Heavy-duty fleets still buying natural gas trucks say OEMs

DALLAS. Sales of heavy-duty trucks powered by natural gas remain strong despite significantly lower diesel prices, according to a panel of truck OEM executives at the 2015 ACT Expo and Conference.  The consensus opinion is that fleets committed to the alternative fuel are continuing to add new NG trucks, while those that have been on the sideline considering purchases remain on the sideline for the time being.

“Sales are still strong, though not up to 2013 predictions,” said Tony Halter, engineering manager for NG vehicles at Daimler Trucks North America.  “We probably won’t see the predicted 10% [market penetration] by 2020, but I do expect 6%.”

Some fleets “are continuing to buy [NG trucks] on long term vision, and we also see some solid growth in refuse,” added Susan Alt, senior VP of public affairs for Volvo Group North America.

While refuse and regional haul fleets have been the largest HD buyers moving to NG, concrete ready mix operators are now also joining the move, according to Brian Lindgren, manager of research and development for Kenworth Truck.  The move allows them to avoid some issues with packaging diesel aftertreatment systems on mixer bodies and since they generally return home every night they can take advantage of more efficient slow-fill fueling systems, he said.

Although low diesel prices “are making it tough” for some HD fleets to justify the additional equipment cost, growing competition among NG fuel system suppliers should help bring down that cost differential, according to Bill Kahn, Peterbilt Motors principle engineer.

The one fleet exec on the panel, Matt Krasney, dir. of alternative fuels for Penske Truck Leasing said he had seen some pricing improvement on NG fuel systems, but “we need to drive more costs out of NG as the spread on fuel costs narrows.”

But despite “a temporary dip in oil prices, we’re all in it for the long haul,” halter told the ACT Expo audience.

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