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Well, well, well… somebody has put together what looks like a pretty comprehensive strategy that directly links the trucks, the fuel, and the customers just as natural gas is hitting the mainstream. I should have seen this one coming.

Navistar and Clean Energy Fuels, the clear leader in natural gas supply in the U.S., have launched a strategic partnership that will provide American truck buyers a commercially viable way to add natural gas powered trucks to their fleets. Without the usual and sizeable upcharge on the trucks themselves, and without government subsidy. Some Canadian fleets may also be able to join the party.

"Together, Navistar and Clean Energy have come up with a breakthrough program that offers customers a quicker payback on their investment plus added fuel-cost savings from day one of operation," said Dan Ustian, Navistar chairman, president and CEO, in a Chicago news conference this morning. He said his company will offer a broad range of medium- and heavy-duty trucks powered by natural gas engines. They’ll include internally developed MaxxForce motors and the Cummins Westport ISL G.

"Natural gas has clearly emerged as the most realistic alternative fuel option for the trucking industry," he added, though that’s been clear for some time now.

Clean Energy chairman T. Boone Pickens also participated in the press conference.

"It’s a big day for natural gas," he said. "And all this can be done without government help, though I would like to see the Natural Gas Act passed."

This announcement comes on the heels of a speech made by President Obama on Jan. 27 in which proposed several federal initiatives favouring the use of natural gas for transportation, including getting more natural-gas vehicles on the road using federal fleets and helping local governments upgrade their fleets, offering new tax incentives to help companies buy more clean trucks, working with the private sector to help develop natural-gas fueling stations between cities, and launching a competition to encourage new breakthroughs for natural gas vehicles.

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

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