A panel discussion held last week in Dallas, TX, illuminated one of the major challenges facing efforts to improve overall truck efficiency: a still-prevalent lack of integration between truck components and new technologies that can complicate efforts to maximize fuel savings and operational payback.
Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), stressed that one of the purposes of his organization is to divine just how well integrated new components and technologies truly are within a truck and/or tractor-trailer and what confidence fleets should have that such improvements will deliver expected payback.
“What we’ve also found is that somewhere around $3.60 for a gallon of diesel is when fuel becomes the number one cost for a fleet, surpassing driver wages and benefits,” he said.
John Elliott, founder and CEO of Load One – a 400-truck expedited service fleet – stressed that OEMs and their suppliers cannot continue to “bolt on” improve components and technologies “piecemeal” on today’s trucks.
“Every time we look up, it seems, something new is being added to our vehicles,” he explained. “We need better integration to maintain and improve our cost efficiency.”
Elliott also noted that the constant additions to trucks – be it emission control systems, fuel saving devices, or safety technologies – is making them more expensive and thus complicating what used to be a much “simpler transaction.”
“Technology can be great but it can also be a weak link, especially the financial aspect of acquiring it,” he said. “Equipment costs are going up, technology costs are going up, and our driver costs are the same or going up.”
Joe Laux, president of River States Truck & Trailer, which operates three full-service Freightliner dealerships in Wisconsin along with two satellite facilities, contended that those involved like him in the freight transportation industry “are in the change business,” which to his mind “is an exciting place to be.”
Trucking is “no doubt an easy target” for regulators and safety groups, Laux noted, which means to a degree that new truck component and technology requirements are inevitable.
“That’s why we as dealers and OEMs need to partner more with fleets, so we can find solutions together,” he said.
Load One’s Elliot, though, said he’d “love to be bored” rather than deal with the pace of change occurring in trucking right now.
“I’m not excited about all this because we’re the end result of what other people do – new EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] rules, OEM technology introductions, and then us,” he said. “We’re at the end of the chain, so all we can do is hope it works in real life as promised.”