Increased weight is a disincentive for many fleets to buy natural gas powered trucks. Photo courtesy Central Freight Lines.

Increased weight is a disincentive for many fleets to buy natural gas powered trucks. Photo courtesy Central Freight Lines.

The House and Senate have bills that would raise federal truck weight limits to accommodate the heavier fuel systems of natural gas vehicles.

Natural gas trucks can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds more than equivalent diesel trucks, due to their heavier fuel tanks and other equipment. This puts these trucks at a competitive disadvantage, say legislators who have proposed bills to ease the weight restrictions.

Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., recently introduced the Natural Gas Long Haul Truck Competitiveness Act, complementing a similar measure introduced in the House in January by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.

The bills would let the Department of Transportation permit natural gas trucks to exceed the 80,000-pound Interstate limit by the weight of their tank and fueling system.

“Natural gas is a clean and affordable domestic energy resource that has the potential to drive American energy independence to reality,” Inhofe said in a statement.

“This legislation brings the federal regulation for long-haul trucks into the 21st century by giving natural gas powered trucks the ability to compete on the same playing field in the amount of freight it can transport.”

Trucking and natural gas interests applauded the move.

“Natural gas holds great promise for our industry and our economy,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves in a statement.

“While there are still many details and specifications to address on this complex issue, we look forward to working with [Sens. Inhofe and Donnelly] on this important energy and transportation matter,” he said.

Rich Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica, said the extra weight of the gear causes a 2-to-3% revenue loss due to reduced payload.

“Legislation such as this will help accelerate the growth of the NGV market and provide our country with the environmental benefits and greater energy independence that comes with using clean domestic natural gas as a vehicle fuel,” he said.

Dave Crompton, president of Cummins Engine Business, said the legislation would eliminate a disincentive for use of natural gas in heavy-duty trucks.

“We continue to look for different ways to help our customers be as successful as possible, and natural gas provides an additional cost-effective alternative for some of them,” he said in a statement.