Josh Fisher | FleetOwner
Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, gives the keynote address at NPTC 2023 in Orlando, Florida. During NPTC 2024, the National Private Truck Council formalized an alliance with NACFE.

Roeth: Taking the first step to complete the infrastructure marathon

May 1, 2024
There were 100 people at the White House meeting including representatives from fleets, truck makers, utilities and infrastructure developers, and folks in the government and from non-government non-profits.

Last week was a busy one for me. I attended the National Private Truck Council meeting where, among other things, they announced a partnership with NACFE, which includes us providing sustainability content, including a training module on alternative fuels. Then, I headed to Washington, D.C., where I was part of a roundtable on zero-emission freight infrastructure.

There were 100 people at the White House meeting, including representatives from fleets, truck makers, utilities and infrastructure developers, and folks in the government and from non-government non-profits.

See also: NPTC partners with NACFE and Clean Freight Coalition

Most of the conversation centered around electric vehicle charging, with some attention given to hydrogen. The morning session focused on phase 1 of the four-phase infrastructure plan that the Biden administration recently announced. The goal was to help all stakeholders figure out a plan for getting infrastructure development going. Inevitably, the question: “Are we going too fast with electric trucks,” was asked. The basic feeling was no and that, in fact, we need to go faster in some specific areas.

In the afternoon, the group was separated into five smaller breakout groups, each assigned a different topic. I was asked to facilitate a group on the business case for commercial zero-emission vehicles. In other words, how do we improve the total cost ownership for ZEVs?

People from Ikea, NYSERDA, ATA, and TTSI were asked to share information on how they view TCO. Then, I broke our group of 20 down into even smaller teams to focus on the business case for the following market segments: vans, step vans, medium-box trucks, drayage, return-to-base-regional haul, and sleeper long haul.

Each group worked feverishly for a time, and then the 20 of us came back together, with each group bringing four or five things they had discussed back to share.

This was a really good meeting because it put some meat on the bones of the roadmap that had been issued. The government wasn’t just saying here is a roadmap, figure out how to get this done; they were putting some intelligent minds together to offer practical advice.

I like that the meeting focused on the phase 1 goals. All too often when there is a multi-phase plan we jump ahead with ideas for the latter part of the plan. But here’s the thing: the beginning phases usually set the stage for the success of the latter stages. Maybe this analogy is not 100% correct, but I liken it to the decision to run a marathon. You can’t just show up on the event day and expect to finish unless you’ve put in weeks or even months of running mile after mile so you are ready for the big day.

If we are going to transition to ZEVs, we need to overcome the challenges of a charging infrastructure starting today. We need to do so while keeping in mind that the challenge is going to change and morph, so the solutions will have to change and morph with it. As a result, we may not get everything 100% right in the beginning. However, we must dive in, learn from the glitches, and adjust.

The steps we take today to move forward with a charging infrastructure are important in the short term but also the long term. Let’s get out there and run that first mile so we can finish that marathon.

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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