The industrial freight hauling arm of UPS is adding natural-gas powered trucks to its truck fleet. UPS Freight today said 64 new liquefied natural gas-powered tractor-trailers will roll from its Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, less-than-truckload terminal, replacing diesel-powered trucks.
“Even though UPS has used LNG tractors in package operations for more than a decade, it’s still a relatively new fuel for trucking,” Willie Rivero, UPS Freight vice president-fleet, said in a statement. The LNG tractors align UPS Freight with UPS’s overall alternative-fuel goals.
The $58 billion company plans to drive a billion miles using alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles by the end of 2017. Currently, UPS operates nearly 5,500 alternative-fuel or advanced technology vehicles, including about 2,500 natural gas-powered vehicles.
The new LNG tractors at UPS Freight are expected to average 600 miles to the tank, the company said. UPS Freight, at $2.6 billion the fifth-largest U.S. LTL carrier by revenue, is one of many trucking companies weighing the merits of LNG or compressed natural gas trucks.
The push to get trucking companies to transition to greater use of alternative fuels lost some momentum as gas and diesel prices plummeted over the past year, but advocates believe CNG and LNG have a long-term price advantage over their oil-based counterparts.
LTL trucking companies such as UPS Freight and Central Freight Lines see opportunity to save significant amounts of money on fuel by using LNG or CNG in fixed route line-haul or city operations. And shippers still want carrier partners with a smaller carbon footprint.
“We continue to see demand for natural gas vehicles from businesses looking to reduce costs and advance the environmental sustainability of their fleets,” Dennis Cooke, president of global fleet management solutions for truck lessor Ryder System, said in February.
Ryder began adding natural gas vehicles in 2010, starting with a pilot project in Southern California. The Miami-based company now operates more than 500 liquified natural gas and compressed natural gas trucks and vehicles and maintains its own fueling network.
The lack of fueling infrastructure is one of the biggest roadblocks facing the natural gas revolution. “The infrastructure is still being built out, and the stations are not always efficient,” Michael J. DelBovo, president of Saddle Creek Transportation, told JOC.com last year.
Interest in LNG and CNG isn’t limited to landside transportation. The first container ship designed to run on natural gas has been launched at General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego for operation by Sea Star Line in the U.S. mainland-Puerto Rico trade.
IHS Maritime reports that more than 40 container ships that are LNG-fueled or LNG-ready have been ordered or are under construction worldwide.