With the New Year is here, we wanted to take a moment to evaluate the various trends in heavy-duty trucking. For many decades, Class 8 commercial motor vehicles remained static in nature. Yet, in the past ten to twenty years, the arrival of electric vehicles and a global pandemic has changed the paradigm.
Supply chain disruptions have also upended OEM’s plans for a smooth transition into electric production. And all of this comes considering strong freight growth in 2022 and beyond. Yet, many OEMs struggle to come up with semiconductors and many other critical parts they need to complete trucks. Given the rise in domestic demand, expect to see pent-up demand for trucks not to abate any time soon.
Many trucking companies navigate the global supply chain issue as best they can, but often that is not enough. The transportation sector finds itself in a dynamic situation, with many taking extreme measures to manage the crisis and remain focused on production. With FTR expecting Class 8 factory shipments to hit 360,000 units in 2023, certainly something must be done.
OEMs continue to work hard to meet customer requirements in the face of supply chain constraints. Like almost everyone in just about every industry, manufacturers are weathering the supply chain shortages as best they can. But will it be enough? Let’s take a closer look at the trends that will impact heavy-duty truck manufacturing in 2022.
GHG2 Rules and Fuel Efficiency Standards
We’ve written about the GHG2 greenhouse emissions standards that went into effect for the 2021 model year heavy-duty trucks. But just remember, it won’t end there. Even more strict standards will be set to go into effect in 2027. Will your fleet be prepared?
OEMs have already rolled out new technologies, software, and hardware tools and enhancements to meet the EPA’s new rules. Many are focusing on integrated powertrains, increased aerodynamics, and other low hanging fruit. Others are putting their focus on creating hybrid gasoline-electric models. And even electric OEMs, such as Nikola, have already begun to deliver new all-electric models to their customers.
With electric truck manufacturers putting the pressure on traditional truck OEMs, expect to see what used to be a sparse marketplace become a lot more crowded. From Peterbilt to Daimler, formerly gas-hungry big rigs are undergoing massive transformations. It will be up to smart fleet managers to ensure their fleets get on the bandwagon and become a part of the electric surge.
Hybrid Big Rigs go Mainstream
Just about every heavy-duty truck OEM now has a Class 8 battery-electric truck available for order. As such, it will become increasingly difficult for trucking companies to justify not dipping their toe into this market. And they are making big moves to make sure their customer – trucking companies – are comfortable with the new technologies on offer.
Volvo, as one example, has started production on their VNR Electric truck, but they aren’t stopping at just the rig. They have also announced initiatives to support field staff and customers as fleets analyze whether a hybrid rig is right for their operations. And they are working closely with stakeholders to ensure trucking companies know and take advantage of state and federal incentives designed to spur investment in hybrid vehicles. Just to make the deal sweeter, they are also working with fleets who have purchased a VNR electric truck to evaluate performance, work out bugs, and optimize efficiency.
Freightliner has also rolled out their battery-electric eCascadia and medium-duty EM2 trucks. According to internal company documents, they have already delivered these vehicles to over 50 customers. Even more exciting is the demand for hybrid or all-electric rigs. Freightliner has reported strong demand for their electric vehicles, with another 700 on order and full-time production set to begin in Q4, 2022.
Even vocational rigs are getting the electric treatment. Mack has come out with a battery-electric truck that focuses on the vocational sector. The company has reported making significant investments to prepare for a full commercial launch of their electric and hybrid lines. Peterbilt has also come out touting its wide range of purpose-built EV trucks, servicing the short haul, regional haul, and drayage customers.
Fuel-Cell Electric Trucks Gain Steam
While fuel-cell driven electric trucks are still not generally commercially available, they are quickly becoming more mainstream. Many point to fuel-cell driven vehicles as a necessary step in developing vehicles that address trucking decarbonization efforts.
Daimler is one example of a dual-track strategy being used by truck OEMs. They are developing both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. In a statement discussing this strategy, Daimler said they hope to serve a wide array of trucking companies using the vehicles in various ways. They hope to begin supplementing their array of rigs with H2 fuel cell electric vehicles within the next few years.
Navistar is another company entering this space. They have partnered with General Motors to develop a zero-emission long-haul system using hydrogen fuel cell technology. Major national carrier J.B. Hunt will work with the OEMs to pilot the new vehicles, help them develop the technology, and figure out limitations in use cases.
Safety Tech Continues to Evolve
As insurance costs and plaintiff’s verdicts continue to become more outlandish, safety technology for big rigs is becoming more sophisticated than ever before. These two factors cancel each other out, at least that’s what trucking companies hope. Collision mitigation systems are now standard on many new model year trucks coming off the factory lines.
Driver assistance systems and lane-keeping assist systems have also become standard for many commercial motor vehicles. As these technologies become more integrated with big rigs, truck drivers will become more used to them and they will continue to prevent thousands of accidents and tragedies on our nation’s roads and highways.
Daimler has been touting its industry-first safety systems installed on the Freightliner eCascadia. Some of these technologies include active speed intervention and lane assist without automatic braking. The more manufacturers include these kinds of safety technologies in their vehicles, the safer we will all be.
Expect some changes to these technologies in 2022. Advanced driver assistance systems, for example, offer several new highlights. Truck driver-facing cameras – enabled by machine learning – will become even better at helping truck drivers combat distracted driving. Torque-assisted steering technologies will continue to be the basis for lane-keeping assistance.
Expect More from Autonomous Driving Technologies
Daimler has been going all-in on autonomous driving technologies. Most recently, they have been working with Waymo Via and Torc Robotics to find ways to continually commercialize autonomous technologies. They have already come out saying they have the capability to modify Level 4 truck chassis to the autonomous driving specifications of the partners they work with.
In 2020, Navistar and TuSimple announced a partnership to develop an autonomous international truck series together. They released a statement stating that the goal of the partnership is to introduce heavy-duty autonomous trucks to the U.S. market in the 2024/2025 model year.
And these aren’t the only big OEMs teaming up to advance autonomous technologies. Paccar, for example, recently announced a new partnership with Aurora Innovation to develop autonomous technologies for commercial motor vehicles. Volvo is another company that has unveiled a prototype autonomous long-haul model with Aurora Innovation technologies built into it.
Connected Vehicles Will Become More Connected
Expect to see big advances around connected vehicles and platooning in 2022. Fleets will be able to do all sorts of things, from managing their trucks’ health while the vehicles are on the road to over-the-air programming. Volvo was one of the big OEMs who pioneered remote diagnostics way back in 2012. Since then, other OEMs have taken up the cause and began offering it as well.
Navistar will be offering a free two-year subscription to their Advanced Remote Diagnostics solution beginning in 2022. Their service is designed to keep vehicles up and running through interactive mapping, engineer-designed action plans, and access to comprehensive fleet health information. Users can access this information through a web-based portal or receive customized reports via email.
Other vendors offer mobile hub apps, which increase operational efficiency and let fleet managers receive real-time actionable information quickly and easily. Options that used to be rarely seen will continually pop up in showrooms across the country. OEMs understand they need to stand out in a crowded marketplace, especially as their competitors adopt these technologies at a staggering pace. 2022 will be an exciting year for heavy-duty truck trends!