The rising cost of diesel has had a major negative impact on the trucking industry and prompted one of the largest garbage company's in the nation to charge customers an extra $169 million in 2011 to cover the excess fuel expenditures. The garbage company, Waste Management, has now taken the defensive strategy of starting to switch its fleet of vehicles to natural gas. The Wall Street Journal reports that Waste Management is not alone in taking this action.
As the shale gas revolution has driven prices in the natural gas industry down by as much as 45 percent in a single year, more and more trucking companies are considering switching to vehicles that run on natural gas. While this may increase efficiency, there are also some concerns about safety. Trucking companies need to ensure that they are making choices that not only protect their finances but also protect consumers on the road. Victims of truck accidents can consult with truck accident lawyers in Columbus, OH for strategic legal counsel in the wake of a collision.
Risks as Trucks Switch to Natural Gas
Waste Management intends to burn more natural gas than diesel by 2017 and the company has indicated that at least 80 percent of new truck purchases will be natural gas. Larger trucks like eighteen-wheelers are also embracing compressed natural gas (CNG) and super-chilled natural gas, which is called LNG. UPS and AT&T have purchased vehicles that run on natural gas already, and Ryder is renting out natural gas trucks. Eight in 10 trucking companies responded to a survey indicating the LNG has potential for highway use and around 1/3 said they were actively researching switching to natural gas vehicles.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also approved retrofit technology that can be used on existing big rigs to make it possible for the trucks to burn both LNG and diesel. When truckers and trucking companies don't have to make a permanent commitment to only using natural gas, this could prompt more companies to take advantage of the opportunity to burn cheaper fuel than diesel.
Unfortunately, there are some risks associated with the switch to natural gas. One risk is that there are a limited number of fueling stations available, so truckers may travel to out-of-the-way routes they don't know as well. A trucker on an unfamiliar road can be more dangerous and distracted than someone who is on a route he knows well.
A change in weather is another issue. Go By Trucking News published an article indicating that winter can have a "hazardous effect" of natural gas powered vehicles. When the temperature drops, CNG equipment needs to be re-calibrated to avoid becoming dangerous.
Fire Engineering also warns that natural gas is colorless and odorless and could create cloud vapors that ignite. Furthermore, emergency alert personnel responding to a vehicle fire on the side of the road may not be aware they are dealing with natural gas and may not be able to fight the fire as effectively.
Before trucking companies embrace natural gas as a possible solution, they need to know the risks and be careful they don't put other motorists in danger due to hazardous vehicles.
Contact our Columbus, OH accident lawyers today. Call 1-800-930-SCOTT or visit http://www.sestriallaw.com for a free case consultation.