Natural Gas – A Potential Game Changer for PA’s Trucking Industry

Natural Gas – A Potential Game Changer for PA’s Trucking Industry

Guest commentary by:
Jim Runk, President &  CEO, Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association

The mission of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association is to promote the interests of those in the trucking  industry, helping to preserve and strengthen industry competitiveness and its jobs across the Commonwealth. We are committed to establishing best practices for our members that build on the positive image of the trucking industry while helping our members grow their business and save on costs.

As such, new technologies enabling natural gas to be extracted from a number of shale layers under Pennsylvania has the potential to be a game changer for our industry. The price of gasoline affects all Americans.  It especially (and disproportionately) impacts the trucking industry. As our fuel costs rise, the cost of transporting goods to market gets more expensive. Those costs are then passed on directly to consumers. Higher prices at the pump for us translates into higher prices on store shelves for you and your family.

Natural gas often costs 30 to 50 percent less than diesel fuel. Over the lifetime of one of our rigs, our member companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel costs alone. That’s more money to buy new trucks, hire new workers and grow their business. Cheap natural gas means jobs for American workers.

As the price of fuel continues to fluctuate wildly, averaging over $4.00 a gallon this week, our industry must make strides to conserve costs while meeting the demands of the millions of Pennsylvanians relying on trucking for the delivery of everything they eat, wear and use. Moreover, it is critical our industry begins to consider cheaper, cleaner alternatives to innovatively transform how we transport goods to market, thereby ensuring the thousands of trucking and tucking-supported jobs throughout the Commonwealth.

Natural gas, when used as a transportation fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel, offers an answer to this critical debate, providing better fuel efficiency and significantly reduced emissions. Natural gas emits less carbon dioxide and reduces smog-producing nitrogen oxide pollutants. How many other alternative fuels can say that?

The trucking industry has known for years that natural gas is a viable and reliable alternative to traditional diesel fuel. Natural gas is the only fuel alternative that can power heavy duty vehicles like 18 wheelers. While many companies have already begun switching their fleets to natural gas, rising gas prices make the case for switching even stronger.

In order to switch, many trucking companies need to know the truck models that run on natural gas are readily available. Peterson Power, Peterbilt and Cummins Westport are all now manufacturing heavy duty truck engines that run on natural gas. Each step forward is a step in the right direction.

One critical problem that exists however is the lack of essential infrastructure. Pennsylvania has a strong start, with 34 CNG refueling stations across the state and several more in the planning or construction phase. However, more must be done as there is an urgent need for the development of refueling stations where our members can refuel with LNG as quickly and as effortlessly as they can with traditional gasoline or diesel.

Additionally, with the passage of Act 13, the state has set aside $20 million to help Pennsylvania companies and organizations convert their vehicle fleets to compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, or bi-fuel vehicles. This is a great program, but we must do more. Pennsylvania is a state that has never played second fiddle to anyone. If we work together, we can ensure enough refueling infrastructure to revolutionize transportation across the Keystone state.

It’s imperative we continue to drive awareness and education for the benefits of natural gas when used as a fuel source. Recent events like the PUC forum on May 31st at Drexel on Alternative Fuel Vehicles, the Penn State Extension NGV Infrastructure Event on June 11 at Penn State Lehigh Valley and others across the state help drive awareness. Events like these further our education on the importance of both natural gas for transportation as well as infrastructure development.

The trucking industry literally moves our economy, and I want to see a vibrant and prosperous industry drive change across Pennsylvania. Cleaner, cheaper natural gas can revitalize and transform the transportation industry. We’re truckers, so you know we are in it for the long haul but the sooner we get started on transforming our energy future, the better off we’ll be.

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