As more trucks hit the road, carriers are looking for ways to help offset that rapid growth with new energy solutions that provide lower costs. One of those areas carriers are exploring is natural gas.

The role of natural gas in the commercial truck industry continues to grow as truck stops all across the nation are announcing plans to open compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations and the American Trucking Associations has announced the industry’s first natural gas summit.

The ATA says is it will hold the “first-ever summit dedicated to exploring the full range of issues related to the use of natural gas in the trucking industry” during Natural gas conference will showcase potential for trucking industry

According to the ATA, topics will include recent fleet experiences with natural gas, existing and potential technology from truck and engine manufacturers, and the status and timeline for expanding the nation’s fueling infrastructure. Trucking officials see compressed natural gas as having a lot of potential for some truck carriers, especially as the nation continues to promote alternative forms of energy and domestically produced fule.

“There has been a great deal of discussion about compressed natural gas, but until now, no one has brought together all the pieces of the puzzle to show the whole picture. This summit will accomplish exactly that,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement about the up coming conference.

Boone Pickens, the Texas oil exec who has become a crusader for use of natural gas as a means for the U.S. to become energy independent, has said the trucking industry must convert to natural gas to achieve that independence.

“Trucking consumes half of the five million barrels we buy from OPEC each day,” he said during a recent interview with Lane Kidd, executive director of the Arkansas Trucking Association.

“I’ve talked to trucking guys,” Pickens said in the interview, “whose companies consume 100 million gallons of fuel a year and they see very quickly how they can save a dollar and a half a gallon. It doesn’t take but about a second for them to see that’s a hundred and fifty million dollars.”

Natural gas trucks are less expensive than those using diesel, but the conversion to natural gas engines can be expensive. There are also not enough natural gas fueling infrastructure along the nation’s busiest interstates and highways. However, as hundreds of thousands of more trucks are added I the coming years the need for a diverse energy solutions will continue to grow.

However, no matter what type of commercial trucks are on the road – natural gas or diesel – there will continue to be a large demand for more professionally trained drivers.