The Latest California Clean Air Regulations For Trucking Companies

Any trucker or fleet owner will tell you that there is one state that drives the market more than any other: California. As one of the world’s largest economies – let alone the nation’s – what California decides carries weight.

And since many trucking companies must at least send deliveries or make pickups in California – even if they aren’t headquartered there – they must comply with California rules and regulations. Some say California’s regulations are quite steep.

No matter how you feel, one thing is clear, California is at it again. This past summer, the California Legislature passed a series of bills designed to reduce air pollution emitted by vehicles and provide further incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But what will this mean in practice? Let’s dig deeper into the meat of the legislation.

By the Numbers

Looking at the full total, California’s new package will set $250 million aside for the Carl Moyer Program, which provides grant funding for cleaner-than-required engines and equipment. Under the Carl Moyer Program, local air districts can allocate the funds under local guidelines.

Under this program, eligible projects include more fuel efficient and cleaner on-road trucks, school and transit buses, off-road equipment, marine equipment, trains, farm equipment and vehicles, light duty vehicles and much, much more. California aims to use the program to fast track their clean air efforts.

Another $180 million will be set aside for the Clean Bus and Truck Program. This program aims to help underwrite motor carriers who opt to switch to low-NOx natural gas engines. Of course, as we have discussed in previous articles, fleet application is key.

The final number, $140 million, will be put towards incentivizing California ports to switch to cleaner vehicles and equipment. To raise the funding necessary, California will auction off carbon allowances.  Yet, the action doesn’t stop there.

Shortly after this article gets published, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will vote on their own Clean Air Action Plan. This is no small matter considering these are the two busiest ports in the country. What they do, others often follow. How will they set the standard?

If you go by the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, the trucking industry contributes quite a large amount of the state’s emissions. Their numbers state that a full third of the states NOx emissions and a quarter of diesel particulate matter come directly from heavy duty commercial vehicles.

How It Is Written

With the final version being written up by the state and industry stakeholders, expect a moderated approach. After all, the trucking industry can be quite effective at isolating inefficiencies and funding issues. They are also the decision-makers when it comes to converting a fleet from standard diesel to another form of energy.

The best part about this piece of legislation was the process. According to a representative of the Harbor Trucking Association, “This time around, the process was much more inclusive, and thus, got a lot more input from stakeholders, such as the trucking community, on what works and what doesn’t work. I think that because of that, the Clean Air Action Plan will be one that is stronger in the sense that, for the trucking industry, I don’t think it will be as financially burdensome.”

Still, this doesn’t mean everyone is on the same page, which is not all too uncommon when it comes to issues facing the trucking industry. The governmental affairs director for the Western States Trucking Association believes that these new rules may put undue pressure on trucking companies to replace units. Not only is this a major cost burden if the current vehicles are still workable, but they may be being asked to switch to untested equipment.

Some say that the technology being pushed on the industry is more aspirational than work-ready. First, ports and players will need to look at the feasibility of implementing a major equipment and vehicle overhaul. Such things take time.

Of course, the trucking industry and involved stakeholders must be a part of the planning and implementation of such a change. Again, the Harbor Trucking Association representative.

“If technology doesn’t exist or it’s not commercially viable or it’s just not affordable, we need to be able to pivot, delay things, or move in different directions,” he said.

California’s Carefully Laid Plans

California has a habit of shooting for the moon when it comes to initiatives like this. A lot has been promised in this package, including a promise of jobs generating green technology and economic growth. But will this promise come to fruition? What happened in the American solar panel industry is one such example of a green promise unfulfilled.

Another concern comes from businesses who worry that these changes may impact their bottom line or make it difficult for them to operate in the state. Would business move elsewhere simply because of new clean air regulations on big rigs? Until these changes go into effect, the jury is still out on that question.

The last thing California wants is to shoot itself in the foot by making it overly expensive for businesses to operate or import or export out of one of California’s ports. Companies can just as easily take their business to Seattle, Canada or Mexico and avoid the headache, thus depriving California of a much-needed revenue stream.

What Do the Ports Have in Mind?

With the California Air Resources Board (CARB) hard at work setting up new standards for release, both parts are preparing their own plan, as we mentioned before. So, we thought now would be a good time to dig into the details of such a plan and how those details may impact the trucking industry.

First, one thing that immediately becomes clear is how ambitious this plan is. Considering this is coming from the ports themselves, rather than CARB, it serves as an example to how committed industry has become in their efforts to lower emissions.

