A produce truck carries milk, eggs, and apples to the convenience store down the street. A car-carrying trailer steams down the interstate, bringing the newest models to your local dealer. Flatbeds transport building supplies and heavy cranes to the construction site on your way to work. A garbage truck comes every Tuesday to empty the green plastic container on your sidewalk, and a utility truck repairs the power lines near your house after a storm. Don’t forget about the delivery truck stopped in front of your house to drop off the new sweatshirt you ordered online.
Now imagine a world in which all these goods and services were cheaper. A world where engines put less harmful emissions into the air. Imagine that tractor trailer truck owners no longer have to spend up to $60,000 a year on fuel. The good news is that’s a future within reach, if the new administration and Congress create improved medium and heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency standards, incentivize innovations in efficiency technology such as idle reduction, and leverage the public and private demand for cleaner, more reliable and cost-effective transportation.
As the Department of Transportation notes, large trucks and buses account for less than 7% of all vehicles in the U.S., but account for more than 20% of total vehicle fuel consumption. Strengthening truck fuel standards, as the Biden administration has considered, isn’t just good for jobs and clean air, it will also save households money. Projections by the Consumer Federation of America in 2015 showed that the average household pays over $700 annually for the fuel used to transport their everyday goods. As new standards are put in place, that cost will reduce and help families during these tough economic times.
As a first step, trucks, buses, and especially vocational trucks — such as utility trucks, step vans, refuse trucks, and refrigerated trucks — can significantly benefit from the electrification of stationary operations, resulting in many hours of engine-off use of equipment, accessories and tools, such as zero-emissions operation of pumps, compressors, generators, and Transport Refrigeration Units (TRUs). Currently these trucks idle for many hours a day and solutions are in production that provide zero emissions stationary operation.
Have you noticed how semi-trucks that are stationary are usually running? That’s because even when they aren’t moving freight, they still need to power things like air conditioning or heating a sleeper cab, as well as providing electricity for other services.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Companies like ours already develop and sell hybrid and worksite electrification systems for large trucks that can enable them to significantly reduce idle time and the use of fuel. That cuts GHG emissions by up to 52% and smog-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx) by up to 96% while providing improved acceleration, quieter worksite operation, and reduced operating and maintenance costs. This helps clean our air, reduce costs for businesses and consumers, and is quieter, so you can hear a little more of life going on around you.
We see promise not only for businesses but for the federal government as well. The federal government owns more than 640,000 vehicles, according to the General Services Administration. That includes 245,000 civilian vehicles, 173,000 military vehicles, and 225,000 post office vehicles. With a commitment to modernize this fleet, vehicles equipped with electrification systems could be put to work lowering the overall energy used during the 4.5 billion miles these vehicles travel every year. That would save taxpayers money and reduce pollution.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the clean energy sector particularly hard. The nonprofit E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) calculated that more than 620,000 clean energy jobs were lost in the first three months of the pandemic alone, with over 300,000 still not returning. The opportunity to modernize our nation’s fleet could help put people back to work and jumpstart our economy when we need it most.
The manufacturing industry is the backbone of the American workforce, and will lead the way toward a cleaner, more powerful future. Fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks will help drive us to that future. Using the power of American ingenuity and innovation, we can boost our economy and create healthier communities for everyone.
Joe Dalum, of Delafield, Wisconsin, has over 30 years of experience in the automotive and truck industries and serves as president and CEO of Odyne Systems, a leader in the electrification of medium and heavy-duty trucks.
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