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Represent modern day trucking with the right imagery

March 10, 2021
When talking about adopting technology, alternative fuels, electrification, and high-tech trucks, please make sure the accompanying pictures, videos and slide shows match the correct message.

NACFE’s Industry Engagement Director Dave Schaller recently reminded me of the adage, a picture is worth a thousand words. And while most folks are familiar with that phrase, do they ever look past it to wonder what damage can be done by using the wrong image?

The internet is a wonderful place filled with lots of words, pictures, and videos. Unfortunately for the North America trucking industry, many of the sites where you can purchase photos are headquartered in Europe. You may be wondering what difference that makes. What Dave tells me he has found when looking for art to illustrate one of the many presentations he gives is that many, if not most, of the truck art on these stock photography sites is of cab overs. This can make it very difficult for a marketing person — especially one new to trucking — to find the right photo to illustrate a project they have been assigned.

I agree with Dave and think that old photos and faulty images are thought killers as well. I actually have gone up to presenters after their segments at trade shows to gently guide them to images that match their words and messages. Or in some cases to make sure their pictures are accurate and current. For example, showing trucks belching black smoke is no longer appropriate when describing the tractors hauling our freight. Very few trucks on our highways are old enough to produce those emissions.

So, how does a trucking industry novice spot the wrong truck for a green environmentally friendly message for trucks being operated in North America?

It should probably not show any of these items:

  • Cab overs, at least for now
  • Exhaust stacks on the side of the cab just behind the doors
  • Air cleaners on the sides of the hood
  • A flat front bumper
  • A roof line that allows on coming air to hit the front of the trailer
  • A “long tall hood”
  • Large stainless-steel sunshade
  • “Lollipop headlights
  • Turn signals sticking out into the air stream

Don’t get me wrong, I love a macho stainless and chrome big rig as much as anyone since I have helped to create many of them. My shelves as well as Dave’s are covered with many examples of these awesome rigs. But they make up only a small fraction of production trucks now in the United States and Canada.

A truly aerodynamic highly efficient tractor will have these visual cues:

  • Sloped aerodynamic hood and bumper
  • Hidden exhaust system (many today are horizontal like a car or pick-up)
  • Chassis skirts under the cab hiding the fuel tank(s)
  • Roof air fairing to match the trailer height
  • Cab and sleeper extenders to cover much of the tractor-to-trailer gap
  • Wheel covers and drive axle air fairings

A truly aero and efficient trailer to go with that tractor should probably have:

  • Skirts from the landing gear to the trailer axles
  • Rear trailer aero device
  • Rear wheels that show a tire inflation system or wheel covers

If you are still unsure of what a current, North American truck looks like, check out the fleet profiles at the Run on Less website. and review the fleet profiles from 2017 as well as 2019’s Run on Less Regional. Please forgive us, if you search www.NACFE.org long enough, you will find a place or two where the web designer found a cool image of European highways. Send us a great photo you have from the road and maybe we will replace them with your shots.

If you are going to talk about adopting technology, alternative fuels, electrification and high-tech trucks, please make sure your pictures, videos and slide shows match your message. An audience is a terrible thing to lose.

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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