Fleet Ops: Fuel Efficiency
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LNG? Sure it's good, but incentives are essential: CTA

OTTAWA – A new study by Natural Resources Canada highlights many of the environmental benefits of natural gas trucks, but industry leaders says government tax incentives are needed to put more of these vehicles on the road.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) says the report, entitled Natural Gas Use in Transportation Deployment Roadmap, is a good assessment of the potential benefits and the obstacles to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel along key corridors and for urban fleets in Canada, but without major incentives it will be difficult for carriers to justify the increased costs for LNG equipment.

The current premium for an LNG tractor is in the neighborhood of up to 100 percent or even greater over that of a conventional unit. AS well, the distribution network is in an embryonic state and needs to be developed, says CTA.

"LNG has the potential to serve as an important niche in the trucking marketplace," says CTA boss David Bradley. "It won’t be suitable for every type of operation given the limitations on its distribution and the costs of purchasing LNG tractors. It will be of most interest to carriers with dedicated return to destination routes. But as part of a broad, comprehensive strategy for reducing GHG emissions from trucking, it definitely has a role to play.

He added: "It is certainly of more potential benefit than biodiesel, for example."

However, investment on the part of the producers in the distribution infrastructure as well as significant tax incentives and price guarantees to allow and encourage those carriers who are interested to make the shift will be required, he said.

Incidentally, this was a significant recommendation in the report.

A key finding of the report was that trucking fleets can improve their competitiveness and reduce their environmental impacts by using LNG. Canadian communities will also benefit: first, by the use of lower emission natural gas refuse collection trucks and other commercial vehicles; and second, from local jobs created by Canadian suppliers of natural gas vehicle and station technologies.
"This is a win-win for both the environment and for fleets who adopt natural gas," said Claude Robert, President and CEO of Robert Transport, one of Canada's largest for hire trucking companies who recently purchased 180 natural gas trucks.

The study identifies long-haul trucking operators as an attractive potential market for LNG use, but it also recognizes the impediments facing the widespread use of the fuel:

"Trucking fleets tend to be conservative in adopting new technology, and natural gas (particularly LNG) is unfamiliar and unavailable to most fleets," it states. "The uncertainty about fuel availability and prices, combined with the high incremental vehicle prices, limited marketing and lack of financial incentives for natural gas trucks, explains the low level of uptake. The potential for market growth for natural gas vehicles will not be realized unless the attitudes, knowledge and key concerns of end-users are understood and addressed.

CTA says that greater use of LNG fits well with the proposed heavy truck fuel efficiency regulations currently under development by Environment Canada.

"We’d much rather that the federal government focused on these real solutions than trying to push things like biodiesel down the industry’s throat,” says Bradley.

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