For those that think local Southern California hauling around LA is nothing but tight city work and traffic, you might be surprised to learn it can sometimes incorporate mountain environments as well.  Not that going up into the local San Bernardino Mountains is something I do often, but if someone slaps enough money on a load, chances are you could get me to haul freight to just about anywhere around here!
 
When one of my regular brokers had there dedicated driver fall off of a load going from Los Angeles to Big Bear Lake and needed it covered in a hurry, they offered it to me at a rather substantial rate, knowing that I can get it done.  I didn't know that I would learn something new about my CNG truck in the process of delivering this freight though.
 
As I cruised through the winding mountain roads with a light load in the box, the truck was running superbly.  The scenic drive was beautiful with plenty of green pine trees and snow on the ground leftover from a recent storm.  I pulled into the delivery point an hour early and they were more than glad to offload me in a record-setting 20 Minutes!  It was when I went back into my cab to fire up my truck and leave that I got a shocking response of the truck not starting!
 
I had always heard tales of high elevation and natural gas not being "friends" when it came to CNG trucks.  I had always had people tell me to be sure I leave my truck running in elevation such as I encountered that day, but not being used to mountain deliveries, it was not something that crossed my mind.
 
Perhaps I should've done a little more homework before I took this load on how my truck would operate in such an unfamiliar environment or if it could potentially cause any issues with the regulator or air-to-fuel mixture.  As with some of the lessons I have learned throughout my years of trucking, this was another one I learned the difficult way, that could have turned out much worse in the end (think tow bill). 
 
Thankfully after a good number of cranks, I was able to get the engine started back up and made my way back down the hill to more familiar settings with no other hiccups!  This just served as a reminder to me to never get to complacent in my knowing the differences between CNG and diesel.  Not a lesser beast by any means...just a little different!

Comments (2)

Jimmy Nevarez

Jimmy Nevarez is the Owner/President of Angus Transportation, Inc., based in Chino, California.  Jimmy pulls a 53' dry van hauling general dry freight for his own small fleet, operating on its own authority throughout all of Southern California and Southern Nevada.

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Thank you Craig! I wasn't really able to find a definite cause other than in some diesel pickup truck forums that blame two main things; thinner air and pressure. Apparently the thinner air (less oxygen) messes with the air-to-fuel setting and the elevation messes with the regulator pressure. Not that I would want to try this, or suggest anyone else does, but I wonder then if directing oxygen out of a small Home Depot cylinder towards the intake would act like spraying starting fluid in an older car's carburetor? Just a thought!

December 16, 2016 18:28:42 PM

Very interesting article Jimmy. Not knowing anything about CNG trucks, what causes it to not start at higher altitude? Does the regulator not adjust fast enough? I would think with the computers on those trucks the air-to-fuel mixture would be adjusted constantly.

December 14, 2016 7:27:23 AM