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2/12/2016 3:58:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Trucking’s Natural Gas Emphasis Should Be Environment, Experts Say

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News
This story appears in the Feb. 8 print edition of Equipment & Maintenance Update, a supplement to Transport Topics.

Instead of waiting for diesel prices to rise, truck makers and their suppliers should try to cash in on the environmental benefits of natural gas, experts said.

Several suppliers are ramping up compressed natural gas operations through acquisitions, new plants and technician training at a time when diesel, trucking’s primary fuel, remains plentiful and cheap.

Robert Carrick, natural-gas sales manager for Freightliner Trucks, said the manufacturer’s 2015 nat-gas deliveries “slightly increased over 2014, and activity remains consistent.

BEST OF FEBRUARY E&MU: More stories, columns

“Customers who are continuing to purchase [natural-gas vehicles] all have a common thread: They have their own fuel stations,” he added. “The customers who purchase fuel from the retail market have a very difficult time achieving a [return on investment] in the average life of their truck.”

Carrick said the lower wholesale natural-gas prices have not “trickled down” to the retail market, which has not aided the ROI equation.

Preston Feight, general manager of Kenworth Truck Co., said in October that his nat-gas vehicle sales are about 5% of total volume. They could rise to 15%, however, if diesel heads up again. Kenworth is a unit of Paccar Inc.

Fuel prices on Dec. 21 at Love’s Travel Stops facilities ranged from $1.799 to $2.499 for CNG, while diesel ranged from  $1.849 to $2.549 — so the fuels essentially cost the same.

The latest quarterly Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report put the October national average retail price of CNG at $2.37 per diesel gallon equivalent, while diesel was only 22 cents higher at $2.59.

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By Roger W. Gilroy
Staff Reporter

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