Seeking to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, the freight unit of Federal Express Corp. (FedEx) is beta testing an advanced liquefied natural gas (LNG)-only Class 8 truck engine in two new tractors used in the company’s Dallas, TX, service center.

The test engine is a pre-production model that is slated for limited release next year, FedEx said. It is touted as the “only all-natural gas engine that begins to meet the size and power need of Class 8 trucks.”

FedEx’s effort comes at a time when continued low wholesale prices for natural gas are sparking initiatives around the nation to move to more use of LNG and compressed natural gas (CNG) in the trucking and fleet sectors. A governor’s task force in West Virginia that is looking to expand the state’s natural gas transportation infrastructure said this month that natural gas prices are the equivalent of $1.85/gal gasoline.

By executive order earlier this year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin created the statewide natural gas vehicle (NGV) task force to explore the option of creating a state fleet of NGVs (see Daily GPI, June 12). The task force is scheduled to submit its findings to Tomblin and the state legislature in January.

As part of the FedEx Freight service center the newest LNG tractors will be used as part of the carrier’s regular hauling operations that typically log nearly 1,000 miles daily. These are Kenworth tractors with Cummins Westport Inc. engines.

“The extensive use will enable the company to quickly and thoroughly test the new engine’s ability to meet the needs of day-to-day operations,” said the company spokesperson, noting that this is part of FedEx’s ongoing efforts to find alternative to gasoline-power vehicles.

The FedEx beta test is part of a larger-scale sustainability initiative by the freight hauling unit “to integrate responsible environmental practices into daily operations.”

Natural gas, as a cleaner-burning alternative to diesel, “has the potential to translate into lower GHG emissions,” said John Smith, FedEx Freight’s vice president for safety, fleet maintenance and facility services. In keeping with the company’s environmental commitments, Smith said his company’s fleet is the first one to try the new engines.

The test trucks are another “potential sustainable solution” for FedEx, according to Mitch Jackson, vice president for environmental affairs and sustainability. “[We] hope to maximize our efficiency while advancing our commitment to connect the world in responsible and resourceful ways.”

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