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Updated Feb 19, 2014 - 5:00 am

Obama praises Safeway for fuel-saving efforts

TEMPE, Ariz. — President Obama wants the Department of Transportation to implement new fuel efficiency standards for 18 wheelers and other commercial trucks in time for the 2018 model year.

The president made the announcement on Tuesday at a Safeway Distribution Center in Maryland, where he complimented the grocery chain for using trucks with better aerodynamics, tires and larger capacity trailers to improve fuel economy. He was standing in front of a vehicle that he called a “super truck,” which was able to achieve a 75 percent improvement in fuel economy over the past year.

Those trucks are in the testing stage and aren’t being used yet at the Safeway Distribution Center in Tempe. It supplies product to all 116 Safeway stores in Arizona and Gallup, N.M.

That takes a lot of gas.

“We use anywhere from 120,000 to 140,000 gallons of diesel every four weeks,” said Safeway’s Tempe Director of Distribution Ron Dodd.

He said that each of the center’s huge delivery trucks has two 50 gallon tanks of gas. And they’re doing everything they can to squeeze every mile they can out of that gas. “Aerodynamically, we’ve put fairings on the side of the trailers and on top of the tractors,” Dodd said. A fairing is a piece of equipment that reduces drag.

The steps have slightly increased fuel economy to more than seven miles per gallon, on occasion. Dodd says every improvement helps.

They’ve also done things to reduce the amount of gas that they’re using.

“The biggest thing we’ve done is to increase the amount of products that we can put on each trailer and make fewer trips,” said Dodd.

Dodd is proud of his company, which he said is a leader in trying to improve fuel economy and the environment.

“They’re experimenting with liquid natural gas, compressed natural gas, and alternative fuels. We’re constantly looking at new ways to help improve fuel economy,” he said.

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