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Today’s Pickup: Electric vehicle talk dominates Work Truck Show

Electric trucks like this MItsubishi Fuso eCanter dominated the vehicle conversations at this week’s Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. ( Photo: Brian Straight/FreightWaves )

Good day,

The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) held its annual Work Truck Show this week in Indianapolis. On Tuesday, NTEA held its one-day Green Truck Summit. The Summit is usually packed with panels and speakers discussing topics related to making vehicles greener. This year, though, there seemed to be only one topic worth discussing: electrification.

At least four panels were set up to discuss electrification, and even those that were not, such as a panel on how last mile delivery was changing vehicle design, quickly veered off to focus on electric delivery vehicles.

There was one common theme through it all, though: The electric revolution may not be happening as quickly as we all think. Speakers repeated challenges to the electrification of the nation’s vehicle fleet, from infrastructure concerns to range limitations, to uncertain electricity costs.

The assumption is that we will solve these, and several companies, including Freightliner which showed off its eM2 Class 7 electric truck at the show, pointed out that many vehicles are still several years away and technology advancements may solve some of these issues before then. The eM2 is slated for production in 2021.

Did you know?

According to Motiv Power Systems, battery technology has reached a point where it now costs about $200 per kilowatt hour to run a medium-duty electric truck.


“We can do that.”

– UPS’s Michael McDonald, senior director of sustainability and government affairs for UPS, when answering a question during a panel discussion at the Green Truck Summit on what he says when someone brings forth a new idea or concept to improve operations. The larger point he made was that UPS never wants to dismiss any idea without exploring its potential.

In other news:

Blockchain as an energy saver

Numerous companies are viewing blockchain technology as a potential energy-saving technology, including in the shipping industry. (GreenBiz)

More workers could get overtime pay

The Department of Labor is proposing to raise the limit which determine whether millions of Americans can receive overtime pay. (Wall Street Journal)

Global tank container fleet grows

Led by China, the global tank container fleet jumped 11 percent last year. (Splash247)

Another truck protest planned, this time in Ohio

Truckers in Ohio plan to continue the series of “slow roll” protests taking place with one scheduled for today along I-70. (CDL Life)

Uber Freight sets growth plan for Chicago

Uber Freight is planning to double its workforce in Chicago this year with hundreds of new sale and engineering positions being added. (Built in Chicago)

Final Thoughts

One of the interesting changes that has occurred in recent weeks is how the trucking industry refers to truck orders and sales. Last year, during the order boom times, record-breaking monthly truck orders were repeated ad nauseum in freight and general media channels. Forty thousand monthly orders, 50,000 orders – the refrain was repeated month after month. In reality, orders and retail deliveries are two very different things. Retail deliveries, due in part of labor and parts shortages and capacity constraints at factories, never reached these lofty numbers. With orders now falling dramatically from their 2018 highs – when over 480,000 trucks were ordered – many in the industry are now pointing instead to retail deliveries. In 2018, about 250,000 Class 8 trucks were delivered, the fourth highest year on record. As 2019 rolls on, experts are now saying that due to backlogs from 2018, this year should see retail truck deliveries approach and perhaps even exceed 2018’s number. That’s important to keep in context as headlines start appearing showing large drops in truck orders on a monthly basis.

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.

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