Natural gas continues to be looked at as a viable solution for rising fuel prices, including in the commercial truck industry where thousands of new trucks are needed and carriers are looking for ways to offset high diesel costs.

The demand for commercial truck services is the highest it’s been in year and that good news for the industry. However, it does present challenges, including finding ways to offset high fuel costs.

A recently released natural gas analysis from TIAX LLC predicts the opportunity for the compressed-natural-gas fueling market will grow steadily over the next few years. The assessment was sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance and it highlighted large commercial vehicles, such as commercial trucks, as one of the potential benefiters of CNG.

Other areas of potential outlined in the report include:
– CNG market potential for large commercial (not government) fleets
– LNG and CNG market potential for freight haulers and particularly ports
– Taking advantage of/marketing the emissions benefits of CNG. CNG equipment providers believe that with growing concern for environment and carbon footprint, natural gas has an opportunity to excel
– Promoting the domestic advantage of CNG versus imported oil
– Competitiveness of natural gas price against rising gasoline/diesel prices
– Working with LDCs and gas producers to build critical mass with fueling infrastructure investment

There are over 1,000 CNG stations in the United States and more are being added every year, especially at truck stops as more and more commercial trucks are retrofitted to use compressed natural gas.

The report stated that commercial trucks represent the largest and possibly most prosperous market segment for natural gas, according to the report. Future success of natural gas heavy-duty line-haul market penetration hinges on ensuring that fueling stations are located along future trucking routes, according to the report. This was the original intent of the Interstate Clean Transportation Corridor, conceptualized in the late 1990s but not actually implemented. Such strategic investments along heavily used corridors may be the beginning of a complete nationwide LNG fueling network. Based on a 10,000 gallon per day station capacity, a 100,000 gallon per day liquefaction plant can serve 10 stations.

Incentives that last at least five to 10 years without need for renewal could establish the market conditions that allow for sustained growth, the analysis says. Natural gas vehicles and liquefaction and retail facilities require substantial capital investments, and until sufficient fuel throughput and adequate fueling station availability are in place, a level playing field among vehicle incentives is necessary to give security to infrastructure and vehicle investments.

These are exciting times in the commercial trucking industry as demand continues to grow and natural gas is viewed by many as a way to help make that growth even more efficient.