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Flexibility is key for technology deployment

Aug. 25, 2021
Every fleet needs a plan when it comes to testing new technology, but sticking to the plan too closely when a problem arises could result in not giving the technology a fair chance.

I am sure we are going to learn a lot of lessons from Run on Less—Electric. And I can’t wait to share those with you. But in the lead up to the Run, I have already learned a few things that I think can be applied to the introduction and deployment of any type of new technology.

Being flexible and able to pivot when things don’t quite go according to plans are just two of the big takeaways from both organizing Run on Less—Electric as well as doing site visits with the fleets that are participating in the Run. Let me give you an example. 

We have two Canadian fleets in the Run and the plan was for some of NACFE’s U.S.-based colleagues to head up to Canada to meet with the fleets, OEMs, and interested utilities. We were even going to take our own videographer who has been working with us since the first Run on Less in 2017 to capture footage at all the locations. But COVID quarantine restrictions made that impossible. So, we contacted some friends of NACFE who are based in Canada, armed them with a list of questions and background information and left it to them to set up meetings with the fleets. Our video guru also located two Canadian-based video crews and gave them a detailed list of must-have still shots that we need in addition to the video.

Those of you who have been following the Run already may have noticed that there have been some changes to the initial participant list. When we first conceived of the Run, we had hoped to get 10 fleets to participate. The response was so overwhelming that we settled on 13. And as I mentioned some of the big names are not on the list only because they could not have trucks in place by our June 1 deadline, which would give us time to complete site visits before the Run began. However, issues developed with several other participants and instead of reducing the number of participants we worked with the EV makers to find replacement fleets. This means on September 2, 13 fleets will begin operating for the three weeks of the Run—just not the 13 we originally announced. We are, however, thrilled with the mix of types of trucks in the Run, the duty cycles and the geographic diversity of those fleets.

We are excited to be able to begin gathering data from this early adopter fleets that have been willing to share their experiences with us and with other fleets in the hopes of speeding up the adoption of EVs throughout the trucking industry.

It takes time for a technology to move from concept to full production, and we are not yet near full production with EVs, so it is likely that we will have some glitches during the Run. We are okay with that. Being flexible and willing to change the plan—pivot if you will—is probably a good approach to take when fleets are testing any type of new technology. Rather than getting frustrated when something does not go according to plan, simply adjust the plan. It is kind of like making lemonade from lemons.

In some ways I am glad we’ve already had to be flexible and do some pivoting in the planning leading up to the Run. This will prepare us to be able to roll with any difficulties that arise during the Run. Every fleet needs a plan when it comes to testing new technology, but sticking to the plan too closely when a problem arises could result in not giving the technology a fair chance.

I have said it before, now is the time to begin your electric truck journey. Just make sure to plan for glitches and be ready to pivot to move past them. Hopefully some of the things we learn during the Run will help your plan stay on track or least teach how to pivot gracefully.

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. He currently 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.

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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