Updated: Feb 16
This article was originally featured on TeamRunSmart.com.
There has been a huge push in recent years for trucks, buses, and other vehicles to switch from diesel and gasoline to compressed natural gas (CNG). There are many benefits to CNG. CNG is produced both domestically and worldwide at a relatively low cost and it burns cleaner than diesel fuels. Over the recent decade, as climate change has moved to the forefront of political debates, CNG vehicles have been introduced in the mass market. Today many city buses, taxis, and trucks run on CNG.
Commercial truckers have been slower to adapt to CNG. Trucks with CNG engines are more expensive, fueling stations are scarce around the country, and mileage is less than diesel-fueled trucks. As the push towards greener fuels and a more sustainable environment continues over the next decade, it is important to know a few facts about making the switch to CNG.
Natural gas may not be for you. While you may strive to be more environmentally friendly, switching to CNG might not be the answer you’ve been waiting for your entire career. You need to consider your truck range, specific lanes you operate in, maintenance service requirements, and adequate refueling support throughout your routes. Not to mention the initial investment costs.
Safety should be top priority. Making the switch, especially in larger fleets, takes time. The safety of both drivers and shop personnel should be the top priority. You can’t cut corners when switching to a new fuel and new technology. It takes time to learn the best practices and share them amongst your staff.
Map CNG refueling stations. CNG-fueled truck growth is slower than expected thus refueling stations are few and far behind in certain areas of the country. As you can see in the CNG Now location map, most CNG refueling stations are heavily located in more urban areas on the East and West coasts. The Northeast and Rocky Mountain states have very few stations making routes in those areas of the country hard to accomplish without the possibility of refueling.
Technicians need to be trained. Natural gas-powered engines are built differently than diesel engines. It is important that your technician knows how to troubleshoot or fix an engine when a truck goes down at 3am in the middle of nowhere. It takes time to train staff or find a trusted technician to work on your truck when it’s in trouble, so make sure you have a plan just in case.
CNG could save you money in the long run. On average, CNG is cheaper than Diesel. The current national average for CNG is $2.11 per gallon whereas a gallon of diesel averages at $2.49. The cost of fuel varies a great deal. Sometimes it’s super cheap, but other times it is expensive. The cost of CNG has been relatively stable over the recent years. To calculate your possible annual savings based on your unique factors you can try the Compressed Natural Gas Savings Calculator.
“Certain things about one's savings must be taken into account when considering CNG, such as truck lifecycle within the fleet, overall lifetime maintenance costs, and fueling network options nearby,” said Jimmy Nevarez, Team Run Smart Pro.
While the benefits for switching to CNG include being more environmentally friendly and less expensive, the costs and scarce fueling stations across the country might be enough to dissuade you from making the switch. If you’re considering making the switch to CNG it is important to do your research and ask other drivers or fleet owners about their experiences with CNG-powered trucks. Once you’ve gathered enough evidence, you should be able to make the best decision for you and your business.