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What You Need to Know About Alternative Fuel Garbage Trucks and Street Sweepers

There has been a lot of talk about alternative fuel garbage trucks and street sweepers in the last few years, yet there are still a great number of questions about these vehicles that people have.  We will try to give you some key takeaways to help educate you on these revolutionary vehicles that are shaping the future of their respective industries.

Why Should I Consider an Alternative Fuel Vehicle?

There are both economic and environmental reasons to consider alternative fuel garbage trucks and street sweepers for your fleet.  Natural gas, in both compressed (CNG) and liquefied form (LNG), is the primary alternative fuel that is currently being used in sanitation and street sweeper fleets.  Natural gas is a fossil fuel but it can also be produced as a by-product of decomposition of organic materials.

The Economics

The price of diesel fuel is increasingly going higher while domestic supplies of natural gas in the United States are abundant and relatively cheap.  At today’s prices, fueling a natural gas truck will cost you approximately half as much as fueling a diesel truck, translating into an average savings of about $30,000 a year per truck. 

By switching to natural gas powered trash trucks and street sweepers, we have the opportunity to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The United States currently imports approximately 60% of its oil, with a large portion coming from the Middle East.  In comparison, 99% of the natural gas used in the United States is produced in North America.  As more operators switch to domestically produced alternative fuels such as natural gas or propane, our dependence on imported fossil fuels decreases dramatically, providing energy security for future generations.   

The Environment

Increasingly stricter clean air regulations have brought clean-fueled garbage trucks and street sweepers to the forefront around the country, particularly in California.  According to recent studies from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), heavy-duty natural gas powered vehicles are cleaner for all measureable air pollutants than comparable diesel powered vehicles.  On average, natural gas used in garbage trucks and street sweepers releases up to 90% less air pollution than conventional diesel fuel.

Another advantage of natural gas is that it is non-corrosive and non-carcinogenic, and because it does not pool when spilled, natural gas use and storage is not a threat to soil, surface water, or groundwater.

Restrictions on diesel fuel have led to a wider range of road-tested, commercially viable, and cleaner natural gas vehicles. By transitioning to alternative-fuel technologies like natural gas today, operators can avoid interruptions to their business from current and future regulations and local ordinances.


Natural gas powered commercial vehicles have been in production now for well over a decade and in that time manufacturers have refined and updated their products to meet the demands of their customers.  When it comes to the performance of alternative fuel vehicles, there is really no noticeable difference from diesel or gasoline powered vehicles. The efficiency of the engines and size of the natural gas fuel tanks have been optimized in order to operate comparably to regular diesel engine vehicles.  In the long run, natural gas engines will also require less maintenance than diesel engines because natural gas burns cleaner and is non-corrosive which promotes longer engine life.  Natural gas garbage trucks and street sweepers are also much quieter than their diesel counterparts with a comprehensive study finding noise reductions of up to 90%.  This is especially good news for garbage truck and street sweeper operators whose vehicles can often be found working in residential neighborhoods where noise pollution is ideally kept to a minimum.

Things to Consider

Natural gas powered garbage trucks and street sweepers have a higher upfront cost, however, the vehicles are less costly in the long run due to the lower cost of fuel.  Given the nature of their work, both garbage trucks and street sweepers burn a lot of fuel, so you can expect to recoup the higher cost of a natural gas vehicle within a short period of time.

A big obstacle for wider use of natural gas trucks and sweepers is the relatively low number of filling stations available. Currently, natural gas makes more sense for garbage trucks and street sweepers that start and finish in the same location each day, as opposed to long-haul trucks that have to refuel at various locations throughout the country. Many operators are electing to install natural gas filling stations on their own premises while the number of publicly accessible filling stations is growing rapidly every day.


Alternative fuel refuse trucks and street sweepers are able to clean our streets while also helping to ensure clean and healthy air for the communities they serve. The most exciting news is that the future is already here. Natural gas vehicles which are 90% cleaner and quieter are commercially available.  Beyond the immediate environmental, health, and quality of life benefits they provide, natural gas trucks also help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and move us toward an era of a sustainable, less polluting fuel source.

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