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About five years ago, when diesel prices were averaging around $4 a gallon, John Sheehy began looking into alternative-fuel vehicles as a potential solution to rein in his trucking company’s rising costs.

He recalled some skepticism initially whether trucks equipped with engines fueled by compressed natural gas could perform as well as a traditional diesel-powered semi. The gamble paid off and now is considered a trail blazing decision.

Today, nearly all of the 100 trucks used by Waterloo, Wisconsin-based Sheehy Mail Contractors Inc. run on CNG. The company recently was presented the Forward Fleet Award by Wisconsin Clean Cities for its use of alternative fuels and leadership in the field.

“We’ve made the investment, and it’s turned out well for us,” said Sheehy, CEO of his fourth-generation family trucking business, which launched in 1952.

Federal regulatory requirements to lower greenhouse-gas emissions also have pushed the transportation industry to explore an assortment of cleaner burning fuels including CNG and propane. Even as air quality standards became more stringent, trucking companies sought cleaner vehicles that could rival the performance of traditional equipment that ran on widely available fuels.

Sheehy said companies including engine producer Cummins have stepped up to develop technology that could deliver performance as well as take advantage of cleaner fuels.

Growing use of alternative fuels also has led to private investment in networks to provide these fuels to customers in recent years. Use of CNG alone has grown at an average annual rate of 30.6% since 2000, according to industry estimates, though network expansion has slowed recently because of falling prices for traditional fuels.

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By Larry Avila
The Wisconsin State Journal


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