Interstate Distributor Co. purchasing 20 tractors fueled by liquefied natural gas

Tacoma-based trucking firm Interstate Distributor Co. has announced that it will purchase 20 Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tractors to be based at company yards in Tacoma and Fontana, Calif.

“It’s exciting, but this is more of an exploratory test,” said James Reed, Interstate chief financial officer, in a company release.

“We want to try these out and make sure we understand how to work them into our fleet,” he said.

The trucks — 10 LNG-fueled Kenworth T680 day cabs based in Fontana and 10 52-inch regional sleepers in Tacoma — are more expensive than comparable vehicles, but “the company will cut its fuel costs virtually in half,” according to the release.

Reed estimated that the investment would be returned within two years.

“The cost of natural gas at the pump is significantly less than diesel, but we had to ask ourselves, ‘Is it worth it?’ We believe it is,” Reed said.

The locally based tractors will be fueled at a Puget Sound Energy facility at the Port of Tacoma. That fueling station also will be used by Totem Ocean Trailer Express, which, like Interstate, resides under the Saltchuk corporate umbrella.