Natural Gas Gaining A Foothold In The Trucking Industry
by Apex Capital | May 24, 2013
With rising diesel fuel prices causing pain at the pump for truck drivers and worries about global warming dominating media headlines, an alternative has started to gain traction in the trucking industry: natural gas.
Trucks that Run on Natural Gas
Manufacturers such as Cummins have started to distribute truck engines that run on natural gas, instead of diesel, to buyers looking to cut costs and emissions. Meanwhile, a framework of natural gas refueling stations is taking shape at dozens of truck stops throughout the United States.
If the technology does prove to be cheaper and cleaner, natural gas-powered trucks may become a major chunk of the freight industry in coming years.
In many ways the move makes sense.
Natural Gas Technology
Improved extraction technologies have driven the supply of natural gas in the United States to record highs, pushing its price down to a fraction of what diesel costs. A recent article in the New York Times said natural gas-run vehicles can save truckers up to $1.50 per gallon on fuel.
Further, because the natural gas is produced domestically, it is insulated from the big price swings that happen when conflict or short supply in oil-rich foreign nations raises costs. The savings can ultimately be passed down to consumers, reducing prices all around.
Environmental considerations have also hastened the move to natural gas from diesel. Gas burns cleaner — emitting less carbon dioxide and other byproducts than regular gasoline — making it easier for companies heavily reliant on fossil fuels to comply with emissions laws.
However, the transition to natural gas is very expensive at the beginning and the price of the energy source could rise, offsetting many of the benefits of making the switch.
According to the New York Times, trucks that run on natural gas cost about twice as much. Also, very few truck stops are outfitted with the proper refueling stations for natural gas-run vehicles. But tax breaks for those who use trucks running on alternative energy sources may make up for some of the initial high cost and could push the U.S. to rely more heavily on natural gas, rather than traditional fuels.