DeKalb County, Georgia, fleet management has found switching to compressed natural gas (CNG) refuse trucks has resulted in increased uptime, reduced maintenance needs, and reduced costs. Since transitioning to CNG in 2012, its CNG fleet has now grown to 337 vehicles out of a total fleet of 3,600, according to a report published by Hexagon Agility, which supplies the fleet’s CNG cylinders.
DeKalb County’s CNG fleet consists of front loaders, automated side loaders, rear loaders, roll-off trucks, road tractors, and other trucks, vans, and sedans. The natural gas used to fuel the vehicles comes from the county landfill.
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One of the biggest advantages to CNG refuse trucks is the low maintenance.
“Initially, it was because we were going to make the gas for the trucks and save money, and it was a green thing to do,” said Robert Gordon, deputy director of fleet management. “But once the trucks were put on the road, we started seeing all the inherent problems that came with the new emission systems on diesel trucks, that really, in my opinion, became more important. The exhaust coming out of the new diesel trucks is clean enough, but you just have to add a lot of things to the engine to make that happen. With CNG you don’t have that, so for a fleet manager, anything you don’t have to work on or spend money on makes a business case for it.”
More uptime means a smaller fleet, as Gordon must keep fewer extra trucks around with CNG than with diesel. Other advantages include the fact that CNG refuse trucks can run all day without refueling, and they’re quieter than diesel trucks.
The county received grant funding to build two publicly accessible fast-fill CNG fuel stations that are managed by the sanitation department.
Gordon’s goal is to exceed diesel fuel use with natural gas, and he plans to do so by adding more CNG vehicles to the fleet.