To determine the potential of LNG vehicle use for industrial freight, PLS Logistics Services — a provider of transportation management, technology and brokerage solutions for industrial shippers — recently surveyed senior executives at 100 of the largest industrial trucking companies in the U.S. and found that most see barriers to widespread adoption of the technology in trucking.

While respondents were generally aware of LNG-powered vehicles, 72% felt that the technology had limited adoption potential for industrial freight. Heavy-duty, over-the-road trucking operates regionally, with driver home time limited to weekends making a public refueling infrastructure essential, respondents said. In addition, over-the-road carriers require a longer operating range before refueling to remain efficient.

Also, industrial sector carriers require higher horsepower and torque to handle heavy cargo weights. Typical diesel engines used in heavy-duty fleets are 450-550 hp. with 1,600-1,800 lbs.-ft. of torque. Most LNG-powered engines fall short of this performance, PLS said, pointing out, however, that the Westport HD LNG engine does hit the lower end of the power requirement.

With predicted adoption rates low, survey respondents were asked about the primary barriers to adoption. Topping the list, at 53.6%, was the inadequacy of the LNG refueling infrastructure. As of February 2012, there were just 46 public LNG stations across the U.S., according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Clean Energy Fuel, Inc. has raised $450 million and has committed to build 150 LNG stations along what they call “America’s natural gas highway” — a pre-defined corridor of heavy volume freight traffic, PLS pointed out. The goal of the project, done in partnership with Pilot Flying J travel centers, is to establish stations 250 to 300 mi. apart.