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MARKET TO REMAIN DEVOID OF 15L NATURAL GAS ENGINE…FOR NOW

News came last week that Cummins was putting development of its 15-litre natural gas engine on “pause”, which means the market will be without one for the foreseeable future. Westport announced last fall that it would stop taking...


News came last week that Cummins was putting development of its 15-litre natural gas engine on “pause”, which means the market will be without one for the foreseeable future. Westport announced last fall that it would stop taking orders for its popular (at least in Canada) 15L GX engine in November 2013. Canadian fleets who were early to adopt LNG-fuelled trucks stand to be the most affected by this void in the marketplace. By my latest count, Robert has 125 such trucks, Vedder has 50, Bison has 15 and YN Gonthier has a couple. Many of these trucks are being used in extreme heavy-haul applications. Vedder hauls heavy loads of trash from B.C.’s Lower Mainland to a landfill in the Interior and both Bison and Robert use their LNG-powered trucks to pull long combination vehicles (LCVs), grossing about 63,500 kgs. This is not typically thought of as a 12-litre application.

I contacted representatives from Vedder, Bison and Robert for reaction, which ranged from exasperation to indifference.

Exasperation: “This essentially takes natural gas completely out of the heavy-haul application,” – Bison Transport chief operating officer and executive vice-president Rob Penner.

Indifference: “We don’t foresee any impact on the fleet, nor are we planning to make any adjustments to our operating processes,” – Vedder Transportation president Fred Zweep.

It seems no one’s ready to abandon their natural gas ambitions over this development. Adding to Rob’s comments, senior vice-president Trevor Fridfinnson, who oversees Bison’s natural gas program, added “The tack taken by the OEMs and support suppliers does limit us from potential expansion in the LCV application. The majority of our fleet, however, operates in the lesser hp applications (as does most of the industry) and they remain eligible for consideration pending all the other development in the space.”

Yves Maurais, technical director, asset management, purchase and conformity with Robert Transport, said “I guess we have no choice (but) to go to a smaller 13L or 12L engine if we want to keep improving our fleet and continue our conversion to LNG.” Yves said he’s anxiously awaiting the arrival of Volvo’s 13L LNG engine, which will be capable of pulling LCVs. The ISX12 G, he added, is underpowered for LCV applications but may also find a home within the fleet doing regional work.

So the fleets are forging ahead, and we shouldn’t be surprised. These are some of the most progressive fleets in the country and having overcome many technical hurdles in their pursuits of developing their respective natural gas trucking programs, why would they be deterred by one more bump in the road?

I wondered also, however, what impact, if any, this announcement would have on fuel companies who have been quietly – and in some cases, not so quietly – working to build LNG fuelling corridors, specifically in Alberta and Ontario. ‘Ontario?,’ you ask. Yes, believe it or not, an LNG fuelling network is taking shape in Ontario somewhat out of public view. The company behind it, though they don’t yet wish to be identified, confirmed to me last week it’s full-steam ahead despite the 15L setback. So while the absence of a 15L natural gas engine has been met with some disappointment, it doesn’t appear as though the situation is going to prove to be the undoing of the few natural gas trucking programs that currently exist in Canada.


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2 Comments » for MARKET TO REMAIN DEVOID OF 15L NATURAL GAS ENGINE…FOR NOW
  1. tony godsoe says:

    Natural clean gas is the fuel of the future much the way home owners are installing heat pumps in their homes. Diesel has become too expensive to import and too dirty for the environment. DEF, fluid has helped the industry somewhat, but manufacturers of trucks are looking to the future. Look at freightliner for 2014 and Volvo with all of the new safety features they have made available, in the not too distant future driver less trucks will be delivering freight. Programmed in New York and deliver in L.A without a driver. Or Load in Nova Scotia and deliver in B.C all without a tired driver. Just look at the Drones the military are now using. Tony

  2. Sylvain Drasse says:

    I cannot agree with Tony Godsoe about his assessment of driverless trucks. There are too many variables involved (not the least of which being winter road conditions, especially in Canada) to make that happen before ALL vehicules become automated and self-aware about their mechanical condition. I do not believe this will happen during my lifetime, and I’m not even 50 yet. By the way, Tony, military drones, aside from reconnaissance and surveillance missions that involve a well-defined airspace, are remotely piloted exactly because of the same reasons you need a driver in every truck and car. (Please don’t get me started on car “drivers”.)

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