DHL LNG truckDHL Freight has begun using one of the first long-haul trucks powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is capable of towing a mega trailer.

During a year-long trial, an Iveco Stralis will operate a daily shuttle service between DHL’s logistics centre and a BMW Group production plant in southern Germany.

Previously, lorries powered by natural gas and combined with a mega trailer could not be used in automotive logistics because of the way tanks were designed, the logistics provider said.

Mega trailers can only be pulled by so-called low-liner trucks which have a lower coupling height, a DHL spokesman told Automotive Logistics. Iveco solved the problem for the next generation of LNG trucks by designing its Stralis model so fuel tanks can be configured to a customer’s requirements. That includes an LNG-fuelled low-liner towing a mega trailer, the spokesman added.

The internal loading height of three metres offers 33% more loading capacity than a standard semi-trailer along with the possibility of transporting larger parts, the company added.

“The combination of an LNG truck and mega trailer is a promising sustainable solution for automotive logistics,” said Uwe Brinks, CEO of DHL Freight. “We are able to meet the customer’s transport requirements in the best possible way, while also significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions along the supply chain.

“The increase in fuel efficiency and proven reduction of harmful emissions that comes with using natural gas help to make long-distance road transport more sustainable.” According to DHL Freight, LNG-fuelled lorries offer 15% higher fuel efficiency compared to traditional diesel-powered engines and have a range of 1,500km. “This represents an immediate cost saving,” the German company said.

LNG-powered trucks also emit 99% less particulate matter and up to 70% fewer nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions than required by current European diesel norms. And as they are quieter, they provide an additional benefit in inner-city areas and around-the-clock transportation services.

DHL Freight first gained experience with LNG-fuelled, heavy-duty, long-haul trucks in Belgium mid-2018 when four were deployed for a non-automotive customer.

When DHL renewed its supply chain contract with BMW last year, changes included covering seven additional geographical areas as well as all road transport between 17 countries.