Right off the bat, the plan makes clear that they want to transition to a zero-emission drayage fleet by 2035. In addition, the draft sets specific goals on where the ports should be depending on the emission type. Their goals are:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Reduce diesel particulate matter by 77% below 2005 levels by 2023
  • Reduce sulfur oxides by 93% below 2005 levels by 2023
  • Reduce nitrogen oxides below 2005 levels by 2023

As you can see, this is an ambitious plan. A preliminary cost analysis came up with an eye-watering price tag of anywhere from $7 billion to $14 billion.

The good news is that recent tests show the ports have already surpassed their particulate matter and sulfur oxide targets and are getting close to the NOx goal. That represents excellent dedication considering they could easily take their time and wait for the deadline to take any action.

According to Gene Sorka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles, “These ports are going where no port has gone before. Based on what we’ve already accomplished to promote healthy, robust trade through our gateway, we’re ready to make history again, looking at a new array of technologies and strategies to further lower port-related emissions in the decades ahead.”

Everything Takes Time

As with almost everything else, this entire process has taken a lot of time to get to this point. The 2017 draft document was comprised from feedback gathered over two years. During that time, the state, local governments and ports have been hard at work finding common ground.

Discussions have taken place with advocacy groups, environmental groups, regulatory agencies and local communities. The ports themselves set up question-and-answer sessions and public workshops asking for goal, strategy, priority and timeline ideas. A time for public review and comment has also been included.

Overall, the ports have hosted over 50 meetings and workshops leading up to the changes. According to Mario Cordero, the Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach, “Working closely with all our partners has been crucial to our success. That same collaboration went into the development of the 2017 CAAP and will be indispensable going forward.

He went on to add that, “Since 2006, the Clean Air Action Plan has been a model for programs to reduce health risks and air quality impacts from port operations worldwide. We remain committed to being leaders in seaport sustainability.”

Of course, there are still many questions left unanswered regarding what will be in the final package. Fortunately, California and the stakeholders involved have conducted a thorough and transparent process, taking quite some time to try and get it right.

Reaching zero emissions is a lofty goal, one that many say may not be attainable. Yet, one can never do anything big without shooting for the stars and taking big risks. Will California and her ports can complete this complex transition to zero emission vehicles by the dates they themselves have lined out? We’ll be right there reporting on it once it becomes clear.

For full details on what is in the new legislation, simply click or tap here.

Are Electric Commercial Trucks Just A Fancy Thought?

Is it true? Are electric trucks likely to be a huge factor in the future of trucking? Perhaps, but if so, it likely won’t be a large, Class 8 heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle going all-electric anytime soon. Instead, you are more likely to see a service, local or regional route vehicle running as a quiet electric. The same could be said for panel vans, refuse or utility trucks.

The main reason these vehicles are more likely to be a candidate for electric conversion is because they have the type of power demands and manufacturing attributes that make them ideal for electrification. Those include limited daily ranges, easy access to a charging network and a duty cycle that allows for overnight charging.

Another differentiating factor is that OTR trucks are generally highly weight sensitive. When you can’t scale up the power because of battery limitations, it severely limits your ability to handle any number of weights within a load.

While heavy duty electric truck prototypes are currently undergoing proving at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, they can generally only make an 80-mile round trip before they must be recharged, and that’s only under a four to five thousand pound load.

Private Companies Fill the Breach

Still, that doesn’t mean companies aren’t actively filling the void to make heavy duty Class 8 electric trucks a reality. One such company, Motiv Power Systems, currently manages a refuse truck in Chicago. The route runs around 60 miles with an 18,000-pound payload and electronic garbage compactor. The company is also planning on testing an all-electric refuse truck in California.

Motiv’s design spec includes 10 battery backs equal up to 200 kilowatt hours of energy. For longer routes, the company works with modified chassis that can handle up to 12 battery packs. Still, this doesn’t represent enough power to get a full OTR load from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in one trip.

Where the company has seen greater success is in smaller vehicles. They have modified a Class 6 walk-in van which has seen the gasoline powertrain replaced by 127 killowatt hours of battery power. The van is rated to run up to 85 miles with up to 13,500 pounds of freight. The electric motor driving the vehicle gets up to 1,550 pounds feet of torque, claims the company. To put that in perspective, that kind of torque puts the van in 11-liter diesel engine territory.

