It’s been a mixed year for natural gas. Enthusiasm about the inexpensive alt-fuel seems to be diminishing. More alarmingly for us here in Canada, there’s been a significant product pull-back on the heavy-duty side. Westport discontinued its popular 15-litre LNG engine, Cummins announced its 15L natural gas ISX is “on pause” and just this month, Volvo announced its 13L LNG engine has been put on hold. The ISX12 G is a capable engine – as long as you’re grossing no more than 80,000 lbs. And we all know in Canada, that’s not always the case. You’d be right to wonder about the future viability of natural gas as a heavy-duty transport fuel in Canada.

Cold Star Freight's fleet of 10 CNG-fuelled Mack Pinnacle tractors.
Cold Star Freight’s fleet of 10 CNG-fuelled Mack Pinnacle tractors.

However, one fleet that’s still bullish on natural gas is Cold Star Freight, which is forging ahead with its conversion. Kelly Hawes, the forward-thinking CEO of the company, which delivers refrigerated food product to Vancouver Island from the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, has put into service 10 CNG-fuelled Mack Pinnacle highway tractors and he absolutely loves them. Just a year into the experiment and he says he couldn’t be happier. He said he’s saving 30% on fuel and is planning to expand the company’s CNG fleet.

The trucks are reliable, quieter, and no more expensive to maintain, aside from replacing the costlier natural gas engine oil that’s required.

Cold Star is currently operating 10 CNG-powered Mack Pinnacles but that represents nearly a quarter of its total fleet. It plans to add a CNG-fuelled medium-duty Freightliner as well as more Mack Class 8 trucks with the ISX12 G if the fuelling network is expanded to accommodate additional facilities.

Cold Star’s story is an interesting one, which you can read about in more detail here. I’ll be moderating a panel discussion on alternative fuels at tomorrow’s Surface Transportation Summit in Mississauga, and Kelly’s experience with CNG will be the centerpiece of that conversation.

He’ll also be speaking at the upcoming Natural Gas Vehicles Canada Conference in Toronto, Oct. 20-22. Want to go for free on us? A limited number of Canadian fleets that sign up here can get in for free.

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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