Council Plans To Reinvent Trucking, Slash Energy Use In Half

The newly-formed North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) aims to accomplish some pretty big goals, chief among them the reinvention of the trucking industry so it can carry just as much freight on half the energy it currently consumes. But first the group must fill a more immediate need -- obtaining funding.

“Right now we’re looking for seed money to start our initial work,” said Hiroko Kawai, principal with the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) mobility and vehicle efficiency (“MOVE”) Team, in a conference call with reporters.

“What we want to do is follow two parallel funding paths,” she explained. “We are looking at various forms of U.S. government funding, but that takes longer to obtain. So our immediate focus is on identifying private foundation and corporate sources of potential funding.”

For now, Kawai noted, RMI is going to supply the initial funds necessary to support what she describes as the NACFE’s “incubation” period to allow the council to collect, assess, and circulate information on performance and efficiency benefits to technology developers, fleet owners, and truck drivers alike.

“In our first phase, we want this council to serve as an ‘information clearinghouse’ for the trucking industry – a reliable third party that ‘filters’ a wide variety of test data on things such as trailer aerodynamics so fleet managers can make better decisions,” Kawai said. “Eventually, we want to be able to perform such tests directly and help encourage ‘intermodality’ between trucking, railroads and shippers for greater freight efficiency.”

Tim Dzojko, maintenance & environmental manager-fleet services group for Kraft Foods Inc., said on the call that such strategies are just what the trucking industry needs. “We need ways to improve our overall cost structure while reducing our environmental impact,” he said. “We know we need to invest in technology to get there, but we want to be sure we’re investing in technology that’s not only been validated, but will return real world benefits.”

Andrew Smith, founder and CEO of trailer aerodynamics supplier AT Dynamics, stressed that the need for impartial “real world data” was expressed load and clear at the NACFE’s inaugural meeting in Chicago on Nov. 3.

“It’s about asking where the barriers are holding the industry back from broad fuel efficiency gains,” he said on the call. “Our biggest take away from this meeting is how critical fuel efficiency has become. Several years ago, it was a topic of conversation; now it is a topic of primary concern. The council’s goal is to be a facilitator and accelerator of the changes necessary to make equipment and operations more efficient.”

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