Automotive Companies in the Game

This summer at the IAA commercial vehicle show in Germany, Mitsubishi unveiled the Fuso eCanter, which is slated to debut in North America in late October. According to the automotive giant, depending on how it’s loaded, the new eCanter will have a 60-mile range and can handle up to 5,000 pounds of freight.

When designing the truck, Mitsubishi admittedly focused more on being able to carry more weight than it did on the vehicle being able to travel greater distances. They based this decision on the preferences of the users of the previous iteration, the Fuso Canter E-Cell.

Just as traditionally different companies get into the electric car game (see: Dyson), startups are also getting in on the electric truck space. One small company, called Chanje, says it is developing a truck that can handle 6000 pounds over a 100-mile range before needing to be recharged.

According to the company’s head, who used to work for Smith Electric Vehicles, the prototype model has been designed as an all-electric vehicle, as opposed to a fossil fuel truck that has been retrofitted. Being that the vehicles was purpose-designed as a battery-electric vehicle, the technologies involved can be mass-produced on a global scale.

Even better, the company states that their electric truck will have up to 70% lower energy and maintenance costs. They will also offer battery leasing and energy supply service programs. They have also announced that they are designing a truck able to accommodate a greater range as opposed to a greater payload. Not surprisingly, Ryder has announced that it will partner with Chanje as an exclusive sales channel.

One of the reasons Ryder is getting into the game is due to them being a great insurance policy against fleet leasing options. Companies can gain exposure to new technologies through leasing vehicles in Ryder’s fleet, without being exposed to rapid depreciation should something change with the technology. Ryder assumes that responsibility.

Areas Suitable for Battery Power

Another area where battery power could be used is in yard shunting. Terminal trucks never travel far from their source of power and weight isn’t a consideration. This is where another company comes in.

Riverside, Missouri-based Orange EV builds electric truck terminals. According to their internal estimates, even moderate vehicle users could see savings of up to $30,000 per truck annually. Those savings are born out in lower fuel, maintenance and emissions-control costs.

Some estimates have put up to 8 million as the number of fossil fuel-based vehicles that would be ripe candidates for electrification. Represented in this number are vehicles that travel planned local routes amounting to less than 100 miles per-day. They also account for a lot of stops and starts along the route and expect the vehicle to be parked at an overnight depot with the stations required to recharge the vehicles before they hit the road the following day.

According to Mitsubishi, their new eCanter requires virtually no maintenance when compared to existing diesel trucks. E-motors require no oil changes and in the gear reduction boxes and rear axles, fluids can be kept for nearly 50,000 miles. Coolant for the motor and batteries need only be changed every 24 months or so.

Still, that raises the question – one that we keep coming back to – which is: What about linehaul applications? Will we ever see full-scale electrification? That answer remains murky.

Certainly, when it comes to electric commercial motor vehicles, fleet technicians will require a new level of training. Fortunately, due to already-changing considerations, many shop technicians already have a working knowledge of high-voltage systems, with electric refrigeration being one example.

It will be a lot easier since electric vehicles have far less moving parts than their conventional fossil fuel counterparts. Fleet trade cycles will also change dramatically since the typical lifecycle of an electric truck is going to be 10 – 15 years, as opposed to the 5 – 6 years currently for diesel-powered trucks.

Why Linehaul Electric Trucks Are a Ways Off

The fact is, current battery technology doesn’t support linehaul applications. In many of these situations, trucks can run up to 140,000 miles in a single year. Doing rough calculations, on a vehicle fully loaded to its 80,000-pound capacity, a 22,000-pound battery would be needed to complete one day’s worth of driving at normal highway speeds.

Driving this reality are the fundamental differences between internal combustion and electric-drive vehicles. Since many electric vehicles don’t have traditional powertrains, there is a different manufacturing paradigm at stake. Whether it be no engine, a gear-reduction drive device in place of the transmission or hub motors located in the wheel ends, these are certainly very different vehicles.

Batteries are the lynchpin in this entire discussion. They are still too expensive and heavy to pull the weight they need to for OTR applications. And although costs are coming down, they are not yet being produced to such a scale that prices are driven down even further.

Electric powertrains still have a way to go before full maturity. The cost efficiencies associates with 100 years of utilizing internal combustion vehicles still has not been realized in the electric category. Improvements in high-volume manufacturing must be realized before electric trucks see wide adoption.

Battery Prices Take a Tumble

Some say that the precipitous drop in lithium-ion battery prices will usher in this new age of electric vehicle adoption. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, lithium-ion battery packs have dropped from $1,000 per kilowatt/hour to around $275 per kilowatt/hour in 2016.

