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BRINGING GAS TO THE ISLAND

Speaking of cleaner fuels, there has been so much talk about natural gas of late, and it’s mostly the big fleets that get all the attention. However, out west, little Cold Star Freight, which runs about 35 trucks, is getting involved in a...


Speaking of cleaner fuels, there has been so much talk about natural gas of late, and it’s mostly the big fleets that get all the attention. However, out west, little Cold Star Freight, which runs about 35 trucks, is getting involved in a big way by adding 10 CNG Macks. In doing so, they’ll be the first trucking company to run natural gas-powered trucks on Vancouver Island. They’ve partnered with FortisBC on an incentive program that subsidized 75% of the cost premium in moving to natural gas, and the two companies will together construct a fuelling station on the Island.

“I can tell you that without that (incentive) program, we wouldn’t even have entertained this idea,” Kelly Hawes, Cold Star president said at the Natural Gas Vehicle Infrastructure Conference in Toronto last month. “For a small company like ours to take on a challenge with such a huge capital (investment) would be too big a risk.”

Kelly said Cold Star is already considering adding another 10 natural gas-powered trucks to run out of its Nanaimo location in 2014. The trucks are Mack Pinnacles, which, aside from the CNG fuelling system, are spec’d nearly identical to the Macks Cold Star currently runs.

“We have a great relationship with our Nanaimo Mack dealer,” Kelly said. “We were thrilled when they came to the table with a solution. They also have a maintenance shop in Victoria they are converting to look after all our maintenance requirements. We were able to spec’ out the exact truck we currently have, except we’re adding the natural gas.”

The trucks are powered by the Cummins ISX12 G engine, mated to a 13-speed transmission with 45 DGE (diesel gallon equivalent) tanks. Though Kelly’s excited to be introducing natural gas trucking to Vancouver Island, he admitted he still has concerns as a small fleet. The trucks run 20 hours a day, so he said “We don’t have time to have them in the shop.”

But still, Kelly feels there are real opportunities for small fleets to get involved in natural gas. “I do believe there’s an opportunity for smaller fleets to get involved in natural gas, but it’s important for the OEMs and fuel providers to understand the unique challenges of small fleets,” he said. “For example, we don’t have the capital to withstand a period of trial and error. We don’t have excess equipment for downtime. Those are huge, huge challenges for us.”


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