Of course, accurately predicting the future is futile—especially in the logistics industry. However, this uncertainty sparks the workings of a colorful debate. Which fuel source (diesel or electric) will lead the industry into the next decade?
Courtesy of Mobility Impact Partners, a lively debate, aptly titled “The Future of Trucking”, was recently held virtually via a LinkedIn livestream. Guest debaters were industry experts. Among them were Allen Schaeffer, a proponent of diesel, and Colin Murphy, a proponent of electricity. The two guests respectively plead their cases for each fuel source and its relevance for trucking in the next decade.
In the present day, diesel is undisputedly the primary fuel source in the trucking industry. Allen Schaeffer, director of Diesel Technology Forum, asserts this during the debate: “Diesel dominates today’s commercial trucking fleets”. To Schaeffer’s point, the numbers back him up. Fleet Owner notes around 11 million diesel-powered trucks are on the today—more than three-quarters of all fleet vehicles.
Opponents or skeptics of diesel will often cite its not sustainable for the environment. An argument to which Schaeffer refutes. He says, “diesel has really been defined by trying to reduce emissions”. Moreover, he remarks how “dramatically lower” its footprint has been over the past few decades.
On whether diesel will still be the dominant fuel source in 2030, Schaeffer emphasizes that date is only eight years away. He further states that it would take a “monumental shift” to see diesel displaced within that short of a timeframe.
Again, there are compelling statistics to back Schaeffer up. Per Fleet Owner, there are roughly 140,000 diesel fueling stations across the U.S. This fuel source has established infrastructure to it and can manage the demands of industry operations.
Electricity as the primary fuel source of the future has been increasingly endorsed by experts and some industry stakeholders. Deputy Director of the UC Davis Policy Institute and scientist Colin Murphy is optimistic when it comes to electricity’s future in the industry. In the livestream, Murphy is adamant that battery-electric vehicles will dominate the trucking industry out of necessity. “We have to get to zero-carbon transportation,” he commented.
Furthermore, he cites a NOAA report where it attributes climate change costing the U.S. over $100 billion each year. Murphy implores the urgency of getting to zero carbon and that “transportation is one of the major challenges” in the way.
As a scientist with a focus on fuel-policy, Murphy supports his claims through his evidence. In the livestream, Murphy asserts “that across the on-road transportation sector…electricity has the best combination of cost-effectiveness and a pathway to get to zero”. He alludes to hundreds of battery-electric trucks being used on the road already.
While these battery-electric trucks are pilot demonstrations, Murphy explains “we are getting a lot of real-world data” which points toward successful implementation of this technology.
Upfront costs are more expensive due to initial prices of batteries. However, Murphy contests electricity is cheaper than other fuels, including diesel. Additionally, government incentives may be provided that can lessen the blow of high expenses.
In summary, Schaeffer supports diesel’s dominance for trucking into 2030 as a testament to its already established infrastructure whether it’s the available number of trucks or fueling stations present in the U.S. On the other hand, Murphy makes an appeal for electricity in trucking as a necessity in order to mitigate the effects of our changing climate.
Surely, these two fuel sources will still be coexisting with one another by 2030, however it will be fascinating to see which one will be at the industry’s forefront going forward. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our team members if you have any further questions on this topic or any others in domestic logistics.