This is a long journey that began years ago. The Casilli Group has always been attentive to innovation and sustainability even if the first significant step towards the sustainable turn Casilli Enterprise made was in 2014, when it participated in the LNG project. Since then, they used liquid natural gas in vehicles in a significant way. In 2019, the continuation of the path saw the introduction of green trucks in the fleet, temperature-controlled transport vehicles with LNG tractor units able to produce the electricity to be used to power the refrigeration unit. A further step was very recent, with the purchase between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 of the first dedicated amounts of BIO-LNG, making it the first company in the South of Italy to refuel with BIO-LNG, liquid methane derived from biological sources, therefore with an even lower environmental impact. But sustainability for them is not simply linked to the vehicles, it is a choice at all 360 degrees, so much so that they are equipped with full LED systems and photovoltaic panels, which have allowed the company to obtain ISO 50001 certification, relating to energy efficiency.
Your company has long been committed to the sustainable turnaround. That choice contributes practically to putting new vehicles on the road and modernizing the fleet. Based on what criteria do you choose to enrich your fleet? What features must the vehicles you buy have and what percentage of them use alternative fuels?
For us, sustainability is a structural choice, because we believe that a sustainable vehicle fleet is also a plus in economic terms. I must, however, make one thing clear: when I talk about sustainability, I am not necessarily talking about alternative means of traction. In fact, no motorization should be demonised, because any vehicle of the latest generation is sustainable, and the real discriminating factors are the innovation on board and the age of the vehicle. That is why we cannot consider that a sustainable vehicle par excellence exists. Instead, there is the most sustainable choice possible, made in a given context. Evaluating which is the best vehicle to buy for our company is the result of a scientific analysis, I would say, that puts together the features of the vehicle, the technologies on board, fuel consumption, driving style, and the context of use. Thanks also to on-board tracking systems, we have been collecting data for years, which allow us to orient ourselves precisely in identifying the best vehicle to use for every specific circumstance. Basically, we are moving along two paths.
For established situations, we use established technologies, which means Euro 6 Diesel and Bio-Methane CNG or LNG.
For some pilot projects, however, we equip ourselves with alternatively driven vehicles - so today also full electric and soon hydrogen - and we often do so in partnership with the same manufacturers. Sustainable design is part of our DNA and regardless of demand, we believe in innovation and we want to be its actors. Basically we often become the road test phase of any given technology, even before it becomes a standard technology on the market.
Have recent incentives allocated by the Italian Government counted in your investment choices?
Unfortunately, the ways in which incentives are delivered often do not match the timing and manner of our business plans. In the past we have applied and then seen incentives go into apportionment based on the number of applications that came in. Today, however, the risk is of allocating an investment and no longer being able to count on estimated incentives because everything depends on the outcome of the click day. The recently opened window, for example, that of last May, saw the number of requests linked to the cancellation of Euro 3 vehicles rise to 134% in just one day. Unfortunately, these are methods that clash with the needs of entrepreneurs, both because the level of incentives is still low and because there is no real certainty about what the entrepreneur will see as a return. I can say that contributions could be a driving force for the choice of new investments, but, in the knowledge that they may never arrive or only come in partially, they become paradoxically marginal in our case.
How important is sustainability of a vehicle in the definition of the Total Cost of Ownership?
It only makes sense to talk about economic sustainability if we differentiate between technologies. A Euro 6 diesel is the most sustainable vehicle ever, for example, when it comes to Total Cost of Ownership. And the more we move up the ladder in terms of sustainable technologies, the lower the payback. Buying an LNG engine means buying a vehicle that costs about 50% more than a diesel vehicle; buying a BIO-LNG product means spending 8% more for refuelling than LNG from extraction and if we are talking about full electric or hydrogen, the cost of buying a vehicle rises to 400%. Basically, when we talk about alternative traction systems, we have to talk about choices that go in the direction of environmental sustainability, company ethics and that act as a commercial marketing lever, but we cannot talk about short-term savings prospects. We are in a transitional phase: some technologies, which certainly have great potential for development, are still in their infancy and cannot yet be considered economically viable. This is why we work on two parallel tracks, but we are still convinced of the importance of adopting and testing all new technologies, because innovation is fundamental for growth.
A vehicle driven in the right way is often more efficient, consumes less fuel and, as a result, pollutes less. When does a driver's skill and training in knowing how to properly handle a vehicle count? Do you have training courses that you offer to your drivers?
All our drivers attend training courses and we have recently run several Eco-drive courses, in conjunction with a manufacturer. This is a real investment: according to our assessments, eco-drive leads to savings of up to 10% on vehicle maintenance in addition to fuel savings, so training is key to economic returns and to optimal fleet management.
What is your opinion on the lack of drivers, particularly young drivers?
Our drivers are on average 45 years old and I must admit that we in particular have no problem recruiting. We have a good welfare program and there is not a lot of turnover, people who join the company feel part of a team and they stay. But we also indirectly have a perception that there is no longer any interest in this profession on the part of young people. The selection process is increasingly tricky, which means that there are no people suitable to do this job who aren't already doing it, so turnover is a potentially complex issue. As I was saying, however, for the time being we are not affected by this issue: we do not have any vehicles at a standstill due to a lack of drivers.
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