Editorial/Denise L. Rondini

Why You Need To Care…Now

Last month saw a rash of new product releases as truck manufacturers and component suppliers shared information on products that currently are available or will be available later this year.

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Among the introductions were several announcing natural gas powered trucks. All the truck manufacturers seemed to have jumped on the natural gas power bandwagon.

With fuel prices continuing to skyrocket, natural gas powered vehicles are being looked at seriously by more and more fleets. And I am not talking just about those fleets like Coca-Cola, WalMart and Pepsi who have already made a commitment to clean energy.

Fleets of all sizes are looking at ways to reduce operating costs, and natural gas is looking like a decent option for many.

“Currently, many local transit and government agencies use CNG to power trucks and buses,” says Andy Douglas, national sales manager for specialty markets at Kenworth Truck Co.

Fleets of all sizes are looking at ways to reduce operating costs, and natural gas is looking like a decent option for many.

The concerns about available fueling infrastructure are being addressed. “The natural gas infrastructure available to the public is expanding at an accelerated rate across the United States and Canada along well-traveled transportation routes.”

For example, Clean Energy Fuels Corp. recently revealed a route plan for the first phase of 150 new LNG fueling stations. The company has identified 98 locations and anticipates having 70 stations open in 33 states by the end of the year. It is anticipated that many of those fueling stations will be at Pilot-Flying J Travel Centers.

If you are wondering why you should care about this now, the answer is quite simple: if you want to be prepared to service these trucks in the future, you need to start thinking about how you will have to modify your facilities in order to service these vehicles.

There are some unique things about servicing natural gas powered trucks. In fact, Navistar is already in the process of releasing facility guidelines for dealerships servicing CNG and LNG vehicles.

According to Jim Krzmarzick, Navistar’s manager – network expansion, there are several things shops need to do to ensure the safety of their technicians who work on these vehicles.

All shops servicing CNG and LNG vehicles must be modified to detect leaks, have sensors, alarms and comprehensive ventilation systems and need to be fitted with special heating and electrical fixtures to prevent ignition of gases. You will have to do this even if you are not working on the engines themselves.

Krzmarzick believes safe working conditions and practices must be established and enforced so when customers with these alternative fueled vehicles come to a shop, technicians will be prepared to service them in a safe environment.

You also will have to make some investment in getting your technicians trained to properly and safely service these vehicles.

I am not suggesting you run out today and start modifying your existing facilities, breaking ground for new locations, or investing thousands of dollars training your technicians on this technology.

However, you do need to start thinking about whether you want to be able to participate in this part of the trucking industry.

I think you might want to because one thing seems clear to me, natural gas powered vehicles, along with their hybrid-powered cousins, are not going to get less popular going forward.

It seems a shame to walk away from what could be a lucrative customer base.

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