Photo: Aaron Marsh/Fleet Owner
Cummins' fully electric Class 7 tractor is intended for vocational applications such as urban delivery, port drayage and terminal handling.

Of patience and pioneers

March 28, 2018
Depending on where you fall on the innovation scale, change is either happening too quickly or too slowly in the trucking industry.

Depending on where you fall on the innovation scale, change is either happening too quickly or too slowly in the trucking industry.

You’d have to be in a news void not to have noticed all the talk about electric vehicles and automated trucks as well. Hats off to the pioneers that are making the investments in moving some of this new technology closer to reality. We need these pioneers who are willing to do the research and development and take chances in a market that historically is fairly slow to adapt to change.

The thing about trucking is that nothing changes significantly in the span of a few years. Sure there are early adopters, but for most technologies to be accepted by the trucking mainstream can take closer to 10 years. Take a look at the adoption curves for the technologies we have identified in our annual Fleet Fuel Survey and you can see that with trucking it is slow but steady when it comes to the adoption of a new product.

I am not trying to discourage innovation because if someone “invents a better mouse trap” the industry will buy it but only if the manufacturer understands the importance of things like uptime and efficiency as well as total cost of ownership.

One of the key things to technology adoption is understanding how it will perform in the real world. That is what fleets want to know. They don’t care so much about wind tunnel tests and test track results — although that type of data is important as a starting point to further development the technology.

Smaller fleets wait to see what the larger and more progressive fleets find when they do their own fleet testing. Those are the numbers that really count.

So to the dreamers that think of products that can make trucking better, keep dreaming. To the investors who make those dreams a reality, keep investing. But know that in trucking there is no such thing as an overnight sensation. If you want to be successful in trucking you better be in it for the long haul!

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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