The United States is an important and growing market for medium and heavy natural gas trucks and buses. There is strong interest among fleets in natural gas use and well-established markets such as California and Texas are providing important lessons for fleets that want to rapidly transition to natural gas in order to capture economic and environmental benefits. At the state level, there are an increasing number of supportive policies and programs in place. Successful business models including focusing on return-to-base and regional corridor medium and heavy vehicle fleets underpin growing demand for natural gas in the American transportation sector.
An estimated 1,000 natural gas highway tractors are on the road in the United States. This number is expected to grow significantly as liquefied natural gas (LNG) refueling stations are installed at existing truckstops along interstate trucking corridors. Private sector companies are investing to bring LNG into the trucking market. Both Clean Energy and Shell have announced major infrastructure projects which will, in total, lead to LNG refueling stations at 250 truckstops in the United States by the end of 2013.
There are also compressed natural gas (CNG) tractors in use in the United States. For example, in California, CNG tractors move containers from the ports to local distribution yards. Other natural gas highway tractor fleet highlights include:
- Ryder operates 202 CNG and LNG tractor project in California
- Heckmann Water Resources operates 200 LNG tractors in Louisiana and Texas
- UPS operate 48 LNG tractors operating between California and Nevada
- Fair Oaks Farms operates 42 CNG tractors in Indiana.
There are more than 3,000 natural gas refuse trucks operating in the United States. These trucks are powered by either CNG or LNG. Many fleets use time fill stations in their yards for overnight vehicle refueling. Another benefit with a time fill station is eliminating truck line-ups for fueling at the end of shifts. Some American municipalities have required the use of lower emission trucks as a condition of municipal tender. For example, for its municipal refuse collection tender, Seattle, Washington, required that bids be submitted on the basis of lower emission collection trucks. The entire Seattle contract went to natural gas trucks as a result of this approach. Other American market natural gas refuse truck fleet highlights include:
- Waste Management with 1,400 natural gas trucks and a plan to make 80% of future purchases natural gas; and
- Republic Services operates 225 natural gas trucks across 10 different sites.
An estimated one out of every four new transit bus orders in the United States are for natural gas buses. Permanent funding of more than 80% helps transit operations in the United States to pay for bus technologies that have a higher upfront vehicle cost.
The largest transit operation in North America, Los Angeles Metro Transit, operates 2,200 natural gas transit buses. This fleet recently retired its last diesel bus. Natural gas is in use in 30 ft, 40 ft, and 60 ft buses. Refueling stations are typically built to match the refueling time of diesel fueling. Natural gas transit bus fleet highlights include: