A report released this month outlines opportunities for fleet electrification created by more regional hauls.
“The key is confidence in where to locate the charging stations,” said Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), the organization that authored the report.
Roeth discussed the findings during a press conference held last week at the ACT Expo clean transportation conference in Long Beach, California.
Titled “More Regional Haul: An opportunity for trucking?,” the study examined several factors that are driving down miles traveled and how they might smooth the path to electrification.
E-commerce, innovation in load matching, vehicle specification and data mining are among the forces resulting in shorter haul lengths, according to the report.
One takeaway revolves around driver retention. Drivers are eager to spend more time at home, and with the average haul length declining, carriers may find it easier to recruit and retain drivers, Roeth said.
Another takeaway is the potential for transitioning to alternative fuels. As Roeth noted, regional trucks stay within a relatively small geographic area. Regional operations also tend to revolve around a central hub, making it easier to install an alternative energy infrastructure for vehicles.
Range anxiety is also less of a concern in a regional market.
The decline in miles driven could encourage more efficient vehicle specification changes, added Rick Mihelic, NACFE director of future technologies.
The report comes with a couple of caveats. First, most of the efficiency and design improvements (aerodynamics) implemented to date have focused on long-haul trucking.
Second, the fuel economy is better on over-the-road than short-haul loads.
But these concerns only reinforce the need to zero in on a segment of the industry that has yet to see a lot of efficiency gains.
“We encourage that those trucks be better designed,” Roeth said.
NACFE plans to continue to watch developments in the regional haul sector and is planning a fuel economy demonstration for regional fleets this fall.