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Stuck in the middle with sustainability

Nov. 10, 2021
With myriad options in the market, fleet managers need to begin to test some of the available alternative-fuel vehicles by introducing EVs or other right solutions into their fleets.

Sometimes it takes the timing of events to help you see things clearly. A few weeks ago, I was at American Trucking Associations' Management Conference & Exhibition (MCE) in Nashville. Almost immediately following MCE, I was in Scotland just prior to COP26 for a gathering of folks that wanted to talk about transportation and climate.

These two events so close together made me realize what an interesting position I—and by extension NACFE—was in. When I am with people from the trucking industry, I find myself in the position of being the sustainability/climate person in the room. Yet when I am in gatherings with sustainability/climate folks, I am viewed as the trucking industry person.

I guess you could say NACFE is stuck in the middle—maybe even the messy middle! But it is a position we are comfortable being in. Each of the groups we interact with has its own biases. The trucking folks believe the climate people see trucking as it was decades ago when black smoke poured out of exhaust stacks; they may not recognize how far trucking has come in cleaning up its act nor how much farther we are willing to go. On the other hand, trucking folks believe climate champions want changes made to transportation without considering the cost implications of those changes or the impact they will have on the efficient movement of goods.

Neither side is right in its appraisal of the other side. And that is where I think NACFE will have the biggest impact. We appreciate both sides and are working to help the two sides understand each other better.

I tell the climate folks that although trucking is responsible for 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, we are working on solutions—including electric vehicles—to lessen that impact. And I tell trucking folks that I am working with climate folks to help them understand the real costs of goods movement and the importance of advocating for changes that are both sustainable and affordable.

We recognize that the time is past for fleets to sit on the sidelines when it comes to making investments in alternative fueled vehicles. With the myriad options in the market, fleet managers need to begin to test some of the options by introducing EVs or another right solution into their fleets. And NACFE will continue its work educating the climate folks about the realities of trucking so that they can comprehend how trucking fits into a cleaner future while still being profitable.

It is a big responsibility to be in the middle and at times it can be challenging. But when I look around the room, whether I am with trucking industry people or climate people, I know that we are capable of being the conduit to help make this transformation to the more sustainable movement of goods. And I relish being there. So, whether you see yourself as more of a trucking person or more of a climate person, I am happy to sit down with you to help you understand the other side because it is going to take the two sides working together to get the best result.

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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