If prices continue to stabilize at that rate, expect to see electric vehicles surpass their internal combustion counterparts before 2040. Yet a recent report in Wired magazine poured a lot of cold water on the notion that OTR electric trucks are going to take over the roadways any time soon.

According to their analysis, to travel 600 miles without stopping to charge, the truck would require a battery weighing 14 tons. How much would a battery of that size and weight cost? Nearly half-a-million dollars. Although “next generation” batteries promise a 600-mile range for around $180,000, they still would not have reached the price point required to justify full-scale OTR adoption.

So, will we see freeways dominated by electric trucks in the near future? While the answer is still unknown, widespread approval and desired adoption of these vehicles means that development will only continue. As the world moves farther away from oil and fossil fuels, electric vehicle demand will continue to rise. Will your fleet be ready when the time comes? Legacy fossil fuel systems may still have some life in them, but their days could be numbered.

Trucking Companies: How to Protect Your Assets In The Age Of Cyberattack

Much like many other industries, trucking faces a unique threat: Cyberattack. Even more troubling, in some cases the threat may come from within. What threats lurk under the surface of the internet and are fleets in any danger?

Let’s take an example of as a cautionary tale. Imagine for a second you are the operations manager for a major fleet. Let’s also say it is around 3pm on a Wednesday. The morning rush has passed and all your truck drivers, customers, dispatchers and other interested parties all seem to be happy and doing their job.

Then, just as you’re getting ready for the deluge of late-afternoon messages from customers letting you know they won’t be able to load until tomorrow (typical, right?). Everything seems normal and ordinary, then you get a call from one of your truck drivers.

He tells you his engine has failed and that he is sitting in the center lane of a major highway. He goes on to report that there were no warning lights or indications the engine was about to fail. Since there was no warning, the truck driver had no time to get to the right side of the road, so now he sits, blocking traffic and creating quite a headache.

Just as you are evaluating this problem, you get another message, this time not from a customer. No, this message is far more ominous. It reads:

“Send us 30,000 in bitcoin and we will give you back your truck.”

This is just one example. There are certainly many more examples of enterprising criminals who will stop at nothing to take advantage of your operation.

It Could Happen

Sure, you might be sitting there chuckling to yourself thinking that could never happen. Well, think again. In fact, it has already happened in a lab. And you know, anything they can create in a lab can be recreated in the real world.

The fact is this: If fleets, regulators, manufacturers, trucking advocacy organizations, and other trucking industry players don’t take concrete steps to shore up vulnerabilities in trucking architecture, the nation’s supply chain will never be entirely safe.

So, what’s the problem? Basically, it all stems from something created by the Society of Automotive Engineers called the J1939 data bus. The J1939 data bus is a common communication architecture used to connect electronic control units (ECUs), thus allowing components from one manufacturer to seamlessly communicate with components built by a different manufacturer.

While the J1939 communication architecture has served its function beautifully by dramatically increasing communication efficiency in trucking equipment, unfortunately it also has a critical vulnerability.

Because J1938 was created to be as open as possible, allowing for trucking manufacturers to have a greater level of flexibility, it could be that this openness is a double-edged sword. At least, that’s according to a new task force put together by the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council specifically to look at this issue.

The Problem is Bigger Than You Think

Unfortunately, through its work, the task force has uncovered more than just problems with J1939. There are a lot more vulnerabilities within the truck manufacturing chain, ones that can easily be exploited by a nefarious element.

The main issue is the large variety of suppliers that build major systems and components for heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles. There is a vast network of suppliers who both supply to each other and to other partners. Whether it bey the company that builds the body or the telematics provider, everyone has their own electronic backdoor into the truck. All these pathways pose a risk.

According to some theoretical models, even something as benign as a diagnostic tool could be leveraged to plant a Trojan Horse virus or do some other type of network damage or espionage. Even worse, since fleets are so interconnected nowadays, once a truck is infected, there is a real risk of the entire fleet or even the fleet network becoming infected. Companies that don’t have a comprehensive cybersecurity program in place may not even know someone is lurking on their network.

While researchers and trucking manufacturers have known about these vulnerabilities for years, many were slow to act. It wasn’t until the last five years that permeability testing began in earnest, with some tests showing horrifying results.

