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Overwhelmed by trucking choices

Roeth: Is emerging trucking tech pulling you in too many directions?

Oct. 25, 2023
Battery-electric, hydrogen fuel-cell electric, compressed natural gas, renewable natural gas, renewable diesel, hydrogen for internal combustion engines, hybrids ... Does it feel like trucking is being pulled in countless powertrain directions?

When it comes to new technologies that we are dealing with, I don't know about the rest of you, but I feel like trucking has a full plate right now.

Don't get me wrong, I love the excitement surrounding trucking because of the new powertrains, autonomous trucks, advanced driver assistance systems, and all the other technologies we are trying to manage. However, some days I feel as if I am being pulled in a thousand different directions as I try to keep up with all of these advancements.

See also: Navistar resurrects finance co. to support fleets’ powertrain transformations

Let’s just focus on the powertrain options that are currently available: battery-electric, hydrogen fuel-cell electric, compressed natural gas, renewable natural gas, renewable diesel, hydrogen for internal combustion engines, and hybrids—I'm not sure if I’ve covered all of them.

It can be daunting to sift through all the information available on each of those technologies to determine which ones make the most sense in a given application. That, in part, is why we suggested in our NACFE Framework for Powertrain Decision Making that fleets start with battery-electric trucks if they meet their needs and if the cost and timing are right. Honestly, when it comes to the cleaner transportation of goods, you have to start somewhere. We’ve already proven the use case for battery-electric terminal tractors, van and step vans, medium-duty box trucks, and even some short regional haul applications. Data from both Run on Less Electric and Run on Less ElectricDEPOT bears this out.

See also: Diesel prices jump a dime

As much as I hate to sound like a complainer, I think it's great that trucking is trying to leverage technology to improve efficiency. As I mentioned in a recent blog, we have seen a number of really bright people find their way into the trucking industry, and they are extremely capable.

But it is starting to feel like we are halfway through a seven-course meal, and we are already feeling full. Maybe we need a little breather to digest all the technology on our plates right now. It's not necessary to take a long break. A simple respite will do—something akin to halftime at a football game should be enough.

After the break, we’ll be ready to tackle some new technologies, such as electric trailers.

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.

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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