Here's a different twist on the question of whether you should go with natural gas: It could be a selling tool to your customers that are tired of the volatility of fuel price surcharges.
It's always interesting to read about trucking in publications that are aimed at shippers. In this article from DC Velocity, James Cooke's message to shippers: "Tired of sweating higher diesel fuel prices? Then maybe it's time to find a trucking company that's running its delivery fleet on liquefied natural gas (LNG) instead of diesel."
As Cooke explains, LNG is the liquid form of natural gas, which is primarily methane. It's related to compressed natural gas (CNG), which is condensed under high pressure. LNG is better than CNG for longhaul trucking, because compressed gas adds weight.
"Although natural gas is more economical than diesel, there is currently no national infrastructure that would make it easy for a driver to refuel a rig traveling from, say, Boston to Los Angeles," Cooke writes. "But that doesn't mean shippers should wait to transition to alternate fuels; they can act now."
According to the Energy Information Administration, DC Velocity reports, there were, as of last year, 44 fueling stations for LNG trucks in the United States, most in California.
Among the companies operating LNG trucks in that state are Walmart and Mohawk Industries, which is leasing LNG-powered trucks from Ryder System. Ryder has leased 35 LNG-powered Class 8 day cabs (20 Peterbilts and 15 Freightliners) to customers for use in Southern California, DC Velocity reports. UPS is running 48 LNG-powered heavy-duty trucks between Las Vegas and Ontario, Calif.
Here's where DC Velocity says shippers can act:
"Although LNG's proponents have been pushing for the government to create a market for LNG-powered fleets, it's already there for shippers with fixed routes willing to sign a contract that incentivizes the carrier to deploy the vehicles. Dillon Transport Inc. of Burr Ridge, Ill., has begun offering just such a program in Texas and Ohio for Owens Corning, which generates enough steady business for Dillon to justify dedicated service."
As we reported in February, Clean Energy Fuels opened a new liquefied natural gas fueling station in Seville, Ohio, to support the Dillon/Owens Corning deal; it's also available for public access.
According to a recent press release from Clean Energy, Dillon's operations are averaging nearly 250,000 miles per truck per year - consuming over 40,000 gallons of LNG per truck in both Ohio and Texas. Dillon is now evaluating LNG trucks for its operations in Florida and Georgia.
Phil Crofts, director of marketing at Dillon, told DC Velocity the company was prepared to offer other shippers a fixed price to move goods on an LNG truck, and it would "feel comfortable offering a customer a guarantee that the fuel surcharge would not go up for a year."
So there you have it -- LNG as a selling point.