Some major shippers are actively encouraging carriers to embrace natural gas trucks as a way to help them meet corporate sustainability goals or lower transportation costs, reports Fleet Owner, and in some cases, a few are offering inducements such as larger contracts, rate premiums and even on-site NG fueling sites to speed up the transition.
Honda, one of a handful of companies participating on a panel at the Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, stated it has set a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 as a global goal for the company.
Moving towards more fuel efficient trucks are helping to move Honda’s parts group in the right direction, but LNG- or CNG-powered trucks also figure in its strategy, Adam Bishop, sr. logistics analyst for domestic transportation, said during the ACT Expo panel.
While Honda can’t require its carriers to make a switch to NG, the carriers’ lease costs for the tractors are passed through to Honda, “so we have some skin in the game,” he said. “We also have a good enough relationship with them that we can tell them we’d really like to move forward on this.”
In general, the fleets have been interested in the cost advantages of NG, and have put half a dozen CNG tractors into service on the Honda parts routes in California on a test basis.
With fueling infrastructure often the largest barrier for fleets, Honda Parts is making sure fueling is available to expand the pilot program to its distribution facilities in Georgia and Ohio.
“We could have up to 50 NG tractors on the road within the next 18 to 24 months running about 30,000 miles a night,” said Bishop. “As additional fueling locations are developed around the country, we’ll utilize this partnership to build more [NG] stations and we’re pushing that these stations will be open to the public so it’s not just our trucks that are going to benefit.”
Under pressure to reduce transportation costs, shippers have to be willing to share the cost of converting to natural gas,” said David Uncapher, transportation operations leader for Owens Corning. Shiipers can also work collaboratively to build lanes or routes with enough demand to justify development of NG fueling location. “Shippers will create the demand that grows the infrastructure,” he said, adding that there also needs to be incentives for carriers to make the substantial capital investments required to transition to NG.
“The majority of carriers we work with were initially standoffish until they saw one particular carrier grow sevenfold in our network,” said Uncapher, who says he offers incentives like longer contracts to help carriers “see the opportunity for a gain to go out and make that investment.”