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Second Quebec carrier buys natural gas-fueled tractors

ST-ROMUALD, Que. – By about the end of this September, St-Romuald, Que.-based Transport YN.-Gonthier will become the second carrier in the province to use liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled transport trucks. It has ordered two Peterbilt...


ST-ROMUALD, Que. – By about the end of this September, St-Romuald, Que.-based Transport YN.-Gonthier will become the second carrier in the province to use liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled transport trucks. It has ordered two Peterbilt 386 tractors with 475 hp/1,750 lb.-ft. Westport 15-litre engines and will run them between Quebec City and Montreal.

The purchase is an important milestone for the entry of LNG trucks into mainstream Canadian trucking.

“Transport Robert (the first Quebec carrier to operate LNG trucks) is very innovative. Now Gonthier, a standard business owner, has made a decision to buy LNG trucks. Seeing mainstream companies jump into this is good news for us. The word spread fast that Gonthier purchased LNG trucks and we are getting more calls from standard companies,” enthuses Martin Blanchet, business development manager, Gaz Metro Transport Solutions.

Gonthier will be receiving two $15,000 subsidies from Transports Quebec’s PEET program (Programme d’aide gouvernementale a l’amelioration de l’efficacite energetique dans le transport routier, ferroviaire et maritime, or the Government Assistance Program for Improving Energy Efficiency in Road, Rail and Marine Transportation) to help pay for the trucks.

More LNG fueling stations are absolutely critical to the acceptance of the technology. On Sept. 20 Gaz Metro will be installing a 6,000-gallon mobile fueling station in the Transport Robert terminal in Quebec City. This will keep both carriers’ trucks running until a public fueling station is operational in or near Quebec City in 2013. “We are in the process of buying the land for the public site,” Blanchet says.

“Gaz Metro has given us a very strong assurance that the Quebec City station will be built. It is very important for us,” says Yvan Gonthier, co-owner of YN.-Gonthier.

The Peterbilt tractors are equipped with seven-foot long, 119-gallon cryogenic tanks, giving them a range of roughly 1,000 kilometres. The Quebec City public station will bring to three the number of stations along the ‘Blue Road’ project. The other two are in Transport Robert yards in Boucherville, just outside Montreal and in Mississauga, Ont. near Toronto.

A fourth station is not far behind: On July 31 Gaz Metro announced it would build a public liquefied biomethane fueling station in Riviere-du-Loup. Scheduled to open in 2013, it will extend the Blue Road another 200 kilometres eastward. “Liquid biomethane has exactly the same chemical composition as LNG,” Blanchet notes. To get the quickest possible payback on the extra cost of buying the trucks, Gonthier will put as many kilometres on the trucks as it can, in the shortest time possible.

“The calculations that Gaz Metro and Westport gave me are that if a truck is run 300,000 kilometres a year, I will break even after two years. What is important for me, because the trucks are so expensive, is that we are going to put miles on them faster, save fuel costs and more quickly reimburse the difference between diesel and LNG,” Gonthier explains.

Gonthier will run the trucks twice a day between Quebec City and Montreal. That totals about 1,000 kilometres. Since the big savings are only won when eating up the road, some trailers will be delivered directly to clients, but others will be dropped off at the Gonthier Montreal yards to be switched for local delivery.

Gonthier will only pull a single 53-foot van with each tractor. The carrier does not operate B-trains or long combination vehicles, nor will it equip the tractors or trailers with wide-base tires. However, the carrier has been ordering side skirts with all vans it has purchased in the past two years, which will reduce the fuel burn of the LNG rigs.

Gonthier is training two of his mechanics to learn how to work on the tractors, although he has not decided just how much maintenance will be done in-house. Too, he has yet to make the necessary repair bay modifications for working on them.
“The maintenance will probably be done here, but we are not sure,” Gonthier says.

In any case, mechanics at Transdiff Peterbilt de Quebec, a Peterbilt dealer in Sainte-Foy, just west of Quebec City, will have completed their training to work on LNG trucks by the time Gonthier takes delivery of his LNG Peterbilts.

Gonthier will have Gaz Metro train six or seven of his drivers on the trucks’ operation and fueling. Other than learning how to operate the fueling units, which is simplicity itself, drivers must wear gloves and a face shield to protect themselves from any errant spray of LNG that might result from a defective nozzle seal. As for buying more LNG tractors, Gonthier says, “We will measure the level of success of these first. It is sure that we will buy more if these work.”


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