One such example occurred in 2016, when researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute ran a controlled experiment on a closed track designed to see if they could hack into a Jeep Cherokee. Sitting in a sleeper cab down the street and using a laptop plugged into an onboard computer, the research team successfully initiated a controlled takeover of the Jeep and override the driver’s input.

Another example comes from the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, where a professor utilized the wiring and electronics normally found in a Class 8 heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle to write a basic piece of malware that changed what the onboard software did without anyone knowing.

This is No Joke

Think about that for a second. Imagine an outside actor surreptitiously hacking into a semi-truck and altering its software or operating parameters without anyone realizing it – including the truck driver. They could do everything from crash the truck to falsify log data and more. Essentially, they would have full control.

If there is one lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s that the weaknesses in trucking manufacturing and supply chain control are very real. These glaring vulnerabilities pose a huge threat to trucking operations, and not just from state actors, but from rogue hackers and other opportunistic elements.

Still, ask many an expert and they will tell you: No one is quite sure how much of this threat will materialize, or in what form. As technology evolves at an ever-faster rate, the trucking industry will have to keep up to keep cyber-threats at bay.

Even as many say it is hard to tell how big of a threat this will be, there is no denying that it will be a threat. That attacks of this nature will happen is not a matter of if, but when. Fortunately, OEMs have been taking it very seriously.

The Automotive Cybersecurity Challenge

For evidence on how seriously OEMs are taking this threat, look no further than the annual Battelle Memorial Institute automotive cyber challenge in Detroit. This highly secure event brings together OEMs, their vehicles, and teams of students studying cybersecurity and hacking.

During the challenge, students throw everything they’ve got at the systems built into everything from cars to trucks and big rigs. In many cases, the students are successful in hacking into the vehicles. Fortunately, no one will ever know the details.

For good reason, the challenge does not publish any of the results, hold press conferences or put out press releases. Even more, anyone who participates must go through heavy security and bring only the tools they need and a notebook. At the end of the challenge, everyone must turn their notebook in to be destroyed.

The good news is that while many students are successful in their attempts, these hacks are done in a controlled environment where the hacking tools are hard-wired into the truck’s connections. Completing the same type of cyberattack wirelessly on a truck hauling a load down the highway is a completely different story.

Yet can today’s manufacturers or trucking interests say with 100 percent certainty that today’s connected truck is safe from deliberate cyberattack? No. The system still has plenty of back doors, even if they present a bit of technical challenge.

Why Hack a Truck?

As you read in our earlier example, there is at least one reason to hack a truck: Ransom money. Except that’s not the only reason a bad element would want to hack into a commercial motor vehicle.

Consider the size and weight of a fully-loaded Class 8 big-rig. We are talking up to 80,000 pounds of weight barreling down on what could be people or a packed building. Trucks are vital to our economy, but they also make useful ways to attack large numbers of people should someone want to.

Even worse, the storage capacity in a box truck or tractor towing a trailer can be incredibly dangerous in a bomb maker’s hands. Of course, trucks are not to be blamed for such incidents, but that does not make them any less serious.

Beyond mass casualty or terrorist events, there are other, less fatal, but just as illegal devious reasons for hacking a truck. What if a less-than-savory trucking company hires a hacker to alter emission systems or hours-of-service information?

Whether it be a hacktivist with an axe to grind against a fleet or some complicated crime network extorting tens of thousands of dollars from vulnerable trucking companies, the modern truck represents a point of vulnerability.

The key to staving off or mitigating a potential cyberattack on your valuable trucking assets, ensure you do not overlook the importance of cybersecurity. What network safeguards do you have in place? Is your IT department up to the task of managing your operation’s cybersecurity needs? These are all pertinent questions that will need to be answered if you want to prevent your trucks from getting hacked.

Alternatives Are About More Than Electric And Natural Gas For Truck Drivers

We took some time out lately to talk about moves in natural gas. Yet, as our eye always remains on the current diesel price, there are other options out there as well. Of course, natural gas does remain at the top of the “alternative fuel” heap for trucks, electric drive and fuel cell technologies continue to show promise. Could we see one of these forms of energy rise as a worthy alternative for good ole’ diesel?

So, what are the alternatives? For commercial motor vehicles, the options mainly include propane, or autogas, biodiesel, renewable diesel and dimethyl ether (DME). Much like any other choice-based option, each has its detractors and advocates.

While propane has been in use for a long, long time, and the two diesel variants can be used simply by filling up with them, DME is more of an outlier. It seemed to pique a lot of fleet’s interest some time ago, but doesn’t be appearing to make a huge splash on the fuel scene.

