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OEs talk natural gas at ACT Expo

Jason Cannon June 25, 2013

roundtableThe success of natural gas in heavy-duty trucking likely hinges on how willing OEs are to be involved in the education, training and relationship building of fleets and fueling partners.

Executives from Cummins Westport, Daimler Trucks North America, Volvo Trucks North America, Kenworth, Navistar and Peterbilt spoke before a packed conference room Tuesday in a roundtable discussion on the future of natural gas in heavy-duty trucking at the ACT Expo in Washington D.C.

The consensus was that OEs will have to do far more than simply push a quality truck to the end of the assembly line.

Jim Arthurs, president, Cummins Westport, says his company has worked to educate all its employees about the product suite, including cost and benefit analysis of natural gas versus diesel.

“We’ve worked to get distributors up to speed,” he says, “and we’ve had a two-day camp with account executives.”

Concerns over infrastructure are, by proxy, also a problem for the OEs – you can’t sell a truck that can’t easily get fuel.

“With public fueling stations, most are looking for a cornerstone customer,” Andy Douglas, National sales manager, Kenworth Truck Company, says. “They’re saying, ‘Give me somebody to get this thing started with.’”

“It’s our job as the OE to bring them in and partner them up.”

Infrastructure will grow as more and larger fleets add LNG trucks, either through a cost/benefit analysis or mounting pressure from major shippers.

“Shippers see (LNG) is cheaper and have never liked diesel fuel surcharges,” Arthurs says.

Brian Daniels, product manager, powertrain, Daimler Trucks North America, says Freightliner has funded six LNG units that it has passed along to fleets around the country in an effort to educate the fleets about LNG, and also help Daimler see the practical units in action.

Bringing in multiple partners will also go a long way in cross training staff, says Navistar’s Director of Alternative Fuels and Product Marketing, Nadine Haupt.

“We’re all basically using the same engines and are partners with Cummins Westport,” she says.

The relationship with Cummins Westport, Haupt says, has to find its way to the dealer level and, eventually, the service bay.

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