Saddle Creek Corp., a third-party logistics service provider that also operates its own vehicles, said Friday it has built a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station at its Lakeland, Fla., headquarters to power its growing fleet of trucks capable of running on the lower-cost, cleaner-burning energy source.
The $2.2 million CNG fueling station is the first such facility in the state of Florida that will be used by a for-hire truck fleet, Saddle Creek said.
Saddle Creek in January rolled out 40 trucks that could run on CNG power. It plans to have 120 CNG-powered rigs in its fleet by the end of next year. The trucks will be deployed to handle deliveries throughout the Florida peninsula and in Southern Georgia.
Mike DelBovo, president of Saddle Creek Transportation, said the use of the first 40 tractors will cut Saddle Creek's carbon emissions by 4.2 million pounds a year, equal to removing 364 cars from the road annually.
The facility can fuel up to 120 trucks per day and has four "fast-fill" pumps that can fill the rigs on demand and 20 additional stations that fill the tanks over a longer period of time, Saddle Creek said.
LOW PRICE AT THE PUMP
The use of CNG to power truck fleets is gaining interest because of its low pump price relative to diesel fuel and liquefied natural gas, the latter of which has gained wider acceptance than CNG in the trucking industry. CNG is currently priced at about $1 a gallon, according to transport industry sources.
By contrast, the average price of a gallon of diesel fuel stood at $3.72 as of Feb. 27, up nearly 34 cents a gallon from the same time in 2011, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. The cost of liquefied natural gas is usually about $1 a gallon less than diesel.
Another benefit of CNG is that it emits virtually no carbon and is quieter than vehicles powered by diesel, thus making communication easier between drivers and dispatchers.
On the flip side, CNG trucks are virtually all new-builds, and their cost can run $30,000 more than the price tag of a diesel-powered truck. In addition, the refueling network for natural gas is limited, making it logistically infeasible for fleets to operate CNG-powered vehicles even if they could afford them and they were in abundant supply.