 trucks with the SPIER System installed, versus the baseline system, said Dan Smith, senior program manager at the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at RIT.

The New York State Center of Excellence in Advanced and Sustainable Manufacturing at RIT is working with SPI to develop a lab-based “virtual truck” test system for optimizing the SPIER application to specific truck configurations.

In North America, diesel-powered trucks deliver more than 80 percent of commercial freight. More than 90 percent of the diesel fuel that is burned in the U.S. is done by truck and bus transportation.

“SPI.Systems foresees reducing that usage by over 15-20 percent, depending upon the application,” Schickler said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Farmington trucking company to offer COVID bonus

Farmington’s Leonard’s Express, an asset-based transportation provider, will reward its drivers with COVID bonus pay. From Nov. 30 through April 2, Leonard’s drivers will earn an extra 3 cents per mile driven.

At the end of the four-month period, the pandemic environment will be reviewed again. In addition, drivers who worked throughout the pandemic have received a lump sum for their efforts.

“Our drivers are the heart and soul of our company,” said Leonard’s CEO Ken Johnson. “They have been the ones working hard to ensure our customers’ product is delivered so that the store shelves stayed full. Our drivers never questioned their role and just quietly got the job done.”

In addition to monetary increases, Leonard’s has implemented a number of improvements to ensure that its drivers are as safe as possible on the road. That includes providing them with reusable masks, sanitizer wipes and hand sanitizer for their trucks; weekly or bi-monthly communication with Johnson that includes updates on the current environment and supply provisions; new Leonard’s branded clothing, including safety yellow winter and lightweight jackets; and the launch of a new driver in-house university program to create more engagement and transparency between company ownership and its driving force and to further develop their professional skills.

“We felt it was important to recognize the sacrifices they made and continue to make with an increase in their paycheck,” Johnson added. “They are not only essential to the supply chain but also heroes in our eyes.”

Leonard’s is a family-owned business headquartered in Ontario County and with offices nationwide. The company offers truckload, intermodal, refrigerated truckload transportation services as well as warehousing and distribution.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer