RFX Blog

More Trucking Companies Switching to Natural Gas

October 9th, 2012

Diesel Fuel

Image Source: Flickr/lydia_shiningbrightly

There is no question that the rising cost of diesel fuel has been especially hard on the trucking industry. In response to this, many trucking companies are now electing to use natural gas instead of diesel or regular gas as reported in this story by the Calgary Herald.

Beginning Stages

The plan is being rolled out by a few trucking companies in the United States and Canada. One of the companies currently testing the use of natural gas in big rigs is Trimac Transportation, which currently operates 20 natural gas-powered rigs. Shell Canada has also decided to add natural gas fueling stations at Flying J truck stops throughout the province of Alberta. Another trucking company has recently installed its own natural gas fueling station for its own fleet and has recently made that fueling station available to the public. In the U.S., 100 Travel Centers of America are gearing up to carry natural gas and 150 new Flying J truck stops are also expected to start carrying this fuel in 2013.

Cost Savings

Natural gas can save truckers approximately 40 percent over the cost of regular diesel fuel. This is due in part because natural gas is abundant and easy to mine. In Canada, truckers save even more money when buying natural gas because there is no road tax being assessed on this fuel at the present time. Many trucking companies are urging the Canadian government to hold off on taxing this fuel so more companies will be able to take advantage of the tax savings.

Cost of Equipment

Although natural gas provides significant fuel savings, it does require trucking companies to invest in new rigs. These rigs currently cost around $90,000 more than trucks that operate on diesel fuel. In order to help trucking companies take advantage of the savings, governments in Quebec and British Columbia are currently offering incentive programs that allow them to save money on the purchase of one of these rigs.

Other Disadvantages

Trucks that operate solely on natural gas are heavier than traditional big rigs are. This can be a problem for those who carry especially heavy loads, as it could put them over their weight limit. Another factor that discourages trucking companies from investing in natural gas rigs is the lack of fueling stations. Although more and more truck stops are offering this option, there are currently not enough stations to make it practical for long-distance haulers to consider. Many expect that this will change within the next five years, as the United States already has an infrastructure in place to promote the use of natural gas as a fuel in tractor-trailers.

The fact that more trucking companies are considering the move to natural gas is good news for consumers everywhere. That’s because the savings that trucking companies can realize by doing so will result in lower shipping costs and ultimately, these savings will be passed down to the consumer. Only time will tell how quickly using natural gas to power semi trucks will become the norm rather than the exception.

Posted on October 9th, 2012 in Trucking Industry