SOME companies lead, while many others are content to follow. La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip Stores Inc certainly has been a leader when it comes to demonstrating the benefits of natural gas as a truck fuel for local and regional food distribution fleets.

Natural gas fueled trucks and tractors currently make up about 30% of the Kwik Trip distribution fleet, and the fleet will be fully on natural gas within the next two years. On the grocery side, the company runs 25 refrigerated straight trucks, 55 tractors, and roughly 100 refrigerated trailers that support more than 400 convenience store locations in four Midwestern states—Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.

In addition to groceries, the Kwik Trip locations sell fuel, and natural gas is now part of the fuel mix at 18 of the c-stores. Kwik Trip supports the fuel marketing operations with a tank fleet that includes 60 tractors (20 of them fueled by natural gas) and 60 petroleum tank trailers. The company also owns one liquefied natural gas (LNG) trailer.

“We’re true believers in making LNG and CNG (compressed natural gas) go from alternative fuel to a standard fuel,” says Chad Hollett, Kwik Trip director of transportation and distribution. “We are adding CNG dispensers at more of our c-stores, and we will also supply LNG at locations along strategic interstate corridors.

“We are able to show customers and fleets that they can fuel with confidence and move forward with the purchase of CNG and LNG vehicles. Not a day goes by that we don’t get 50 to 100 calls to learn about our plans for natural gas. Customers want to know when it will be available in their area.”

Huge benefits

Joel Hirschboeck, Kwik Trip commercial fuels superintendent, adds that the company’s move to natural gas vehicle fuel was years in the making. “We observed what was happening around the world, and we found that natural gas makes a lot of sense,” he says. “The shale gas developments in the United States made natural gas even more attractive due to the positive price point. Natural gas also offers huge benefits from the environmental standpoint.”