For Dawood Engineering, leasing a CNG (compressed natural gas)-powered truck has been a good opportunity to take advantage of the economic benefits of a cheaper fuel, while going green and supporting a local industry.
Specializing in the transportation, energy and land development fields, this Harrisburg-based engineering company runs a 50-vehicle fleet that serves customers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Massachusetts.
With the help of Enterprise Fleet Management, Dawood leased a factory-installed, dual-fuel 2013 Dodge Ram 2500 HD CNG last September for its Sayre, Pa., location.
At the time, Dawood was one of the first small businesses in Pennsylvania to operate a CNG vehicle. “We were a little ahead of the curve by bringing a CNG vehicle into our fleet,” says Jim Rodgers, Dawood’s director of marketing and business development.
For Dawood, implementing natural gas into its fleet also supports the local natural gas industry. “A fair quantity of our business in Pennsylvania is based on the Marcellus Shale exploration,” Rodgers says.
An impetus for Dawood to look into CNG was the fact that a natural gas exploration company client encourages CNG-powered vehicles for its vendors, he says.
Dawood hopes to add more CNG vehicles to its fleet in the future, especially with the recent restructuring of the Department of Environmental Protection’s grant program for alternative fuel incentives, says Rodgers.
Initially, Dawood didn’t qualify for government incentives, which only included purchased CNG vehicles, not leased.
“Grants or additional incentives vary by state and region,” says Kevin Kelley, vice president of Enterprise Fleet Management. “In Pennsylvania, they are available in the form of incentives to leasing companies, which apply them directly to reduce the cost of the vehicle.”
“We decided on the Ram 2500 CNG since almost all our other service trucks are Ram 2500s,” says Rodgers.
“There was a learning curve in the fueling of the truck at the beginning; it took some getting used to,” Rodgers says. “Now it is a non-issue.”
The loss of storage in the truck bed due to the CNG cylinders presented a logistical challenge initially but was solved with rearranging equipment.
Although the upfront cost on a CNG truck is higher than a gasoline or diesel vehicle (the Ram CNG option is $11,000) a CNG customer will likely reduce fuel expenses. “The longer a customer keeps a CNG vehicle past the point where upfront costs are amortized, the greater the net savings,” says Kelley.
The Ram 2500 CNG has already reduced Dawood’s fuel expenses by $100 to $110 per week — with the price for CNG remaining steady at $1.99 per gallon, says Rodgers.
With nine months under its belt, the CNG truck averages 70 to 80 miles per day in Dawood’s fleet.
When it comes to maintenance, Rodgers hasn’t seen a difference performance-wise or maintenance-wise with the CNG 2500, which receives an oil change every 6,000 miles.
The goal of running a CNG truck is to fuel with compressed natural gas, so the lack of nearby CNG fuel stations presents a challenge. Before returning to the office, the driver fills up daily at the public CNG fueling station two miles away, says Rodgers.
But with an estimated range of nearly 370 miles on CNG alone and a total range of 745 miles including the gas tank — range anxiety is not an issue on the Ram CNG.
At Dawood, the driver has had to resort to the reserve gasoline tank only four or five times. “He either forgot to fill it the night before or the fueling station wasn’t working,” Rodgers says.
Nonetheless, Rodgers is seeing the growth of CNG in his area. “We are probably about a year or so away from seeing a whole lot more CNG stations coming online and there are grants to build them,” he says. “More CNG conversions are happening with other fleets.”