One of the hottest trucking industry trends is the ongoing switch to alternative fuels. This makes sense, given that the price of diesel remains high. However, despite the enthusiasm for a cheaper, cleaner way to power big rigs, the move away from traditional fuels is hampered by a number of challenges. These include:
- Public perception– many in the transportation industry feel that alternative fuels simply don’t have the power needed for tractor trailers. This is largely due to the emergence of passenger cars like the Prius, which many drivers perceive as cramped, underpowered, and, in many ways, unsafe. Most of these attitudes are unfounded; nonetheless, they hinder acceptance of new approaches.
- Competing choices – another reason for the slow move to alternative fuels is, ironically, the wide range of choices available. Natural gas, electric, hydrogen fuel cells, biodiesel, and dimethyl ether are just some of the options vying with each other for the title of fuel efficiency champion. Until one of these emerges as the clear favorite, truck manufacturers will stick with good, old-fashioned diesel.
- Infrastructure– simply having vehicles that use a diesel alternative isn’t enough. Merchants must also sell the new fuel. Mechanics will need to know how to maintain vehicles that run on it. Fleets must create arrangements to purchase it. Credit card providers must set up the means to pay for it. It’s the classic “chicken and egg” problem: you can’t have one without the other, so how do you start?
Until these problems are resolved, the widespread use of alternative fuels will remain one of those trucking industry trends that is always “just ahead of us.” This doesn’t mean that the switch will never happen, of course, but most of the professional drivers on the road today might very well retire before the necessary changes occur.
What’s your opinion? Are you willing to invest in the new equipment?
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