According to Kenny Vieth of ACT Research, “Because each company’s goal for its fleet is different, even two similar fleets may make different fuel choices. Each fleet will assess its own corporate goals, the local/regional availability and price of the respective alternative fuels, and any regulations and incentives for the areas in which the fleet operates before making the fuel decision. Cost, range, weight, performance, and time will all factor into each fleet’s decision.”

In the lower GVH classes, propane autogas makes a good value proposition. As an alternative to standard diesel, renewable diesel demonstrates nearly the same level of performance while simultaneously allowing fleets to burnish their “green” cred.

Biodiesel is especially useful because of its versatility. It can be blended into many difference forms, whether the truck needs to focus on performance or fuel efficiency. Biodiesel also offers innovation in how it is acquired. New companies are bringing new methods to bear and the line on what a biofuel is becomes increasingly blurred.

DME is still a bit of a black swan. Currently, DME is used mainly by Volvo. According to John Moore of Volvo Trucks, “Sustainable sources of energy are the future and Volvo will continue to research and invest in the sources of energy that provide the best value for our customers.”

The main problem with DME is that – because of its outlier status – there is very little infrastructure support or performance or engine-durability testing, to-date.

So, with all these options on the table, which ones might be best for your fleet? The best way to answer that question is by looking at each one individually, by strength and weakness. We’ll start with Autogas.

The Story of Autogas

Propane, otherwise known as liquified petroleum gas, is only referred to autogas when it is used in the context of a motor vehicle fuel. Across all quarters autogas is considered a viable, competitive alternative for light-, medium- and in some cases, heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles (CMV).

Compared to other fuels, autogas is ideally suited for more sustainable operations. It significantly reduces harmful emissions, is more affordable than traditional gasoline and can be produced almost entirely right here in America.

But what kind of fleet would be suited for this sort of fuel? Autogas is ideal for fleets that are centrally fueled. They can also be used in application where refueling stations are shares. Autogas infrastructure is quite built out across the country, with a few options.

Finally, a point of major desirability, autogas is considered a non-contaminant. When it comes polluting the air, land or water resources, autogas meets EPA the same requirements as those in place for gasoline and diesel infrastructure.

The one area where autogas may be deficient is for long-haul applications. Still, fleets can opt for bi-fuel vehicles, which are built with gasoline back-ups within their propane autogas infrastructure.

A Look at Biodiesel

Biodiesel has come a long way in the past few years. Today, biodiesel can be produced domestically using renewable sources such as vegetable oil, animal fat or restaurant grease. The federal Renewable Fuel Standard sets stringent requirements and biodiesel meets all of them.

Although biodiesel does emit CO2, it does so at a far lower rate than standard gasoline or diesel engines. Still, that doesn’t mean biodiesel is not without its flaws. The major complaint users have is that biodiesel performance suffers in cold weather. This drawback is typically the result of the blend being used.

Biodiesel can count several different sources in its main component. Feedstocks, oils, agents and other factors can change the composition of the biodiesel one way or another. Conventional wisdom says that regular number 2 diesel should be combined with a blend of 5% to perform well. Since both diesel and biodiesel can crystallize in cold weather, fuel blenders must take great care to ensure they get the blend right.

One way to combat fuel crystallization is to add a cold flow improver or other heater of some type. Fortunately, there are plenty of aftermarket options for ensuring your fuel doesn’t crystallize.

Getting Renewable

While some may get confused, biodiesel and renewable diesel are two totally different fueling options. The two terms should not be considered interchangeable. Rather than being derived from cooking oil or something else, renewable diesel is derived from biomass, meaning some sort of plant-life.

For a fuel to be classified as such, renewable diesel must meet the registration requirements established by the EPA as stated under section 211 of the Clean Air Act. More recommendations can be found in the American Society of Testing and Materials specifications. The specific verbiage can be found under sections D651 and D975.

Renewable diesel also goes by hydrogenation-derived, or “green diesel.” It can also be produced with animal fats and oils, but in this format, it is used either alone, or blended with a little petroleum. The petroleum must be refined to a certain ASTM specification as stated by the Department of Energy.

Doing it this way allows renewable diesel to be used within existing diesel infrastructure and applications. In fact, according to the Department of Energy (DOE) fuel producers have begun designing an HDRD substitute that the hope will be a substitute for just about any straight-petroleum based blend on the market. Ideally, the goal is to get the vehicles to function optimally using the fuel without having to invest significantly in changing or updating their internal components.

