April 21, 2017 11:00 AM, EDT

Fleets Shy Away From Nat Gas, Unless They Already Use It, While Overall Use Climbs

UPS Inc.

While sales of Class 8 trucks powered by natural gas remain low, U.S. and Canadian natural gas heavy-duty retail sales overall had a healthy start to 2017, boosted mostly from refuse fleets, transit and school bus operators, according to ACT Research Co.

For 2016, the natural gas share of the Class 8 truck market was estimated at 3% due to higher new-truck sales and lower natural gas penetration, ACT said.

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“Given relatively low diesel fuel prices and the subsequent price narrower spread between CNG and diesel, payback times remain longer than most truckers’ trade cycles,” ACT President Steve Tam said in a statement.

Nonetheless, “The best January in the past three years set up the positive year-to-date February performance,” Tam said. ACT publishes the Natural Gas & Alternative Fuels Quarterly and has expanded it to cover electricity as a transportation fuel.

“Among truckers," he continued, "it appears as though the majority of incremental volume came from those who currently have natural gas vehicles and are replacing units or increasing their number."