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NHTSA administrator kick-starts Green Truck Summit

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The US is on the cusp of some major technological advances that will improve the efficiency of how goods are transported, David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said...


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The US is on the cusp of some major technological advances that will improve the efficiency of how goods are transported, David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said during a keynote address this morning at the Green Truck Summit.

He was referring to improvements in fuel efficiency that will result from NHTSA’s fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, to be implemented with the 2014 model year as well as other breakthroughs such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

“We, as a country, may not be able to deliver pure labour as inexpensively as some other countries around the planet, but we are the lead innovators around the planet,” Strickland said, noting American companies have the opportunity to lead the way in the development of fuel-efficient vehicle technologies.

Strickland went so far as to suggest Obama’s fuel economy standards for heavy vehicles present an opportunity for the next big transportation breakthrough, on par with the development of the railroad in the 1800s, the mass production of the automobile in the 1900s and the development of the Interstate system.

“The next goal of the 21st century is: how do we build on that? The central choice that the president has made is how do we improve the fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas profile of the entire fleet; and that includes the heavy-duty fleet?”

Setting fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles will improve air quality and lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil, Strickland noted. With fuel representing the largest cost of running a truck fleet, Strickland acknowledged some may question the need for government-mandated fuel economy standards.

“We saw market imperfections, where technologies that have the opportunity to save fuel and save resources weren’t percolating all the way down as deeply as they should,” he explained. However, he stressed the government will not mandate specific solutions as part of the program.

“The first thing we have to do is make sure we’re setting performance standards and not picking technologies,” Strickland said. “Picking technologies is like trying to bet on the winner or loser. More times than not, you end up elevating the loser and that’s not the goal here. Not everybody is going to want to go hybrid, not everybody is going to want to go natural gas. There are lots of ways to get there.”

Strickland was unable to discuss the nuts and bolts of the program in any detail because it is still in the rulemaking process.

The administrator also spoke of emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications, which can potentially help alleviate congestion and improve transport efficiency.

Strickland described the possibility of a vehicle that’s in heavy traffic due to an accident being able to communicate the delay to other vehicles headed towards the area so their drivers can reroute accordingly, avoiding the traffic jam.

“You have real-time reports from the road you are on,” Strickland explained. “It has huge promise not only for safety but also for fuel efficiency.”

The challenge, he admitted, will be to deploy such technologies in a way that’s not distracting to the driver. Strickland said the NHTSA hopes to have a V2V communications strategy by 2013 with deployment sometime after that.


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