Roeth: From small things come big things

April 24, 2024
Here is a look back at how NACFE came to be.

Fifteen years ago at the request of RMI, a group of people met at a charette to discuss what they called a Transformational Trucking Initiative. For those of you not familiar with the term, a charette is an intensive, highly integrative, transdisciplinary, roundtable workshop that brings together stakeholders and experts at the outset of a design or problem-solving process.

At the time, I was leading Navistar’s work on efficiency and was invited but did not attend this meeting. Participants included suppliers, OEMs, private and public fleets, and key government agencies, among others. The best-represented stakeholder groups were technology developers, component suppliers, and industry consultants followed by government, research organizations, and end users.

The charrette was a rare opportunity for key stakeholders to discuss trucking industry problems and solutions.

One impetus for the charette was that in 2008, the average diesel fuel price was $4.67, so there was a big incentive to try to do something to make trucks more fuel efficient. Diesel prices hadn't exceeded $2 since the early 1970s.

See also: NACFE releases report on the viability of fleets fueled by natural gas

A report following the charette identified three projects that the group felt could work on improving efficiency. Two of the three will seem very familiar to you.

The first was something called the U.S. Council for Freight Efficiency, which was conceived as an unbiased certification body that would test and certify efficiency technologies. The second was an initiative called Freight Without Borders: A National Freight Strategy. This was defined as a cohesive, science-based, blue-ribbon panel and government committee. The third was labeled A Transformational Truck Demonstration, a project that would demonstrate and test existing technologies in a single vehicle.

With some modification out of this charette, NACFE was born by a group calling themselves “founders." What I find really interesting is that all too often there are meetings in which people say, “Someone should do this, or someone should do that,” but nothing ever happens. Those founders created NACFE and, over the next 15 years, I believe we have done a great deal to help raise the freight efficiency of the entire trucking industry.

I also find it interesting that back in 2009, the group had the idea for what became Run on Less in 2017, which has proven to be a real way to demonstrate just how efficient trucks can be and to help fleets see how emerging technologies like battery-electric trucks can be integrated into their operations.

I speak with some of those founders occasionally, and they tell me how proud they are to have helped start this organization. More to come on celebrating our 15th anniversary!

It has been an honor to lead NACFE since its inception, and I am grateful for those forward-looking thinkers who also had the energy and foresight to plant a seed and nurture it, so that it grew into what I think is an organization that is at the forefront of leading the trucking industry on its journey to be as efficient as possible.

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.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Report: The 2024 State of Heavy-Duty Repair

From capitalizing on the latest revenue trends to implementing strategic financial planning—this report serves as a roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities of ...

Fleet Industry Benchmarks: How does your fleet stack up?

Discover how your fleet compares to industry benchmarks and gain insights from a 2024 Benchmarking Report on maintenance spend, turnaround time, and more. Join us to identify ...

Build a Tolling Program to Manage Toll Fees and Risks

Fleets looking to effectively manage their operational costs should consider their tolling costs. Download the PrePass whitepaper, “Build a Tolling Program to Manage Toll Fees...

Reducing CSA Violations & Increasing Safety With Advanced Trailer Telematics

Keep the roads safer with advanced trailer telematics. In this whitepaper, see how you can gain insights that lead to increased safety and reduced roadside incidents—keeping drivers...