Allies or Adversaries?
Perhaps the most important element to winning, or just surviving, a battle is to first recognize that the battle exists. For far too long, many in the trucking industry have failed to recognize that they are on one side of an existential battle while many in the regulatory community are on the other side. In failing to recognize the battle, it is too easy to believe that the opponents have good intentions and that their real intentions are the ones being publicly advertised.
When the battle is viewed merely as an academic debate, it is too easy to adopt the other side’s conditions and language as if the conditions are reasonable and the language is accurate. One case in point is the linguistic bait-and-switch from “carbon dioxide” to “greenhouse gas.” Most people who have made it past sixth-grade science class know that carbon dioxide is a necessary part of the natural environment. However, regulators and their ilk don’t talk about carbon dioxide. Instead, they prefer to obscure the details by using the vile-sounding “greenhouse gas” label.
While we expect the regulators to mislead, it does the trucking industry no good to accept the regulators’ terminology as appropriate. Nor does it help the industry when it participates in the charade by using the same misleading terminology themselves. Whether the industry should or should not seek to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is a separate question for another day. Until industry leaders are ready to call it carbon dioxide, they’ve conceded the battle before they’ve begun.
It has been said that the industry should get behind the latest truck fuel economy proposal, because, “if you’re not at the table, you’ll be on the menu.” On the contrary, when appeasing an adversary, it’s usually on the misguided hope that the adversary will “eat you last,” to paraphrase a line from Winston Churchill.
The truck industry leaders have been at the table for several previous regulatory salvos. There’s little doubt how well that worked out for the industry on HOS and the last few rounds of emission regulations.
If our own industry’s examples aren’t strong enough, or for those who don’t think this is an existential battle, just take a look at how well sitting at the table worked out for the domestic auto industry.
From a purely technical perspective, it’s possible to make further improvements to fuel economy but at what cost? The regulators either don’t consider or are prevented from considering the cost of regulations. Out here in the real world, the costs of fuel economy regulations must be considered.
One way to improve fuel economy would be to greatly expand the use of costly lightweight materials to manufacture trucks and trailers. However, this raises cost and will likely cut durability.
The more likely route will be to cut engine displacement, but this quickly runs into the law of diminishing returns. Less power means lower top speeds, which ultimately translate into longer delivery times, more trucks on the roads, and higher transportation costs.
While I may not have the greatest confidence in our industry’s leadership, I’m far more confident in the engineers and technicians who design and build the trucks we drive. They haven’t left very much on the table in terms of fuel economy improvement.
Political grandstanding or merely wishing the problems away won’t move technology along any faster than the industry can absorb it. Unduly expanding the focus on fuel economy will inevitably reduce efforts in other critical areas such as safety and driver ergonomics.
It’s high time for our industry’s leaders to do a better job at managing regulatory expectations. This newest round of fuel economy regulations is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Tags: Alteranate Fuels
, Fuel Economy