You may already be overwhelmed with all the options at your disposal when evaluating greener technologies, but if the green market segment is ever going to take off large-scale, the industry is going to need a lot more.
Executives from Penske, Rush Enterprises and Toyota – among the industry’s biggest players – spoke about the hurdles to adoption that need to be overcome and how to help customers see the benefits at the ACT Expo in Dallas on May 6.
Mike Reding, Vice President of sales support and international operations with Toyota Motor Sales, says more options give customers more incentive to research which technologies best suit their needs.
“Most of our customers are very educated and do a lot of research,” he says.
Options, Rush Enterprises CEO Rusty Rush says, will also help to drive down prices of the technology. Rush has done his part to develop options by launching Momentum Fuel Technologies, a new division of his company that manufactures and installs CNG fueling systems on heavy trucks.
“Adoption cannot be driven by a single source alone,” he says. “It takes competition.”
Most fleets approach innovation with trepidation. Change is expensive and it’s constant.
Drew Cullen, Vice President of fuels & facilities service with Penske Truck Leasing, says his customers generally fall into one of two buckets: Customers who immediately want to see the return on investment; and customers who want to talk about how Penske can help understand the emissions benefits and put them in terms they can understand.
“They also want to talk about the human element of it … the tremendous sense of pride the drivers have working for (companies) that have adopted natural gas,” he says. “With the challenge the industry faces today with drivers, that’s got to be worth something.”
Penske and Rush both use their leasing arms as a lower-cost of entry for fleets interested in making the leap to alternative fuels.
“Because we have that relationship, we have the ability to leverage that and bring them to market and have our customers use and test that technology,” Cullen says, adding Penske also uses those tests to learn which trucks are working best in which applications. “Whether that is in spec’ing the vehicle properly or allowing customers to try out a vehicle through a rental program, that is where our strength is.”
“It’s up to us to use all the tools in our tool box and make it easier for customers to get into that market,” Rush adds.
As oil prices have fallen, some of the allure to consumers of natural gas has faded. However, that’s not the case industry-wide.
“I’m not worried about the volatility of the oil market,” Rush says.
“We focus on the things that we can control,” Cullen adds, “like partnering with the OEM on the technology.”
Areas with strict emission regulations, easy access to natural gas and/or a strong incentive package have obviously gained the strongest toe-hold on natural gas adoption to-date.
Rush says his strongest markets are in California, Oklahoma and Texas, but he sees a natural growth on the horizon as the industry’s ability to service fleets on a wide scale grows. But in the end, Rush says those who can see and best explain the benefits will win.
“It’s about what does the customer want and what makes sense,” he says. “I think you’re going to see a more broad based adoption as we go forward. Natural gas only makes sense. I do believe it has a place in a certain marketplace and it will run those markets.”