Several players in the transportation sector have joined forces to roll out advances in the natural gas vehicle (NGV) sector, particularly the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) among long-haul trucking vehicles.

The provider of more than half of the NGV trucks operating nationally, Freightliner, and a major national transporter, Saddle Creek Transportation, are combining with fuel system maker Agility Fuel Systems to put a back-of-the-cab system on the market that promises ranges of 700 miles and lower costs because the system requires fewer CNG tanks.

Saddle Creek has committed to buying 10 Freightliner Cascadia 113 tractor trucks with Agility’s shorter, fatter CNG fuel cylinders, allowing for up to 700 miles of range with three cylinders, not the five on older models.

And in the fueling space in the West, Wisconsin-based convenience store chain KwikTrip/Kwik Star said it will continue to add alternative fuels as it opens a new CNG fueling facility in Cedar Falls, IA, on Thursday, expanding its upper Midwest network of fueling stops to nearly a dozen, covering three states: Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, Saddle Creek has more than 100 CNG-fueled trucks among a 430-vehicle fleet, and its has installed a fueling station at its Lakeland, FL, headquarters that was built by California-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and is involved in the Clean Energy stations opened in Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia.

“Saddle Creek logged 3.5 million CNG miles last year and is on track to log up to 9 million miles this year,” said Mike DelBovo, Saddle Creek president, who has said he prefers CNG to liquefied natural gas (LNG) because he thinks it is cheaper, safer and likes the fact that it can be delivered via pipeline.

Freightliner officials said the company has sold 2,700 natural gas trucks since 2008 and its future customers for more of the NGVs include many of the major fleet operators, such as Central Freight Lines, Gemini, J.J. Taylor, M&M Cartage, Paper Transport Inc., Penske, Ryder Systems, Swift, Sysco and Waste Management.

Freightliner is integrating its in-house CNG fuel system installation to include the Cascadia 113 tractor-trucks built in Cleveland. In addition, both CNG and LNG Cascadia tractors will be made available with 48-inch sleeper cabs.

In Iowa at their latest station opening, Kwik executives emphasized that they intend to try to drive more adoption of NGVs. Kwik’s convenience transportation distribution unit logs some 18 million miles annually and now has 30 NGVs in its fleet.