For North America’s trucking and municipal bus fleets, it seems that they just can’t get enough compressed natural gas (CNG).

In just the past few days, another round of grants and announcements from around the country highlighted the growth in using natural gas to increase market share in ground transportation.

In Pennsylvania, a grant for $469,292 was awarded to Beemac Trucking to support a CNG fueling station in Beaver County to build a two-acre, $7 million fueling and maintenance facility to open Sept. 15 for public and fleet vehicles. The unmanned station is to be open 24/7 with a credit card swipe system. The station would service 40 trucks, 20 of which would be converted to run on CNG and 20 others dedicated as natural gas vehicles (NGV). The fleet would operate with 12-liter, 400-hp Cummins Westport NGV engines.

“The trucks will run 100% on natural gas,” said Senior Vice President Dave Dudo. The firm calculates that the CNG costs about $2/gallon equivalent of diesel, which currently is priced around $4.00/gal. “It is going to take some time for that to pay off, but in the long run it will.”

Central Freight Lines Inc., based in Waco, TX, has purchased 100 CNG-fueled Freightliners trucks. It received a $17.5 million federal grant to subsidize the purchase, adding to a fleet of 14 CNG rigs now operating in the Houston area, where it is also building a CNG fueling station. “We’ve seen the efficiencies that it brought Houston, so we’re ready to bring it to the other terminals, like Dallas-Fort Worth, as well,” said business development director Mari Ellen Borowski.

Meanwhile, Waste Management Inc., based in Houston, is piloting Mercedes-Benz Econic NGT CNG refuse trucks as an alternative to its Cummins Westport natural gas engines.

And in California, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority is establishing a plan to buy up to 900 CNG buses through 2016. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has proposed amendments to streamline the certification process to vehicles being converted to the same emissions standards as gasoline vehicles. California NGV Coalition official Tim Carmichael said the certification is an issue,”because most natural gas conversions are done to meet a more stringent standard: to make the vehicles eligible for solo-driver HOV [high occupancy lane] access and some incentive funding.”

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