Renewable diesel also has benefits beyond its green cred. It also meets quality standards for new diesel engines and – for the most part – is compatible with current diesel fueling standards and infrastructure. The fact is, high combustion/high quality renewable diesel offers the same vehicle performance while making great strides to keep its footprint as “green” as possible.

What Is DME?

Sitting at the bottom of this list is Dimethyl ether or DME. This fuel first hit the scene back in the early-2000s, though at the time development was happening primarily across the pond. Motivating the development of these vehicles was Europe’s aging fleet. Europe has been at the forefront of studying and implementing green technologies for a long time.

Yet, for some reason DME never made it big here in America. The main reason for this can be found in the fact that over the past decades, diesel fuel has done a good job cleaning up its emissions profile. Compounding the problem, diesel prices are far too attractive.

Competing which more popular natural gas and autogas alternatives have also taken a chunk out of DME’s appeal. Since DME is a synthetic product, it could be produced in the U.S. on a large scale using natural gas feedstock.

Manufacturing infrastructure for DME is already in place, since CMVs using autogas must likewise be handled the same way, in a pressurized storage container at an ambient temperature. DME also doesn’t emit particulate emissions the same way conventional engines do, meaning less components installed on the truck. There is a serious weight and cost saving advantage to these engine types.

With a very high cetane number, DME can match diesel in energy efficiency and power, yet can all but eliminate emissions since its combustion does not release carbon-to-carbon bonds. A downfall? DME has only half the energy density of diesel fuel, which means it will need to be stored in tanks that are twice the size of normal variants.

While plenty of DME demonstrations have taken place in both Europe and America, it remains to be seen if this promising alternative fuel will catch on. The big elephant in the room. DME is not commercially available yet in the Unites States, but will it be in the coming future? Only time will tell.

The fact is, as more and more fleets and consumers turn to alternative fuels and sources of energy, expect things like renewable diesel, biofuels, DME and other synthetic options to flood the market. Although we certainly haven’t seen diesel’s last days, that’s not to say diesel’s days are not numbered.

Truck Driver – The Secret To Getting The Bypass Green Light

No matter what level you are at within your organization, or if you are an owner-operator, it’s very likely that if your safety scores are not up to your standard, you simply aren’t getting as many bypass green lights at inspection points as you would like. Fortunately, there is an answer.

With so much regulatory change happening within the trucking industry, state enforcement agencies are doing everything they can to help trucking operators increase safety levels and drive up fleet safety scores. After all, these are the men and women who enforce these rules every day. Certainly, they are there to help.

So, what would they recommend? What are some ways trucking companies and owner-operators can better work with law enforcement to improve safety across the board?

Taking Safety Seriously

If there is one thing a fleet can do to ensure those within your organization have safety and inspections at the front of their mind, it would be to join a state trucking association. Every state has its own trucking or motor carrier association.

Most, if not all, of these entities conduct events each year focused on truck and truck driver safety. Even more, these events are generally attended by those who work in commercial truck enforcement. Having your fleet’s name seen at these events cannot be a bad thing in the eyes of an inspector.

In fact, according to a former officer with the Missouri State Highway Patrol quoted in a trucking magazine, his agency regularly sent enforcement officers to events hosted by the Missouri Trucking Association. By making themselves available, officers allow trucking interests to get enforcement clarification while demonstrating that they take these matters seriously.

Even attending state truck driving championships can yield benefits. Although many will be there for the entertainment, these are still great places to gain access to large groups of truck drivers in one place. Allowing officers to clearly explain enforcement actions to interested parties can be extremely helpful and help reinforce good behaviors in truck drivers.

When everyone is communicating on the same wavelength, there is less likely to be confusion or misunderstanding. These efforts go a long way to ensuring safety is a priority and inspections go down without a hitch.

Of course, we cannot guarantee that attending state trucking events will win your operation any bypass green lights, but it certainly couldn’t hurt!

Submitting for Voluntary and Outreach Inspections

If there is one thing that will impress an inspector, it’s when a truck driver proactively asks for an inspection. This is especially true for new trucking companies, those that have little safety history or those who have failed inspections in the past. An easy way to improve your fleet’s safety scores is to rack up many “clean” inspections.

You may be surprised to learn this, but it is not all that uncommon for truck drivers to stop at a scale house and proactively ask for an inspection. With nothing to worry about, getting it out of the way can be hugely beneficial down the road.

