In a recent conversation with the owner of a trucking company, he mentioned his new “Compressed Natural Gas” (CNG) truck.” Converting his truck from diesel to CNG, he explained, had cost him a lot, but would save him in the long run. Our newly-found interest in CNG powered trucks led us to another business owner who is testing CNG-powered trucks, John Lodge IV, a second generation owner and president of Lodge Lumber in Houston, Texas. He agreed to participate in our recurring feature



How It Helps Us: Every business is different. Solutions don’t come in one-size-fits-all. For that reason, we’ve started the feature, “How it Helps Us” in which we interview small business owners who have found success using certain products, approaches, channels or ideas. If you have a favorite method, approach or product that is helpful to you and that you can share with others the specific ways in which you use it, scroll down to the bottom of this page and fill out the form.


What initially made you consider a CNG conversion?

Mostly the fuel cost. We can keep our business more profitable with cheaper fuel in ever increasing market competition. Being in the United States and specifically Texas, we have a plentiful supply of cheap, clean burning natural gas. Lodge Lumber also likes to be an industry leader in technology and new products. We have some of the most state of the art equipment for wood processing. We want to carry that over to our transportation side and be a leader in Natural Gas for the forest products industry.

After relying on diesel for decades, was this a difficult decision for you to make? Has it been hard to change?

It was not a difficult decision for us to make. What was difficult was figuring out how to pay for it. Luckily we were able to take advantage of some grants here in the Houston area that helped offset the cost. We are upholding our end of the deal by helping to reduce emissions in and around the city.

Did you buy the truck already-converted, or did you take it somewhere after the purchase?

We purchased our truck from Ryan Harrison with Rush Peterbilt Houston. They spec’ed the truck already converted from the factory.

How much extra did you have to spend for the conversion?

We spent about an extra $60,000 extra on conversion to CNG. Most of that cost is in the tanks. They are very expensive to make but technology and some new players in the market should be bringing that cost down in the near future.

What does the break-even point on the investment look like?

We are looking at around a 3-4 year pay back on this truck.

In addition to your CNG truck, are you testing any other alternative fuel equipment?

We also have one pickup that is a bi-fuel gasoline/cng truck we use to run errands. We are planning to add a new CNG Tractor at some point within the next six months. That will make three CNG vehicles for us. Our goal is to eventually have an all CNG fleet over the course of the next few years.

What do you feel is the greatest advantage of using CNG for your business?

The fuel cost is the greatest advantage.

Has it given you any advantage over your competitors? If so, how?

By reducing our transportation cost, we effectly reduce our overall cost per order. It allows us bear ever-increasing labor, insurance, and other rising costs.

Do customers ever request you ship their products using CNG? (In an effort to support Go Green initiatives)

We have not had any customers that specifically request shipping via CNG. However, we have some customers that love the truck and want pictures of it or with it. Mostly to show they are using the Go Green supply chain mentality.

I believe it shows our vendors, customers, and competitors that we have been a leader for the past 65+ years and we will continue to be a leader in the forest products business. Our image has changed for the better. I don’t know if it has changed customers minds yet, because I think the technology and infrastructure is so new and in a fledgling state. There are people I talk to every day that have no clue what CNG or LNG is.

Would you recommend it to other small business owners that rely on shipping or trucking?

If you can make the economics work, then yes. Absolutely. It will help give your company a polished and new image that you may be seeking. You reduce your fuel costs, and increase your bottom line. And last, I’ve never met a driver who doesn’t like a new truck!

(Feature image: Mike Mozart via Flickr)

How has something helped you?

Are you a small business owner or manager who has discovered a product, process, tip, etc., that helps you save time, grow your business, stay focused, etc.? If you’re willing to share your wisdom with other small business owners and manager, please share your idea for our feature How it Helps Us by filling out this form.

(Note: You will be contacted and interviewed if your helpful idea is selected. Please do not use this form to submit story ideas that are not a first-person “How it Helps Us” idea.)

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