After Murdock retired from a 30-year career at Procter & Gamble, she followed her passion by launching Clean Logistics Consulting, a 100-percent woman-run firm that specializes in transportation procurement strategies and alternative fuel use.
The volatility and rising cost of diesel is driving an increasing number of companies to investigate alternative fuels, since energy represents such a large percentage of distribution costs – 25 percent to 45 percent in the consumer goods sector, Murdock says. In addition to economics, natural gas also scores points environmentally – it is the cleanest-burning fuel and is abundant in the U.S.
The fueling infrastructure for natural gas is growing, with about two refueling points a week opening across the nation for Class 8 trucks, Murdock says. Still, fuel availability has to be considered when choosing which lanes to serve with CNG or LPG fleets, she says. “You want to look at your network very carefully and understand the options. This is not a fuel where you can just pull up and fill the tank when it’s low – you have to be more strategic about it.”
Vehicles built to use natural gas are more expensive to buy and they get 10 to 15 percent fewer miles to the gallon than diesel, but those costs are more than offset by savings in fuel costs, assuming the truck puts on enough miles, Murdock says. “A truck needs to log 80,000 to 100,000 miles annually to justify switching to natural gas,” she says.
As a first step, carriers should partner with like-minded customers, who are interested in realizing the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas, she says. “Carriers may need longer-term contracts to enable them to invest in that more expensive equipment and they need appropriate dedicated lanes with the necessary mileage and fueling infrastructure.”
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