‘Transformational Trucking’ hopes to double industry’s energy efficiency

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Participants in a recent “Transformational Trucking” meeting endorsed a goal of doubling energy efficiency within the trucking industry by standardizing regulations and providing accurate and impartial information about new energy-saving technologies. The meeting, which was organized by Rocky Mountain Institute and held in Denver, brought together a diverse team of technology developers, policy advocates, fleet managers and decisionmakers from throughout the industry.

RMI on Tuesday, April 28, convened four meeting participants to discuss the goal of profitably doubling the efficiency of the sector, both in terms of gallons of fuel used and the time and resources consumed to deliver goods across the nation. Speakers included Hiroko Kawai, principle of RMI’s Mobility and Vehicle Efficiency Team (MOVE); Andrew Smith, chief executive officer of Advanced Transit Dynamics; Kevin Beaty, business unit manager for Hybrid Power Systems at Eaton Corp.; and Don Baldwin, product marketing manager for Michelin North America.

According to the panel, the industry collaboration that was made possible by RMI’s gathering enabled the identification of four significant barriers in the areas of technology, policy, investment and consumer expectations. These barriers must be addressed in order to meet the goal of double efficiency and allow the trucking industry to not only survive, but also become more competitive, the panel said.

Kawai announced two projects that emerged out of the meetings. “Freight Without Borders” is a plan to unify the trucking industry to create a national freight agenda to interact with policymakers and advocate for unified national regulatory standards. Kawai also introduced the idea of a “US Green Truck Council,” an organization that could conduct independent testing of energy-efficient technology and provide objective information about costs and energy savings to truck owners and operators.

Both proposals received wide support from the diverse group of industry figures who participated in the meeting. “it’s no small matter for this industry to come together and rally around a unifying vision,” said Beaty, applauding RMI’s efforts at unifying the trucking companies. Beaty expressed hopes that the event would “light a fire under the industry” to increase energy efficiency.

Referring to the “Freight Without Borders” project, Baldwin said each state has its own regulations. “It’s almost like dealing with 50 separate countries,” he said. “In many ways, the European Union is more coordinated for efficient transportation than the United States is.”

When discussions turned to a “US Green truck council,” Smith told a story. “A prominent trailer manufacturer told me that they’ve been well established to build square boxes for 50 years and will be for the next 50 years,” he said. “A ‘US Green Truck Council’ could help change that dinosaur mentality and help bring efficient trucking technologies to market.”