05/31/2013 12:24 EDT | Updated 07/31/2013 05:12 EDT

Natural Gas Trucking: A Made-in-B.C. Success Story


This week, Vancouver plays host to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference where nearly 2,000 municipal government decision makers will gather to learn about policies that impact their communities and to hear about leading-edge programs and solutions for Canadian cities.

One of these solutions is a made-in-British Columbia story - the growing conversion of waste and recycling collection vehicles from diesel fuel to natural gas. My company, Progressive Waste Solutions, is announcing at the conference that we are making a commitment to significantly increase our share of natural gas vehicles.

We've got a lot of experience with natural gas powered vehicles, as we are already the industry leader in this category in Canada. Today, approximately 110 of our Canadian trucks are powered by natural gas. By the end of 2013, that number will jump to 150. And by 2014, we expect that 50 to 55 per cent of the trucks we purchase for our Canadian and US operations will be natural gas powered.

Economically and environmentally, natural gas makes sense as a fuel choice for transportation. A new waste or recycling collection truck powered by natural gas costs approximately 15 per cent more than a conventional diesel powered truck, but as natural gas has historically cost less than diesel, we expect a quick return on this investment.

In British Columbia, FortisBC offers incentives for operators to convert diesel trucks to compressed natural gas to promote the use of domestic B.C. natural gas as a transportation fuel, and generate both environmental and economic benefits. The incentives encourage the conversion of heavy duty fleet vehicles and the implementation of related natural gas fuel infrastructure. The program was made possible following the creation of the Government of B.C.'s Greenhouse Gas Reduction regulation.

For short haul fleets -- trucks that operate in a limited, local geographical area -- the switch to natural gas is simpler, as companies can build their own refueling stations, as Progressive Waste Solutions did in Surrey, B.C. in partnership with FortisBC. Building on the success of this approach, we plan to build natural gas fueling stations in Montreal as we convert our fleet.

Environmentally, natural gas is a much friendlier fuel choice than diesel for transportation. For return-to-base fleets like waste haulers, courier trucks, buses, tractor trailers and marine vessels, it's easier on the air we breathe and according to operators, natural gas engines run with significantly less noise when compared with diesel trucks.

The vehicles used by Progressive Waste Solutions are Mack trucks with natural gas engines powered by Cummins Westport of Vancouver, B.C. and use fueling technology from IMW Industries of Chilliwack, B.C., a leading supplier of technology for compressed natural gas equipment for vehicle fuelling and industry.

Now, Progressive Waste Solutions is taking this B.C. recipe for success to the national stage. We have started replicating this in other key markets, such as Ontario and will be introducing it in Quebec over the next 12 months.

Progressive Waste Solutions is committed to creating a more sustainable future because it provides financial and environmental benefits and because our customers share this vision. Converting our fleet to natural gas helps municipalities meet targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing air and noise pollution in the neighbourhoods we serve. We're on the brink of a monumental industry shift because it makes good sense.