Truck company shows off natural gas-fueled big rigs

Truck owner Ryder, which leases and maintains vehicles for most of the nation, is trying to help customers get on natural gas.

Ryder owns 160,000 trucks, which move freight and materials for customers nationwide. Just 300 of those trucks are powered by natural gas, but that is changing.

At a symposium Tuesday at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, Ryder showed off some of its latest models of fuel efficient and natural gas-powered trucks while discussing the potential of the new vehicles with dozens of customers.

“We do have a tremendous amount of interest from our customer base,” s aid Scott Perry, vice president of supply chain for Ryder.

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Much of the interest is coming because of the simple fuel cost savings of switching from diesel to natural gas, which costs about $1.50 less on a diesel gallon-equivalent basis, Perry said.

But a lot of other factors come into play when gauging if natural gas is the best solution for a customer, who may not have access to refueling stations, maintenance capabilities or even use enough fuel for the switch to make sense, Perry said.

Those were issues that Ryder officials, academics and representatives from truck makers were discussing on Tuesday.

But with Ryder intending to push further into natural gas vehicles, by building more stations (it currently has two natural gas stations compared with 400 diesel stations nationwide) and adding maintenance capabilities to deal with natural gas vehicles, Perry said.

“As a major player in this space, we want to be a  leader,” Perry said.

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Ryder’s size and involvement with natural gas could be key in influencing major changes in fuel use. The cost of buying a natural gas truck, refueling station and arranging maintenance capabilities is likely too high for most truck users, said Larry Grimes, national accounts manager for sales at truck maker Freightliner.

But with Ryder developing those capabilities for itself, a customer would be able to start running on natural gas simply by leasing from the company, rather than developing their own capabilities, Grimes said.

 

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