Going green brings impressive innovations, tough challenges

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Updated May 6, 2016

How green is green?

Bill Van Amburg, senior vice-president at CALSTART, said that emissions technology has advanced so much in the U.S. that Europe is taking note.

“Trucks in North America are getting more efficient than trucks in Europe,” Van Amburg said. “It’s interesting to be in a leader position. It’s an export strength.”

Van Amburg spoke at this morning’s Trucking Efficiency Workshop at 2016 ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif.

Innovative, emissions-reducing technology is at the heart of ACT Expo and its growth is impressive over the last eight years or so.

Henry Cheung, air resources engineer in the on-road heavy duty diesel section at the California Air Resources Board, and another speaker at the trucking efficiency meeting, said that in 2008 there were only five manufacturers offering aerodynamic devices for trailers.

For 2016, that number has increased to 32 manufacturers with 95 aerodynamic devices—a 540 percent increase.

NACFE Executive Director Mike Roeth said that his non-profit group provides fleet feedback on 65 emissions reducing technologies. The reports are available free of charge on NACFE’s website.

Roeth said that NACFE works closely with 25 fleets and welcomes additional input from others. Performance feedback on various emissions reducing technologies can be posted on NACFE’s website. Fleets using new fuel saving technologies save an average of $9,000 per truck each year, Roeth said.

However, the increasingly stringent emissions regulations driving a lot of the innovation, are also negatively impacting the trucking business, according to Kyle Treadway, dealer principal of Kenworth Sales Company. California’s trucking regulations have been especially challenging.

“We have good customers that won’t come into California because they just can’t justify the expense for compliance and so they are leaving the market in that regard,” Treadway told the audience in the Seaside conference room.

Treadway is concerned that the trucking industry has had to face a disproportionate amount of regulations compared to the mainstream auto market. That and the truck market’s volatility over the past 15 years or so makes the industry even more challenging, he said.

“The ranks of the OEMs have been depleted the last 15 years. Six major OEMs have exited the market place, whether it’s because of volatile sales or the lack of return on their investment in these technologies,” Treadway explained. “It’s hard on our industry to accommodate all of that.”

Tougher business conditions have led some companies to take a more risky approach to make ends meet.

“With this skepticism, we have seen the market, in no small measure, adopt its own practices, which would include tampering, in a significant manner, postponement of their body decisions, and actually exiting the market place,” Treadway said.

Scott Perry, vice-president of supply management and global fuel products at Ryder System, also spoke at the efficiency meeting and called the EPA’s Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles “an entirely new ball game” with more complex challenges.

“When you combine all of those different technologies in that manner which has never been done before, it creates a whole new level of complexity. I think it’s going to be a very interesting ride over the next 10 years,” Perry said.

“And I think what’s also interesting is that while the proposed timeline currently spans out to 2027 there is movement within some of the broader supply chain organizations for the big manufacturers that are saying it’s not fast enough, that we should accelerate and even compress the time line.

“They have a pretty big voice and they’re being pretty loud about what they’re saying, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the timeline accelerated. But the jury’s still out on that.”