Taking a step back on efficiency is for ‘losers’

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Smart government policy challenges industry and the public to create and embrace products sensitive to the needs of our environment while recognizing the need for business to remain profitable.

Legislation that doesn’t meet both these goals falls short of the mark.

Over the past few years I have been quite proud of the many advances the trucking industry has made in reducing its greenhouse gas footprint and improving profitability as a direct result. So I shuddered at the news that US president-elect Donald Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, to head the US Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, like Trump, vociferously rejects that greenhouse gases generated by the burning of fossil fuels is heating the Earth to levels that will result in long-term damage to our planet’s ecosystems.

That two people in such positions of power can be so proudly ignorant of overwhelming scientific consensus on this matter is, to use Trump’s own limited vocabulary, “sad.” To put it mildly.

Pruitt and Trump will likely roll back much of the legislation that has driven greenhouse gas reduction and clean air initiatives over the past few years. Pruitt has spent the last six years waging war against those EPA initiatives.

I hope the trucking industry will not fall for this lazy, ignorant, and unimaginative approach to policy. I hope it will continue on the impressive path of innovation it has adopted in recent years.

I am speaking of a path that includes experimenting with autonomous vehicle technology and truck platooning. Recent demonstrations of truck platooning our editors attended showed trucks traveling in a platoon formation will average fuel savings of 7%, ranging from 2% for the lead truck to 11% for the next in line and 9% for the tail truck. Traveling in a tight formation reduces wind resistance and also makes better use of road space.

I am speaking of a path that continues to push the envelope on aerodynamic improvements. Such improvements could increase fuel efficiency by up to 8%, according to ACT

Research’s recently published North America On-highway CV Engine Outlook. These aerodynamic improvements include air-smoothed hood and roof designs, new bumpers with integrated air dams, new mirrors, revised fender skirts and rear cab mounted air fairings to better manage the air gap ahead of the trailer. Even greater fuel savings are possible when industry tackles the other major part of the puzzle: the trailer. And I’m also speaking of smart legislative moves such as the one announced at the start of December harmonizing the requirements for long combination vehicles across Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Or even longer-term projects such as Nikola Motor’s plans for an electric-drive cabover using current generated by a hydrogen fuel cell and emitting only water.

What Trump and Pruitt miss in their attempt to turn back the clock on climate and clean air legislation in the world’s largest economy is that it is exactly this kind of challenging legislation that spurs innovation. Without government showing such leadership we are left in the ridiculous position of advocating for the coal industry – a fossil fuel best suited for the 1800s. Don’t know how else to put this but to again borrow from the stunted Trumpian vocabulary, in my books that makes them a bunch of “losers.”

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With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.

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