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Many, many years ago today, one small family had a very memorable day; I showed up. To be more specific, I was born. So, to celebrate, I’m going to talk about something that’s more important to me than some other aspects of the automotive industry: trucks and trailers. I care about this because I’m a horseback rider and animal lover; in fact, I just got back from the Midwest Horse Fair, where (among other things) I talked to a German who’s ridden in so many Bentleys he can’t stand the sight of them and took a lesson with an Olympian who’s one of the best riders in the world. And how did the horses get to the fair? Trucks and trailers.
All right, so maybe it’s a stretch to think there’s such an overflow of horse trailers on the roadways that they’re the number one concern in the green automotive industry. It’s also a stretch to think that the MSOE SMV will be hauling around a few thousand pounds of aluminum and horses anytime soon. Still, they’re a piece of the puzzle, and they’re related to an even bigger part: the trucking industry.
We might not hear much about trucking, but think about it for a moment. How do most products get anywhere? You got it. From bananas to books to basketballs, many things are shipped around the country to get where they need to be.
Of course, there have been improvements in the trucking (and truck) industry over the years. Ultra low-sulfur diesel is now standard, truckers are idling less, vehicles are becoming more aerodynamic, and new engines are reducing particulate matter pollution. And trucks are moving beyond simply diesel; companies with fleets are looking to alternative fuels to cut down on future costs and protect the environment. More than20% of the UPS fleet are hybrid vehicles. FedEx, Coca-Cola, and AT&T are also jumping into the hybrid trucking game and spokespeople say they are already reaping the benefits. Companies in Europe are already using all-electric vehicles.
And commercial trucks aren’t alone in their quest for greener paths. While many car companies undoubtedly spent too much time pushing fuel-hungry big trucks and SUVs, manufacturers are trying to step up their games in the light truck market, too.
Still, no matter how you slice it, trucks are bigger than most vehicles and are more polluting than most vehicles, too. But they are a part of our societal structure. There are certainly ways to cut down on the costs of trucking, like those hybrids and the improved structures of big trucks. And there is more to be done, like considering other forms of transportation (trains) or simply trying to reduce hauling (grocery stores selling local in-season produce). Trucks are like cars; they aren’t going anywhere, but we can keep looking for ways to improve their fuel efficiency and reduce their environmental impact.
After all, those horses aren’t going to haul themselves.