NACFE offers guidance for navigating the “messy middle”

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has dubbed the current part of the trucking industry’s journey toward decarbonization as the “messy middle,” but it doesn’t want that to be viewed negatively.

“It shouldn’t have a negative connotation,” Jeff Seger, author of NACFE’s latest report on the messy middle said during a press briefing at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s spring meetings. “It’s just a period of a lot of different options for fleets, and a lot of decisions are going to need to be made.”

messy middle graphic
(Source: NACFE)

Decarbonization is already in progress, added NACFE head Mike Roeth. This is even true for fleets that are still burning diesel, as they slash emissions through things like improved aerodynamics, low rolling resistance tires, idle reduction, and other diesel-compatible options that are currently available.

The ‘messy middle’ is a time for fleets to take action, Roeth added. But he also cautioned fleets to only adopt the technologies that make sense in their applications. “Do not push a hamburger on a vegetarian,” he said, noting fleets should adopt technologies that make sense for them today.

NACFE created a map to help fleets select the appropriate emissions-reducing technologies for their own operations.

The organization urges fleets to evaluate lower emissions offerings on the basis of: financial benefit; sustainability; and availability.

If battery-electric checks all the boxes, go with it, Roeth advised. If not, consider other options including natural gas, renewable natural gas, hydrogen, and even diesel if that’s the only fuel that will currently work. In that case, he said, “be very aggressive with efficiency,” and consider ways to reduce emissions through existing technologies such as aerodynamics.

NACFE’s report on the messy middle can be downloaded here.

messy middle powertrain options
(Source: NACFE)
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James Menzies is editorial director of Today's Trucking and He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 24 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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