Room for Everyone

I spent much of last week at ACT Expo. While it is billed as the Alternative Clean Transportation show, this year it seemed to be about more than that.

I came away with the feeling that the industry has come to the realization that fuel economy is important no matter what the fuel. There was no sign of “my fuel’s better than your fuel” at the show. Rather there was a sense of cooperation and learning from each other.

Each fuel has its advantages and disadvantages. For example it’s easy to store two or three days of diesel fuel on a truck, but not so easy to store CNG, LNG, propane or even electricity. Some fuels have the edge in being better for the environment.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

Today’s trucks regardless of the fuel used to power them are complex and require lots of integration and teamwork to optimize them to be as efficient as possible. Focusing on only one area won’t get you where you want to be.

Consider this: For the past 10 years Frito Lay aggressively pursued fuel savings and freight efficiency on its tractors and trailers. From 2004 to 2006 the company worked with tractor manufacturers to get more aerodynamic devices on its daycabs. The result of this cooperation was that full roof fairings, cab extenders and chassis skirts became available for daycab applications.

Fast forward to 2011 when Frito Lay decided to pursue CNG-powered trucks. By 2013, 80% of its purchases were CNG powered. Great fuel savings, right? Not so fast. What the company found was that the cab extenders and side skirts it had installed on its diesel-powered tractors were not available for CNG tractors.

But Frito Lay would not be deterred. It kept pressuring the tractor OEMs to work on the problem even though CNG daycabs were not a big part of their production.

And soon, with Frito Lay working with the tractor builders along with aerodynamic device and fuel tank manufacturers were able to resolve the issues that had made it impossible to put cab extenders and side skirts on CNG-powered daycabs. The end result is that this year Frito Lay was able to get the devices it wanted on its 2015 CNG truck purchases and to they expect to see an increase in its fuel efficiency.  Their story is told more thoroughly in NACFE’s 2015 Fleet Fuel Study.

For me, the big take away from this year’s ACT Expo is that there is room for everyone in the march for increased freight efficiency and that together we can truly make a difference regardless of what powers us.


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