Normally, buying four new yard debris trucks isn’t cause for celebration at Waste Connections Inc.
Normally, those trucks don’t run without a drop of diesel fuel. But the latest additions are something different — the vehicles rolled out locally last month are fueled by the county’s first compressed natural gas fueling station.
Waste Connections officials and local leaders dedicated one of the new trucks Thursday at the company’s hauling facility in the Five Corners area off Northeast 94th Avenue. As the specially equipped truck started up next to the fueling station, the gathering took note of one benefit some residents may have noticed already during their morning pick-up.
“They’re quieter,” said Chris Thomas, Waste Connections’ district manager. “They’re noticeably quieter.”
The company has a nationwide system of compressed natural gas infrastructure, but the program had never reached Clark County until now. The new station draws from an existing gas line in the ground, then sends the gas through an on-site compressor. The fuel is then pumped into the trucks, usually through a slower overnight fueling process.
The trucks look slightly different than the rest of the fleet. The fuel tank is positioned on top of the vehicle, each able to power the truck with the equivalent of 75 gallons of diesel fuel. The cheaper cost of natural gas is one of the key factors contributing to the technology’s popularity, said Tim Hurst, a regional sales manager with manufacturer Labrie Enviroquip Group.
Just a few years ago, compressed natural gas trucks accounted for about 5 to 10 percent of Labrie’s business, Hurst said. Now it’s closer to 25 percent.
“And it’s growing,” he said.
The vehicles do come with a bigger upfront price tag. Hurst said a truck fueled by compressed natural gas costs about $275,000. A comparable diesel truck is about $240,000, he said.
Waste Connections made the investment to build the fueling station and purchase the trucks. But the program was rolled out locally through a partnership with the city of Vancouver and Clark County.
“This is a big day for Clark County, a big first,” said Clark County Environmental Services Director Don Benton. “We hope to see many more like this.”
That may happen soon — Thomas said Waste Connections could add two to four additional natural gas trucks next year. The new fueling station now in place has the capacity to serve as many as 16 vehicles, he said.