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11/29/2012 3:00:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Truck Stop Executives See Growing Acceptance of Natural Gas

John Sommers II for Transport Topics

ARLINGTON, Va. — The emergence of natural gas as a viable fuel for the commercial trucking industry is a matter of when — and not if — issues such as a cost-effective fuel supply network, a new generation of engines and driver acceptance are overcome, industry experts said here Thursday.

“The big question is timing,” said James Haslam, chairman and CEO of truck stop chain Pilot Flying J, speaking on a panel at American Trucking Associations’ Summit on Natural Gas in Trucking here. The session, “Infrastructure Hurdles: The Chicken or the Egg,” was moderated by ATA President Bill Graves.

“The energy boom is the single greatest thing the country has going for it. We have to take advantage of this. The best place to do it is with trucks. We believe we will have the infrastructure in place to take care of your needs,” Haslam said.

Pilot Flying J is backing up that view by building a natural-gas fueling network in partnership with Clean Energy Fuels Corp. The current plan is to have 70 locations equipped by the end of 2012 and 150 by the end of next year.

“Natural gas is a very viable option over the long term.” said Thomas O’Brien, CEO of TravelCenters of America, “Natural gas in over-the-road applications is in its infancy — it doesn’t really exist. The demand today from customers frankly is not sufficient to start this on my own,” O’Brien said.

That fact prompted TA to create a natural gas supply partnership with Shell Oil to develop 100 fueling stations at TA truck stops. 

“We are in tests as an industry,” said Frank Love, president of operations for Love’s Travel Stops. “A year from now we will see the availability of those engines. They will have to be priced with a comparably equipped diesel engine. They are not there today, but they will be in the future. “

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By Rip Watson
Senior Reporter

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