Heavy Duty Trucking

SEP 2014

The Fleet Business Authority

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64 HDT • SEPTEMBER 2014 www.truckinginfo.com W hile still less than 5% of the total Class 8 market, the number of natural- gas-powered trucks sold this year is expected to increase about 20% over last year. Despite continuing advances in technology, a number of factors are keeping the market from growing as fast as some predictions. According to Power Systems Research, 2014 sales are expected to be in the range of 10,500 units, up from 2013's 8,730. However, that's fewer than ex- pected. Some analysts were pre- dicting sales of 16,000 trucks. A recent Wall Street Journal report blames this on higher capital costs and poorer fuel economy compared with diesel trucks, along with a lack of convenient fueling points. We could probably add fuel range anxiety and fuel tank weight to the list of concerns, though the former is becoming less of a concern while the latter could be dealt with through a regulatory change. The Natural Gas Long Haul Truck Competitiveness Act, introduced in late July, would let the Department of Transportation permit natural gas trucks to exceed the 80,000-pound Interstate limit by the additional weight of their tank and fueling system. Bob Carrick, vocational sales manager for natural gas at Daimler Trucks North America, says the weight pass in its current form, it could be wrapped into the next highway bill. Even with the weight concerns, the roster of big, high-profile fleets that have already made substantial invest- ments in natural gas trucks reads like a who's-who of trucking — UPS, FedEx, Frito-Lay, Waste Management, Repub- lic Services and many others, including Ryder Systems. Ryder's CNG fleet has clocked close to 27 million miles since launching a natural gas program just four years ago. Scott Perry, Ryder's vice president of supply management and fleet manage- ment solutions, says the company plans to have 1,000 CNG and LNG trucks in operation by the end of 2014 serving lease and rental customers. Ryder also operates natural-gas-compliant maintenance facilities in eight states. Perry says integrating the natural gas trucks into the fleet wasn't difficult, and they have proven to have more upsides than down. He says the trucks require little extra maintenance beyond a 90-day inspection interval on the tanks, and they eliminate the cost and complexity of the diesel exhaust aftertreatment systems. "There were some training require- ments for our technicians, and we had to make some modifications to our facility infrastructure, but there wasn't much over and above that," Perry says. disadvantage varies with the tank system installed, but the bill calls for a 2,000-pound exemption. "We've been working on that with Natural Gas Vehicles of America for about four years now, but we think it's going to pass this year," Carrick told HDT. "We took a 150-gallon diesel equivalent [compressed natural gas] sys- tem and a 140-gallon [liquefied natural gas] system and then compared them to a 150-gallon diesel system, and the way it all shakes out is about 1,800 to 2,000 pounds more to carry the same amount of CNG diesel gallon equivalent as it is for the diesel." Carrick says the 500-pound weight exemption the industry got for auxiliary power units set somewhat of a prec- edent. He's optimistic the tank weight exemption will pass, too. If it doesn't ALTERNATIVE FUEL Natural gas While adoption is slower than expected, technology improvements are changing some traditional assumptions. Jim Park • Equipment Editor Competition among tank makers will produce larger, lighter and less costly fuel tanks.

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