Trucking industry to increase natural gas use

Natural gas is becoming more available in the U.S., and the trucking industry is taking note. Many shipping companies are switching from petroleum to natural gas, The New York Times reported. Cummins, a truck engine manufacturer, began shipping new natural gas-powered engines that allow trucks to make longer trips.

Natural gas burns cleaner than conventional fuel, which will allow trucks to meet stricter emissions standards, according to the newspaper. It is less expensive than petroleum, and with the shale boom in the U.S., supply chain managers will be less vulnerable to geopolitical disturbances that can impact the cost of oil. However, many trucking companies have been slow to make the switch because natural gas vehicles are too expensive for suppliers to see immediate cost savings, and many gas stations did not have refueling capabilities. Other truck manufacturers plan to introduce natural gas engines, and Clean Energy Fuels added 70 fill up stations along major truck routes, the news outlet stated. 

Large companies like Walmart, Proctor & Gamble and Nike have been adding natural gas trucks to their fleets. The latest major corporation to announce a move toward sustainability, UPS, plans to add 700 new vehicles to its fleet and build four refueling stations by the end of 2014, Reuters said. The project will give UPS one of largest natural gas fleets in the world, and the corporation listed lower greenhouse gas emissions as a motivator, as well as cheaper cost of fuel and accessibility of resources. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions found natural gas vehicles can reduce emissions by as much as 55 percent

The New York Times reported many experts predict the number of natural gas trucks will continue to increase, particularly in the U.S. where fuel prices are relatively low.

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  1. The natural gas industry, and Cummins in particular needs to better support the natural gas trucks they put into the industry in the early stages of deployment. The trucks we have are underpowered, are constantly out of service, get 4.5 miles per gallon, and are by far the least dependable trucks in our fleet.

    While LNG is less expensive than diesel, the fuel cost per mile ends up being higher than diesel. Breakdowns are so prevalent there is no way we can run them for any distance without concern about having to tow them back to the dealer. The initial cost of the tractors were 60% higher than their diesel counterparts, and expected life is 50% less.

    Was it a good investment? Quite the contrary, and unless the manufacturer makes good on our failed investment, there is no way that I can ever purchase another LNG truck, another Cummins engine, or another Peterbilt chassis.

    Fred Johring

  2. I think like any new technology introduced there will be kinks in the process. Overtime I think the natural gas trucks will work out their issues.