ATA President Chris Spear talks about emissions reductions and trucking during the Cummins-Meritor and Pressure Systems International fleet technology event last week.  -  Photo: Pressure Systems International

ATA President Chris Spear talks about emissions reductions and trucking during the Cummins-Meritor and Pressure Systems International fleet technology event last week.

Photo: Pressure Systems International

Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, said energy and the environment will be the biggest issues defining the trucking industry over the next decade. Although he pointed to the infrastructure challenges in making alternative-fuel trucking widely available, he praised the industry for ongoing significant reductions of tailpipe emissions from traditionally fueled trucks.

“I would like to start with a good: Our story is amazing on this issue. In 40 years, our OEMs, Cummins, have helped remove 98% of everything that comes out of the tailpipe,” Spear told trucking leaders while speaking last week at the Cummins-Meritor and Pressure Systems International fleet technology event in San Antonio, Texas.  

He pointed to how the trucking industry has significantly reduced emissions. Today, the emissions from 60 trucks equal the emissions of just one truck in 1988.

“That's innovation. That's empowerment. That's an industry that is doing the right things,” Spear said.

He said it is up to the trucking industry to share the story, and let the president, legislators, governors, and state houses know that the trucking industry is not saying “no” to lowering emissions. He emphasized that through innovation, the industry has said “yes.”

CARB Influence

Spear said elected officials are putting emissions reduction timelines and targets out that are "unrealistic." Sixteen states have already adopted emissions standards crafted by the California Air Resources Board, he said.

“What this administration has done is hand California the keys to not only set national environmental policy, but regulate it,” Spears added. “We do not have the infrastructure in place to charge.”

Spear publicly pondered what it would be like if trucks, and cars, could charge anywhere, with plenty of parking, and plenty of available chargers.

“Where's the power from? Nuclear? Coal? Definitely not. Wind, solar, hydro, I don't care. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) tells us that to charge every car and truck currently on the road would take 40% more capacity on the grid."

He also pointed to California, home of CARB, saying there is already insufficient energy and rolling blackouts are prevalent.

Other BEV Challenges

Sourcing the minerals used for battery-electric vehicles is also a challenge, Spear said. Materials such as graphite, nickel, cobalt, and lithium will be in great demand if U.S. vehicles are to be electrified on a large scale.

"Where's it all coming from? China and Congo, not two very reliable sources long term."

The ATA president said if such minerals were permitted to be mined domestically, it would take 10 years from start to finish for those to reach the market.

“You've got to have your OEMs having a steady source to build that capability, and it doesn't exist right now."

Another consideration, he said, is cost parity. Battery-electric trucks now cost three to four times that of a new diesel truck. Battery-electric trucks will need to become more competitively priced.

Also, there needs to be more parity between charging and fueling. Spear said in just 15 minutes a diesel truck can be filled and ready to travel 1,200 miles, yet it may take six hours or even longer to charge a battery-electric truck to travel 250 miles.

Where to Start?

“We need to be sequencing this. Don't make it applicable to everybody, especially long haul,” Spear said.

He suggested that the logical approach to electrification will be by beginning with drayage, then school buses, garbage trucks, and other vehicles that can be charged overnight and ready to go the next morning. He said the charging infrastructure should be built first around those vehicles and then expand.

“It's just common sense. It takes time. You're not going to get there starting in 2030, not going to meet that by 2035. It ain't gonna happen, and when it fails, it's not only going to be embarrassing, it's going to cost a lot of people their jobs,” said Spear. “To me, that's just not acceptable.”

Standing Together

Spear said the trucking industry really is like a family, and all members should stand together. And that family should tell the story of its success that have already had an impact in reducing emissions.

“It is absolutely critical that we speak as one voice,” he added, noting how the current environment is divisive when it comes to energy and transportation.

Trucking and transportation should not be politicized, he stressed.

“The political divisiveness, the uncertainty in the market, global geopolitical tensions, these are all forces that we don't control,” Spear said.

“What we do control is our own ability to tell our story. And if it's unified, if it plays to all political spectrums. It sells. Trucking is not a partisan issue. It's an American issue.”

About the author
Wayne Parham

Wayne Parham

Senior Editor

Wayne Parham brings more than 30 years of media experience to Work Truck's editorial team and a history of covering a variety of industries and professions. Most recently he served as senior editor at Police Magazine, also has worked as publisher of two newspapers, and was part of the team at Georgia Trend magazine for nine years.

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