Roadshow Services Vice President Sean O’Rourke said he and president David Kiely started working on a plan to modify the company’s fleet of trucks to use cleaner-burning biodiesel after a conversation with Young’s tour production staff about three years ago.
"We’d been working with Neil on the Bridge School benefits for the last couple of years, so I’d been asking Neil’s production if we could take a shot at the tour trucking," O’Rourke told Pollstar. "They said ‘Yeah, with one caveat that you figure out how to power your trucks with biodiesel.’ "We came up with a plan and did the final leg of [Young’s 2004] Greendale tour on B100 at the time. It had been running generators at Lollapalooza and some artists had instructed their trucking company to take on a blend like B5, but nobody had gone with what they call a ‘neat’ product, which is straight-up, undiluted, 100 percent soy diesel."
As word began to spread, O’Rourke said artists including The String Cheese Incident and Jack Johnson adopted the same model of using transports fueled with biodiesel or related blends.
"This year it really caught fire," he said. "At this point, artists like Willie Nelson (who markets his "Bio Willie Diesel"), Bonnie Raitt and the Vans Warped Tour are experimenting with biodiesel. They’re running B20, which is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel.
"Although we’re pioneers in terms of our industry in making this happen, it really needs to be brought up that you don’t have to do 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent biodiesel. You could go with the ‘neat’ product and really kick it into high gear in terms of being an agent of change."
Biodiesel gets the same mileage per gallon as regular diesel, O’Rourke said, and a government rebate of 99 cents per gallon to those who use alternative fuels keeps the cost in line with the price of regular diesel, which he says averages $2.99 per gallon nationwide. That comes in handy for the 30 to 40 tours the company works per year. "Roadshow is buying biodiesel in such quantities for many tours happening at the same time, I’m able to identify one of my vendors and say, ‘What kind of price per gallon can you give me if I buy 10,000 gallons?’" O’Rourke said. "They’re selling me a lot of biodiesel at a screamin’ rate and I’m able to pass those savings on to the touring artists." The company, which also teams with Florida Coach in Kissimmee, Fla., contracts with about a dozen farm co-ops and manufacturers throughout the U.S. for refueling stops during a tour, keeping in mind tight schedules that must be kept on the road. "We’ve had our challenges, but all personnel and all gear has arrived at a venue when it was scheduled without fail for all 1 million miles’ worth of B100 trucking that we’ve done," O’Rourke said. Current and upcoming tours using vehicles running on B99 include Melissa Etheridge, String Cheese Incident, Pearl Jam, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which has the largest biodiesel fleet with 18 trucks and buses. – Tina Amendola