The Road Ahead

Clean Energy is working to change the way North America fuels its vehicles.

What Refuse Truck Fleets are doing to Make Our Air Cleaner

By Clean Energy Compression

Waste companies used to use old less-dependable diesel powered refuse trucks. Loud trucks spewing exhaust left the waste industry struggling with a less than stellar community image. Now, all the major waste companies have adopted Natural Gas into their refuse truck fleets.

Natural Gas, CNG powered refuse trucks are now in operation in almost every major center in Canada and the USA. The use of natural gas for refuse trucks in the United States started in Southern California and quickly spread across the country.

In October 1992, six new refuse haulers appeared on the streets of New York City as a pilot project. These trucks were different from any the city had seen before. Compared with their conventional older siblings, these trucks were much quieter and refrained from belching diesel smoke. The difference? The new trucks ran on compressed natural gas (CNG).

The City of New York’s Department of Sanitation, DSNY, runs the largest municipal refuse fleet in the USA. The DSNY switched to CNG when New York decided to deal strongly with its air pollution issue. Communities now are being serviced cleaner and quieter in a more sustainable way with domestically produced fuel.

In 1996 the Mayor of Palm Desert asked Waste Management and asked if they could convert their fleet to Natural Gas, and they did. The entire Palm Desert refuse fleet now runs on Natural Gas and Waste Management operates the largest heavy-duty truck fleet in North America which includes almost 4,100 natural gas vehicles.

In 2007 the Town of Smithtown, New York converted 100% of their waste collection fleet to CNG. While drivers rave about the power, quietness and clean burning, that’s not the main reason the municipality was motivated to change. Their decision to convert to CNG was driven by the stable availability of the fuel supply at fixed long term prices that allowed them to avoid the high price volatility of diesel which had caused challenges for their municipal budgeting process. So they were able to save money and get fuel price stability while positively impacting the environment. Since then, other Smithtown departments have converted their vehicles including snowplows, street sweepers and shuttle buses to natural gas.

How many Natural Gas Refuse Trucks and Recycling Collection Trucks operate in the United States?

NGV America reports that 7,500 natural gas refuse and recycling trucks operate across the country. That number is growing rapidly. About 55 percent of new collection trucks on order are powered by natural gas (CNG, LNG and RNG).

As a result, communities across the country are experiencing less exhaust fumes and diesel smoke, and natural gas trucks operate at 90 percent the decibel rating of equivalent diesel trucks.

Some of the major leading refuse fleets that are using Natural Gas in a big way include:

  • Waste Management (Canada and USA)
  • Progressive (Canada and USA)
  • Republic (USA)
  • Emterra (Canada)

Clean Energy Fuels and Clean Energy Compression has been involved in the planning and construction of fueling facilities for all major North American waste management fleets.

Clean Energy Compression’s time-fill posts are an important money saving feature that drivers appreciate. The time-fill system allows drivers to leave their trucks and their shifts earlier while their trucks fill up overnight.

Environmental and Fuel Cost Savings

Natural Gas provides a way to decrease life-cycle carbon emissions, reduce noise levels, and lower the per mile / kilometre cost of fuel by 30 to 50%.

According to Natural Resources Canada’s life-cycle emissions model GHGenius, the carbon benefit is an estimated 18% or 12 tonnes less carbon for a natural gas refuse truck driven 45,000 kilometres per year.

CNG powered refuse trucks have less noise at idle with a more than 10 decibel difference at idle compared with diesel refuse trucks and natural gas is considerably less expensive than diesel fuel.

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