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Of Olympics and transportation

Aug. 18, 2021
NACFE’s upcoming Run on Less—Electric event bears similarities to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, offering the trucking industry a chance to see what the best of the best are doing given their unique operating parameters.

Dave Schaller, NACFE’s industry engagement director, had an “aha” moment while watching the recent Summer Olympics. Dave was able to see a correlation between the Olympics and the work NACFE does.

Here’s his thinking: The athletes in the Olympics are arguably the very best in the world. Do they all look alike? Of course not. You can’t be built like a weightlifter and expect to perform well on the balance beam. The converse is also true. A gymnast would not stand a chance to medal in weightlifting events. Even within one sport, there are differences. Think about how a sprinter’s body looks compared to a shot putter. While each might excel in their chosen discipline, they would likely finish at the bottom if they tried to compete in each other’s events.

Basically, the Olympics is a display of diversity. Dave would argue that so is trucking. He is not necessarily talking about whether we've done a good job getting women, indigenous people, and people of color into the industry. We are doing better there, but we still have work to do—that is the subject for another blog.

Rather Dave is comparing the diversity of the Olympians to the diverse duty cycles in trucking. To be the very best in our industry—as in the Olympics—you need to do what is optimal for the task at hand.

To extend the analogy, Dave would argue that just as nutrition is important to Olympic athletes, so too is fuel efficiency to truck fleets regardless of what they are hauling, how far they are traveling, and where they are hauling.

While the trucking industry does not stage an Olympics per se, one could argue that the Run on Less demonstrations hosted by NACFE gives the trucking industry and others outside the industry the opportunity to watch closely to see what the best of the best are doing given their unique operating parameters.

In Run on Less 2017, seven fleets demonstrated that 10 mpg in long-haul, over-the-road trucking was achievable. While the trucks had some specs in common, there were also some significant differences. Yet all seven showed how they were the best of the best throughout the entire Run. In Run on Less–Regional, we had 10 fleets who achieved 8.3. mpg over the course of the Run. The diversity in the operations of these fleets was more significant than that of the fleets in the 2017 Run. We had fleets running quick turn drop and hook routes, fast turn out and back routes, routes that required the driver to sleep in the truck several nights a week, routes with just a few stops, routes with many stops, etc.

There is even more diversity in the Run on Less—Electric fleets as we have vans and step vans, box trucks, tractors, and terminal tractors all participating in the Run so the whole industry can learn more about electric trucks in real-world applications.

I am glad I am not the one who had to award medals for this. In my mind, all the participating fleets and drivers deserve a gold medal for giving us a chance to get an inside view of just what these electric vehicles can do.  But just as with the Olympics feel free to pick your favorite competitor and follow them on runonless.com throughout the duration of the Run. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot.

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. He currently 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.

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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