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Shaping the Fleet of Tomorrow: The Technology and the Strategy Driving Frito-Lay’s Fleet Sustainability

By: Mike O'Connell
Senior Director Supply Chain

Aug 11, 2017

It is astounding to think how much technology has changed our lives over the last decade or so. Take for example my daughter – at 15, she’ll never know a world where computers and smart phones aren’t commonplace and social media isn’t a primary form of communication. For her, charging a car is as normal as gassing one up, and the idea of self-driving vehicles seems completely within reach.

In my work leading fleet sustainability for PepsiCo/Frito-Lay, I’ve seen firsthand how technology cannot only change an industry, but also further sustainability goals at the same time.

Ten-to-15 years ago, achieving 5.5 miles per gallon (MPG) in one of our freight trucks was considered industry average. The majority of our longer-haul vehicles were cabovers – they were bulkier, louder and relatively slower by today’s standards. “Innovative” wasn’t exactly a word that naturally came to mind when thinking of the trucking industry.

While practices have long been in place for general consumer vehicles to be more fuel efficient, produce less emissions, and be safer for drivers – including the advent of electric models, backup cameras, low rolling resistance tires and lately a lot of conversation around autonomous vehicles – the trucking industry has lagged behind at times due to the complication of the sheer size of the trucks and weight of product transported.

In just the last few years, new technologies have rapidly replaced and/or improved trucks of the past. At Frito-Lay, we’ve introduced electric delivery trucks, compressed natural gas tractors and advanced diesel technology from some of the leading manufacturers around the world. As a result, we’ve drastically reduced diesel fuel use and increased fuel efficiency, ensuring the snacks you love are transported in the most fuel-efficient and safest way possible.

And from my perspective, we’ve only just begun.

As we look to the future, here are three things we keep in mind:

1. Maintain a constant curiosity and willingness to explore new technologies as they emerge. Technology is changing at an ever-increasing rate, much faster than what we experienced in the past 10 years, and we are always exploring emerging technologies that will position us for the future. We believe achieving a more fuel-efficient and sustainable fleet is a continuous process, one that requires forward-thinking and a willingness to adapt to a changing technological landscape.

2. Continually share best practices. We have a responsibility to not only keep our costs low and contribute less greenhouse gases, but also work with industry, government and business to encourage wider-spread adoption of more efficient technologies. Being a leader in fleet management doesn’t stop with our fleet alone. Demand for freight services in the years ahead will only increase, and we think it’s important to work alongside government, the NGO community and other businesses to share best practices.

3. Think beyond the truck itself. Apart from the trucks we drive, our team helps train Frito-Lay’s 14,000+ drivers so they can help reduce fuel use through their driving habits. Through this training, we’ve focused on using more economical routing, and are able to track miles per gallon by vehicle and driver, so that team members are highly engaged in driving performance. We also work closely with our fleet technicians to ensure we have the very best preventative maintenance programs in place to ensure every truck performs at its best.

I was recently asked what trucks will look like 10 years from now. While I don’t anticipate seeing spaceship-like designs on the road, I do believe the rapid acceleration in new technologies will help us make considerable progress in achieving quieter, safer and more fuel-efficient models. It is an exciting journey – one that will help continue to shift the perception of trucking as an industry to being described as innovative by nature.


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