World-scale engine builder Cummins Inc. sees potential for growth in the market for natural gas engines for trucks.

The company is seeing “a growing interest from truck companies to see if, given the low prices of natural gas, this can be a way to reduce the cost of trucking,” Cummins Chairman Tom Linebarger said during a recent 4Q2011 earnings conference call.

“We’re excited about that because we’re — we’ve been in it for 10 years now — so we’ve got a bit of a lead over others.”

Linebarger noted that a significant amount of the company’s natural gas-powered business is for off-highway, heavy duty construction equipment, but “there’s a fair bit of momentum building on-highway. It’s historically been primarily a bus market in North America from an on-highway point of view.” Cummins has joint-ventured with British Columbia’s Westport Innovations Inc. to manufacture natural gas-powered engines.

Responding to a question, Linebarger said, “our view is, although it’s still a relatively small market — just to give you a sense less than 5% of our North American truck sales today are natural gas — so it’s not a big number today, and it’s unlikely to have a big effect on 2012 revenues or profits. We consider it an area of growth and opportunity for us and for our customers.”

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