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Lifelong engineer keeps eyes on the future

July 12, 2023
ACT Research’s Ann Rundle has been focusing on where transportation is going for most of her life. From shipbuilding, to working at Eaton, to developing battery technology, she carries that experience to her role at ACT research.

Handing her father tools as he worked on cars in the family garage on the Southside of Chicago blossomed a love for figuring out how things worked that propelled Ann Rundle into the transportation world, where today she is an analyst with ACT Research, leading the firm’s studies on advanced transportation technologies.

The fourth of five children, Rundle and one of her brothers would spend the weekends with their dad. “We just ended up, by default, being the ones going with my dad because we liked cars, we liked boats, we liked all the stuff,” she told FleetOwner. “And from an early age, my dad and I were really tight, so I would help my dad work on cars.”

That father-daughter bonding over open hoods helped set Rundle on an engineering path that led to a career in transportation. After earning her engineering degree in just three years at the University of Michigan, she started in the marine industry as a yacht designer for a company that made racing sailboats in Florida and California.

“You’re either going to do really well as a yacht designer, or you’re going to starve your whole damn life,” Rundle said.

See also: Women in Transportation 2023

So she enrolled at San Diego State University, where she earned an MBA and got a job in shipbuilding. “If you love engineering stuff, it’s just as fascinating and just as cool and neat—except now, instead of working on 80-foot racing sailboats, you’re working on 1,000-foot  commercial ships.”

Rundle said her time with the National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. taught her much. “That was a great organization to be part of because I just learned so much about how to make things work,” she explained. “Not how to design them necessarily, but how do you work in a large organization. I was part of scheduling and planning, so I got to interact with all the trades and just got a great appreciation from an operations perspective.”

But she wanted to be closer to her hometown of Chicago to be near her aging parents. “My dad was getting older. His health was failing,” Rundle said. “My father and I were really tight—anyone who knows me would say I was his second son. So I moved back to the Midwest, and there’s not a lot of shipbuilding or demand for naval architects in the Great Lakes. But there sure is for automotive and trucks.”

In the late 1980s, she took a job in planning and business development for automotive and commercial vehicles for Eaton Corp., where she held various roles over two decades. “It was at a time in the industry when things were changing in powertrain,” Rundle noted. “The pressure for improved fuel economy in the late ‘80s brought in different configurations for engines. And the folks at Eaton were smart enough to see we have to understand how this is changing because our product mix is changing, and our product mix will drive what we do.”

While the push started on passenger vehicles, it was also starting to change for heavy-duty diesel vehicles. “So I started doing forecasting work for Eaton for our powertrain group, which was cool,” Rundle said. “Nobody understood how to do that before … It was also a neat way to have somebody who had a business background but also understood engineering and could ask the right questions.”

Even though for most of her time at Eaton, Rundle said she was often “the only girl” in the room, she never thought of herself as different and never felt like an outsider. She always felt she belonged. “I think it’s because I started at such young age—and I also had my dad, who would say, ‘Annie, you can try anything you put your mind to.’”

After leaving Eaton, Rundle joined a small R&D startup focused on advanced Li-ion battery technologies. From there, she transitioned to independent consulting projects focused on developing growth strategies for new technologies, primarily in industrial and commercial vehicle markets. Before joining ACT Research, Rundle worked at Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, where she headed up its global strategy and planning for electrified vehicles, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric, and fuel-cell vehicles for both automotive and commercial vehicle applications.

She wanted to continue to focus on electrification for commercial vehicles because of the business aspect of the industry. “These are entities that will be able to understand their value proposition and the total cost of ownership,” Rundle explained. “So it isn’t just price parity up front.”

The business focus of fleets and others in the trucking industry attracted Rundle to become an analyst at ACT Research, which she joined in 2021 as VP of electrification and autonomy. 

As Rundle leads ACT’s studies on advanced transportation technologies, she said her rich history in engineering and business helps her ask the right questions about the systems and TCO from an analytical perspective. “You get trained as an engineer, it sticks with you,” she explained. “It sticks with you from a problem-solving and an analytical perspective.”

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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