I talk a lot about the need for communication and collaboration in the trucking industry. As we move to a zero-emission future the need for communication and collaboration becomes even greater.
Fleets are used to working with OEMs, component manufacturers, drivers, and technicians to achieve the best solution, whether that is to improve freight efficiency, productivity, or safety.
But as we move forward into a zero-emission future, we need to expand the collaboration network. We are going to have to bring some new folks into the discussion if we want to make the transition as smooth as possible. One obvious group we need to include is utilities.
Fleets looking to electrify need to engage with their local utilities early in the process to make sure the required power is at the site when the trucks arrive. But we need to keep in mind that some utilities don’t have a good understanding of how a fleet operates. We must be prepared to take on the role of educators to ensure they have a good handle on exactly what our power needs are. And we also have to remember that they are not familiar with terminology that we use; nor are we familiar with terminology they use. Terms like load and transmission are terms commonly used in both industries, but mean entirely different things!
One piece of advice, remember that while you have a lot to teach utilities, you also have a great deal to learn from them. In your interactions with utilities make sure you listen as much as you talk. Try to understand what their pain points are so you can determine a solution that works for both of you. We wrote a Fleet Electrification Primer that you might find useful when interacting with utilities.
It’s also likely that you will be dealing with some new vehicle manufacturers many of whom come from the tech world and not the trucking environment. Again, you have an opportunity to educate them about the realities of trucking but also to learn from them about best use cases for their vehicles and any best practices they have based on early deployments of their vehicles.
You will also want to connect with charger system manufacturers to make sure you get the right charger infrastructure for your current needs but also one that is adaptable as your fleet of electric vehicles grows.
I have been involved with a number of successful collaborations and I have found that there are three keys to making a collaboration work.
1. Remember that you have as much learn as you have to teach. Listen with an open mind and be willing to admit that someone may have a better answer than you do.
2. Communicate often and clearly. Make sure you are sharing as much information as possible and see that information is not hoarded. When everyone has all the same information, you are likely to get better outcomes. It is especially important to avoid the use of jargon or to assume that everyone in the group is familiar with common acronyms. Explain terms so everyone understands exactly what is being discussed.
3. Be transparent. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know. On the other hand, don't be afraid to exert your expertise in areas where you have more knowledge or information than others in the group.
Trucking has always been an industry where collaboration is valued. We need to remember the keys to successful collaboration and make sure we make room for some new folks as we move into the future.
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.