Robert hopes Blue Road turns green

BOUCHERVILLE, Que. — Burning fuel is one of the necessary costs of doing business in our business. And Claude Robert doesn’t like it.

That’s why he’s put Robert Transport on a path to convert a portion of his fleet to natural gas over the next few years.

The company is working on a deal with Gaz Metro, a leading distributor of natural gas in Quebec, to put up to 130 natural gas highway tractors on the road within the next five years.

At a recent conference on energy management, Jean-Robert Lessard, VP of Marketing at Robert Transport, provided some details about the project, called Blue Road.

"The goal of the program is to find alternatives to diesel and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 25 percent," he said. "Liquefied natural gas (LNG) shows environmental and financial benefits. And the price is more stable that diesel."

Today’s Trucking‘s sister publication Transport Routier learned that Robert is planning to buy PACCAR trucks equipped with the high-pressure direct injection 15-liter Westport GX engine, which can deliver up to 450 hp and 1,750 lb-ft of torque.

Based on the Cummins ISX diesel-engine, the GX uses 3 percent of diesel fuel at ignition; a diesel fuel pump draws and pressurizes diesel fuel from the pilot diesel tank, then both the diesel and natural gas are sent to the fuel conditioning module, where they are pressure regulated, filtered, and distributed to the fuel injectors via fuel rails.

Robert expects to buy between 50 and 80 LNG tractors the first year, then another 50 later on. Those trucks will be placed in the Montreal-Quebec City and Montreal-Toronto corridors.

"To succeed with this program, it is essential to put together a credible partnership and a long-term operational structure that includes financial incentives [from Gaz Metro] and the support of government," said Lessard. "We also need to make sure there is a tax balance between diesel and natural gas, meaning that we must avoid that the government taxes LNG at the same level as diesel."

When presenting its budget in March, the Quebec government announced that that the depreciation rate applicable to commercial trucks or tractors was increased from 40 percent to 60 percent for any new equipment acquired after March 31st, 2010.

Furthermore, an additional 85-percent cut for amortization reduction is granted if the truck or tractor runs on LNG.

To start, Gaz Metro will install refueling sites at Transport Robert’s terminals in Boucherville and Toronto.

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