North American natural gas heavy duty retail sales were strong to start 2017, bolstered by refuse fleets, transit, and school bus operators, according to ACT Research. The information was included in the analyst company’s most recent Natural Gas & Alternative Fuels Quarterly publication.

Most of the activity seems to be coming from fleets replacing older vehicles or adding more vehicles, helping the natural gas truck industry to record its best January in three years and a positive year-to-date total through February.

Compared to the entire market, however, natural gas truck sales have stalled somewhat, caused by low diesel prices and increased competition from electric and hybrid-electric vehicle options.  ACT Research estimated that natural gas vehicles made up only 3% of the market in 2016.

“Given relatively low diesel fuel prices and the subsequent price narrower spread between CNG and diesel, payback times remain longer than most truckers’ trade cycles,” said Steve Tam, ACT’s vice president. 

“With the recent news coverage of Nikola Motor Company, Tesla, Toyota, and others, it is important to keep a finger on the pulse of the entire alternative fuels market," he continued. "Whether it is natural gas or hybrid electric, companies need to be well informed of the market options when considering alternatives for their current vehicles.”

Originally posted on Trucking Info