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Fuel prices, driver shortage, parking top issues facing industry, ATA’s Sumerford says

Fuel prices, driver shortage and retention, truck parking, driver compensation, economy, delays at customer facilities, and compliance and safety are the top issues facing the trucking industry, said Harold Sumerford, Jr., immediate past chairman, American Trucking Associations (ATA).

Protecting the independent contractor, truck parking and addressing workforce development were among the tier one priorities for the ATA, he told attendees at the Meritor and Pressure Systems International (PSI) Fleet Safety Event in San Antonio, Texas last week.

Sumerford said the group is also focused on issues like autonomous vehicles, transportation infrastructure funding, technical improvements to Hours of Service and sleep apnea affecting drivers.

SeatedpPeople listening to a speaker in a large hall.
Harold Sumerford, Jr., immediate past chairman, American Trucking Associations (ATA) speaks at the Meritor and Pressure Systems International Fleet Safety Event in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo: PSI)

He also urged fleets to pay attention to cybersecurity and beef up their defences as transportation is among the top 10 industries targeted by hackers. Ransom amounts were up $220,000 in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, and he warned that 60% of companies hit by attacks don’t recover.

The case for electric and alternative fuel vehicles was made at the event. Dave Schaller, industry engagement director, North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) offered insight into cost-saving benefits, while also warning that some of the technology is still new and there isn’t enough data to provide comprehensive reports.

Citing the council’s Run on Less reports, Schaller said terminal tractors are a great first step in electrification. Maintenance costs are lower, and drivers rave about the vehicles. But payback time is long without incentives, he noted.

Fuel savings

A NACFE fuel cost comparison between diesel and electric vans revealed the approximate annual fuel savings per vehicle is $8,107.

Schaller said e-commerce is doubling the van and step van market. Electrifying smaller commercial vehicles is easier, he said. The transition will be challenging, but planning will mitigate risks.

He told fleets another way to save money is to use automatic tire inflation systems as they provide payback within 12 to 18 months.

Workers manufacturing parts
Workers manufacture parts on the assembly line at PSI’s facility in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo: Leo Barros)

Low rolling resistance tires also save significant fuel. Schaller said the higher purchase price can be overcome through fuel savings when considering lifecycle cost.

Using natural energy can also be beneficial. Solar panels are thin, flexible, easily installed in tractors and trailers, and are reliable.

A trailer equipped with solar panels and a battery plus telematics provides location without a tractor, improving security and usage information. The biggest benefits come from extending battery life and avoiding emergency roadside assistance for dead batteries.

During the event, attendees toured a manufacturing facility in San Antonio where experts and employees provided details on PSI and Meritor parts and products. Participants were also given the opportunity to help manufacture parts.

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