When it comes to fuel economy it’s time to stop waiting for the next big thing

May 1, 2017
If you wait around for the next generation of any technology you will miss out on real fuel economy gains that are available today.

I was preparing to make a presentation to folks from the Rocky Mountain Institute. As you know we are associated with them because of our affiliate with Carbon War Room. RMI has started a series of monthly meetings in which each of its operations shares what they are doing. The ultimate goal is to learn best practices and find synergies that can help each operation achieve its goal.

I was tasked with describing what we do at Trucking Efficiency, talking about our successes and explaining our challenges. In the course of putting together my presentation I included a slide called Disruptive Technologies. These are the big things like Nikola’s hydrogen fuel cell truck, Tesla’s battery powered electric truck and autonomous trucking. All of those things promise huge fuel economy gains. And while that is a good thing it also can slow down adoption of other less exciting technologies that are available and that result in incremental fuel economy gains.

I suppose it is human nature to wait for the next big thing when it seems just over the horizon. But when it comes to improving trucking efficiency I encourage fleets to look at things that are available now and make investments now in those technologies and solutions that move the fuel economy needle even if it is only a little bit.

If you wait around for the next generation of aero technology, or idle reduction technology or any other technology you will miss out on real fuel economy gains that are available today. And while lots of things are being worked on for the future there is no guarantee those things will ever see the light of day as production options or that these fuel cell and electric powered trucks will make it to the market any time soon.

I know it can be hard to determine which technologies make sense for you. The findings from our Fleet Fuel Study show you what some fleets that are committed to fuel economy are doing and our Confidence Reports give you unbiased information on technologies as well as offering an opinion on whether it makes sense to adopt a given technology at this time.

I am excited for the future and have faith that some of these big ideas like those being put forth by companies like Tesla and Nikola will see the light of day. At the same time, we can’t just sit around and wait for those next big things. We need to take advantage of some of the little things that are out on the market today and already proven.

Let’s keep pushing that fuel economy number so all fleets will get to the 7.5 – 9.0 mpg that the fleets in our Fleet Fuel Study achieve because that is a heck of a lot better than the 5.83 mpg the average fleet is getting.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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