Beyond a one-size-fits-all trucking decarbonization strategy

Beyond a one-size-fits-all trucking decarbonization strategy

Much of the responsibility now falls on the fleet, but that should be a welcome change.

Headlines touting the latest lower emissions, hyper-efficient and even zero-emissions truck equipment have dominated headlines for the past four years. (Trust me, we’re well aware of it.) Now, the decarbonization question is shifting its focus. Instead of turning to OEMs and suppliers and saying: Electric trucks–when? Hydrogen fuel cell–when? Natural gas–when? OEMs and suppliers have largely delivered. Battery electric zero emissions trucks are widely available. While they’re suitable for a chunk of applications and fleet duty cycles, they can fall short on range for the majority of fleets. There’s been a resurgence in Natural Gas engine interest with the launch of the Cummins X15N, but what does it mean for CARB and EPA regulations that are putting a focus on zero-emission powertrains?

If this year’s ACT Expo showed us one thing it’s that the solutions to begin decarbonization are there. Increasingly fuel-efficient diesel trucks also help reduce emissions. The question is now: What are fleets going to do about it? The decarbonization ball is squarely in the fleet’s court.

“Most fleets are coming around to the fact that there is no magic bullet,” said Brad Sutton, executive director–powertrain engineering, Cummins. “We need to make an impact today and not wait. We can do that through super-efficient diesel engines or natural gas engines that were prevalent at the show, as well as upcoming hydrogen solutions; even the talk around hybrid is growing. Right now, I think every fleet is looking at what is best for them, how can they make an impact now and not waiting on the future of when all infrastructure is in place and everything is perfect and ready to go.”

Fleets need to evaluate their specific requirements—considering factors like route characteristics, duty cycles, and available infrastructure—to effectively choose the right mix of technologies. This decision-making process is about more than just transitioning to zero emissions; it’s about optimizing operational efficiency and sustainability in the present landscape.

Here’s an important takeaway: The industry has answers now.

Instead of wondering if EVs would work or natural gas would work or how quantifying emissions reduction using diesel engines works, OEMs and suppliers, like Cummins, actually know those answers. They’re providing tools and consultations to help fleets customize their technology adoption strategies. These tools are designed to assist fleets in making informed decisions that align with their specific environmental goals and operational needs, especially beneficial for mid-size fleets that may not have immediate access to the latest technologies.

“We’ve developed tools that our Cummins field organization uses, and they’re available to use with any size fleet to optimize for reduced emissions and what their solutions need to be that matches their duty cycle, their infrastructure, their route, and their particular depot location and then offer some different solutions,” Sutton explained. “These tools show us that a fleet could possibly run a natural gas with renewable natural gas available right in their backyard. Then we have a net zero carbon solution with their traditional duty cycle. Others may have part of their fleet that’s a long-haul fleet, and part of the fleet that may be a regional fleet–we can help them with our tools to optimize for things like ESG or even their own goals.”

“Their own goals.” That’s what this is about. The first wave of truly focused decarbonization trucking equipment is here. As a fleet, you have to understand your goals. It’s not unlike the spec’ing challenge of yesteryear. Trucks have always been spec’d to the application. This is no different. Even if you aren’t concerned about your emissions, you should be concerned with your operational efficiency–focus on that and how efficient you want to be in two years and you have your starting point. It’s on you to take the next spec’ing step.

To do that, you have to have support. So check out all of Sutton’s insight by watching the video above.

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