Fleet Ops: Fuel Efficiency
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CTA says LNG bellyaches not just gas pains

OTTAWA -- The trucks are expensive; they’ve got no resale value, you can’t find fuel when you need it and if it is available, there’s no telling if it will remain at a good price.

Other than those niggling details, alternative-fuel and natural gas powered trucks and great for the environment and if the government really wants to clean the air, it should help more truckers buy them.

So says Canada's largest trucking association.

In March of this year, the Federal Ministry of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) corralled an industry group -- from the natural gas industry, manufacturing, transportation, all the usual suspects -- and asked them to help develop something called "NRCan’s Natural Gas Road Map Initiative."

Natural gas, proponents say, should be, well, a natural choice for heavy duty trucks.

Canada has an abundance of the fuel; under the right conditions the price is reasonable, and GHG emissions regulations are getting more stringent by the day.

Also, the technology is no longer "fringey." Just ask Groupe Robert President Claude Robert who just bought 180 LNG-powered Petes to go into service between Toronto and Quebec City.

The only things stopping the widespread adoption of LNG among truckers, are, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, are the following:
*As LNG vehicles cost from $40,000 - $70,000 more than diesel-powered vehicles, the incremental cost of LNG vehicles must be addressed in the short term by government measures, such as super-accelerated CCA rates or rebates.

(Quebec has done this. In its latest budget, Quebec increased the CCA rate from 40 to 60 percent for equipment acquired after March 30, 2010, and an additional 85 percent deduction for trucks that run on LNG. It was a key component in Groupe Roberts’s recent purchase.)

♦ LNG equipment currently has no residual value. This changes the life-cycle of equipment in the short term and limits financing options. The CTA suggested carriers must be given quantifiable credits for using a lower carbon fuel.

♦ Serious issues remain around the availability of fuel, regarding the lack of outlets as well and there are issues for carriers wishing to have their own refueling facility on site.

♦ The current price spread between LNG and diesel is critical and must be maintained, as well as the lack of taxation on LNG.

♦ Like being pregnant, you can’t be "just a little LNG." According to the CTA, the substantial investment required to run a fleet of LNG vehicles requires a carrier to fully commit to the LNG business model.

♦ Lack of variety of equipment selection is a source of frustration for carriers. More models are needed, particularly more aerodynamic units.

A final report is expected to be released in November and will include final recommendations developed by all working groups.

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