Yet, this approach does not come without some risk. If an officer does agree to the inspection and you haven’t done your due diligence, you could get safety dings if the inspector finds problems. So, if you do decide to submit to a voluntary inspection, make sure you have thoroughly checked your vehicle before having it inspected.

There are also other ways to get more inspections. If a law enforcement agency visits your fleet because they were invited and finds problems during an inspection, they can provide you with feedback without assessing a penalty, which can be hugely beneficial considering the same courtesy would not be given if the problem was found during a weigh station or highway inspection.

Some states even proactively reach out to carriers asking if they would like an inspection. In these instances, penalties are not applied for problems found. Instead, the enforcement officer will take a big picture look at how the operation is running and guide the fleet on how to improve its business model – all without writing a single ticket, of course.

Outreach inspections provided by law enforcement can address many issues with a fleet, rather than the limited range addressed at a weigh station. Take load securement as one example.

If a fleet calls up a state enforcement agency and says they need help with their load securement efforts from an enforcement perspective, an officer can come out, look at the program, and provide a comprehensive action plan. When visiting a fleet yard for an outreach inspection, officers try to address as many issues as they can, whether it be trailer utilization, hours-of-service compliance, or inspection information. The best part? It’s free for the carrier!

And of course, there’s the bypass green light. If your fleet is a well-known voluntary or outreach inspection entity in the minds of an officer, you increase the chance that said officer could recognize your fleet’s name and award you a coveted bypass green light.

Using Data for Inspections

Did you know that you can harness the power of big data to improve inspection results and wind up with more bypass green lights for your truck drivers? That’s right, fleet data can be used to begin or end a discussion with an enforcement officer regarding something that has got their attention.

Data can either back you up or prove you wrong. Either way, it provides itself as a valuable tool for a motor carrier to use to provide additional information regarding a vehicle or piece of equipment. Beyond what the fleet collects, there is also a lot of actionable data on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER System.

Fleets using the PrePass System also have access to a wealth of free data stored in the InfoRM Safety Intelligence System. This advanced database provides motor carriers with real-time insights regarding their ISS scores. Even more, it can even tell a fleet how much their scores might be affecting their bypass green light rate.

In the end, it really is a matter of fleets taking the time to study where their trucks are being inspected the most and why they get inspection dings. By paying close attention to these factors, fleets can decrease deficiencies, increase ISS scores and may be more inclined to be awarded a bypass green light at an inspection site.

The overarching goal of any of these techniques should be to prevent safety issues before the rubber ever hits the road. But in the case that an inspection is going to happen, how should truck drivers be prepared?

What to Expect During an Inspection

There are a great many good reasons why truck drivers need to be extremely thorough when completing pre-trip inspections, not-the-least-of-which being a safety violation avoided. Inspections happen. Not every truck will always get a bypass green light, but will they be prepared?

Here’s how it works. As your truck closes in on a weigh station, DOT inspectors pull up your BASIC scores. They will be looking for your ISS score, vehicle out-of-service score, and truck driver out-of-service score, with each being color-coded. With red being bad and yellow not the best, inspectors look for lots of red or yellow on their screen. If they see it, you can pretty much rest assured you will be pulled in for an inspection.

In some cases, if the rating system does not have enough data, a system spike may wind up generating an inspection. For fleets who have a great safety record and rarely get inspected, this is a reality.

There are several additional reasons why a truck driver may be inspected at a weigh station, including:

  • Poor ISS or out-of-service ratings;
  • Broken headlight(s);
  • A dirty truck;
  • Obvious damage;

It is also important to remember that sometimes inspections are simply random. If a trucker is picked for an inspection, there are six different inspection levels.

In the end, it is vitally important that truck drivers understand that inspectors talk to many different truck drivers every day. Think of these men and women like referees in sports. Outside of a few occasions, rarely do you ever see a player treating a referee badly.

If there is one way to ensure you are on the bypass green light blacklist, it would be to treat an inspection officer with disdain, scorn, or disrespect. After all, these are the men and women who are doing what they can to help you operate safer and more effectively.

Being nice to an inspector might also yield valuable information. Let’s say you have been pulled in repeatedly in the last couple of days. If you nicely tell the officer this, they may be inclined to tell you what they see on their screen and why you may be getting pulled in for so many inspections.

Looking for that ever-elusive bypass green light? The secret lies in the inspection. Take them seriously and you’ll find yourself breezing by weigh stations and inspection points more often than not.