There is nothing like being at a conference with over 2,000 people and feeling like the dumbest person in the room. Well that was me at the recent Department of Energy’s Annual Merit Review of vehicle technologies programs.
Thank goodness there are Ph.D.’s out there trying to figure out the next great material for batteries, ways to capture the waste heat off of engines and other things that we think are impossible. But great innovation often comes from crazy places and sometimes even crazy people.
And while I might not have been the smartest person in the room, I do think my presence added value to the meetings and for the people working all of these great projects. I commented on the practical use of trucking technologies to try to explain to these people, who while very smart, may never have even watched a truck do its work or talked to a trucker. I am not being critical, it just takes many people; inventor, manufacturer, operations, etc. to turn a good idea into a great product.
I was also a DOE Merit Reviewer providing my feedback on the progress and success of about a dozen trucking projects funded by the DOE. These included the final two SuperTruck program reviews provided by Volvo and Navistar. All four SuperTruck I programs delivered great results and I am so happy to see some of the features they have been describing in these reviews for four years now, show up on new trucks coming off of their assembly lines.
Innovative theory and thinking are wonderful and much needed if we are going to have big breakthroughs in fuel saving technology and other trucking related changes. However, that innovation needs to be tempered with practicality and reality. I think that is the value I provided at that meeting.
The thing is we need both. We need those dreamers and folks who have the crazy ideas and we need folks who can help focus that idea development in a practical way. Together, I believe, we can bring the next great innovations to the trucking industry.