Buyers will need to be confident that natural gas trucks are reliable, functional and easily fueled, a survey revealed.

This year's annual survey of medium-duty truck buyers by J.D. Power and Associates showed that about half of the fleet maintenance sector is skeptical about widespread adoption of alternative fuel vehicles, such as natural gas vehicles (NGV).

Even with increased fuel economy, fleet operators are facing continuing operating cost increases, said Brent Gruber, director of J.D. Power's commercial vehicle practice.

"For trucks with alternative [natural gas and other] powertrains to gain widespread market acceptance, truck manufacturers and energy providers will need to assure customers that they will not be sacrificing durability, payload capacity, or ease of fueling with these new technologies," Gruber said.

The Power survey deals with customer perceptions of 2011 model-year Class 5, 6 and 7 commercial trucks. The Class 5s continue to have the highest quality levels, and Toyota's Hinos Trucks have by far the highest rating for the third consecutive year in the Power survey.

The survey showed that at least half of the fleet operators/maintainers are familiar with the most popular alternative fuel vehicles, such as NGVs, but concerns about a number of issues have kept they from ordering more of the newer vehicles. Those concerns include quality/reliability, availability and fuel/fueling stations.

Prime motivators to buy the alternatives -- compressed natural gas (CNG), electric or propane -- include emissions reductions, environmental performance, and future cost savings.

"Higher fuel and truck prices have impacted satisfaction, pushing principal maintainers to look at other cost-savings options," Gruber said. "However, they have concerns regarding new alternative fuel technology."

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