"Why pay $4 per gallon for diesel when you can pay $2 per (diesel-equivalent) gallon for natural gas?" says Michael Forte, of MJF Materials, boiling down his decision to replace his entire dump truck fleet with new trucks that run on compressed natural gas.
Of course the choice was not that simple, and Forte has done the math. He guards the return-on-investment period closely, but says that even with a $2.5 million investment in his own fast-fill natural-gas fueling station and about $4 million invested in 25 new CNG trucks, the venture will break even well within the trucks' ten-year life spans.
It's a shift in the Lindenwold, N.J., construction-materials company's business plan brought on by Forte's need to double the size of its truck fleet.
Forte currently runs 25 diesel trucks. He is taking delivery on 20 new CNG trucks (Peterbilt trucks with Cummins Westport's new 12-L CNG engines and tanks from d-HYBRID Systems), and expects five more in the next 90 days. Forte expects to have the diesel trucks replaced with CNG models by the end of 2015. When that plan is complete, the fleet will be twice as big as it was at the first of 2014, running on roughly the same fuel cost.
"The main reason was the expense of diesel fuel – the price of diesel was all over the place and wasn't stabilizing," Forte explains. "When it finally did stabilize, it was way too high."
MJF Materials hauls sand and stone from quarries to asphalt and concrete plants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (mostly the Philadelphia metro area). Trucks run 350 to 400 miles per day, and average about 80,000 miles per year. With tanks that hold 90 diesel gallon equivalents of compressed natural gas, some will need to refuel during the day. That's one of the reasons Forte invested in a fast-fill station station of his own. The station will be open to the public, but any revenue it generates will be a bonus. Forte's ROI calculations are based completely on his company's CNG consumption.
J&J Truck Bodies & Trailers recently completed 11 tri-axle dump bodies for the MJF Materials fleet. J&J technicians assisted with installation of the d-HYBRID fuel systems prior to mounting J&J aluminum dump bodies onto the trucks.
"We expect to see more and more of the CNG-configured trucks come to our facility for fuel system and dump-body installations," said Mike Riggs, senior vice president of J&J. "To meet that demand, J&J has invested in employee training and capital equipment to support the increasing popularity of the natural gas option."