I recently learned that Bill Fries passed away earlier this month. You may not recognize his name, but people of a certain age are very familiar with his voice.
Fries, an advertising executive, provided the voice of the character “C.W. McCall” in the 1970s song “Convoy,” which dealt with truckers using citizens band (CB) radio to communicate with each other about driving conditions and “smokeys” (police officers enforcing the then-universal 55 mph speed limit). The music was provided by Chip Davis, famous today for Mannheim Steamroller.
Even today, truckers are an essential part of goods distribution in the United States.
Across the United States, more than 70% of all goods used in our daily lives—from food to manufactured products—are transported to our stores and homes by trucks. As the nation’s demand for goods continues to reach record levels, our cities are facing an increase in congestion, noise, and air pollution.From https://www.lightsproject.com/
The statement on trucking above was taken from the Volvo LIGHTS website. LIGHTS is an acronym for Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions, where “Low Impact” aims to reduce impacts on congestion, noise, and air pollution.
How? Via electricity. Specifically, via Volvo’s VNR Electric truck.
Regardless of how you feel about the good and bad points of fossil fuels, battery power, solar power, nuclear power, coal power, etc., battery power is a part of our transportation solutions. The Volvo LIGHTS project lists five community benefits from using electric trucks. All five are listed here, but I’m only going to highlight one of them.
Less Congestion from being able to make deliveries at night with much quieter truck enginesFrom https://www.lightsproject.com/community-benefits/
This particular benefit addresses both congestion and noise, and the other four benefits address these two impacts as well as the impact of air pollution.
Volvo LIGHTS is performing several proofs of concept, three of which are taking place in the Inland Empire.
Fontana (TEC Equipment)
From Volvo LIGHTS (additional details here, including the vehicles deployed and the charging infrastructure):
TEC Equipment owns the West Coast’s largest network of full service, heavy-duty truck dealerships. Through the Volvo LIGHTS project, they introduced a comprehensive sales and service strategy for battery electric trucks and provided fleet operators the opportunity to lease battery electric trucks from TEC Equipment for real-world trials.
In August 2021, TEC Equipment was named Volvo Trucks’ first EV Certified Dealer in North America, indicating that their maintenance and repair crew at their Fontana dealership is fully trained and equipped to meet the service needs of fleets operating these advanced zero-emission trucks.
Back in 2020, TEC Equipment commented on the initiative on its website:
“We are proud that our Fontana dealership will be first in in North America to pilot the Volvo VNR Electric model,” said David Thompson, president and CEO of TEC Equipment. “Through the Volvo LIGHTS project, we are gaining valuable hands-on experience for our drivers and maintenance staff to ensure that we are well prepared to support the widescale deployment of these advanced, zero-emission trucks throughout the Southern California freight corridor.”
Ontario (Dependable Supply Chain Services)
From Volvo LIGHTS (additional details here):
Dependable is demonstrating the ability for battery electric trucks and equipment to successfully transport goods in its daily routes, as well as at its warehouse facilities. To ensure the ongoing reliability of the trucks and maximize uptime, DHE is road testing Volvo’s remote diagnostic onboard technology, which will alert TEC Equipment in advance when its battery electric trucks need maintenance.
The onsite smart chargers use Greenlots’ cloud software to integrate with Volvo’s truck telematics to balance the needs of the vehicle, facility, and utility grid. To further mitigate grid impacts and energy costs, DHE also integrated onsite solar panels and hopes to garner the benefits of second-life batteries.
In this Vimeo, Dependable’s drivers identity other benefits of electric trucks, including an increased ability to hear emergency vehicles, as well as a decrease in smelly fuel-saturated clothes after your shift is over.
Incidentally, the references to “Greenlots” on the Volvo LIGHTS website for Dependable (and for NFI, below) are outdated. Shell acquired Greenlots in 2019, which now does business as Shell Recharge Solutions. Shell isn’t putting all of its eggs in the fossil fuels basket.
Chino (NFI Industries)
From Volvo LIGHTS (additional details here):
NFI is demonstrating the ability for battery electric trucks and equipment to successfully transport goods in its daily routes, as well as at its warehouse facilities. Having confidence that the trucks can reliably complete their routes was critical for NFI. Their fleets are road testing Volvo’s self-learning driveline control algorithms enabling drivers to optimize energy usage and range.
The onsite smart chargers use Greenlots’ cloud software to integrate with Volvo’s truck telematics to balance the needs of the vehicle, facility, and utility grid. To further mitigate grid impacts and energy costs, NFI continues to explore the viability of onsite solar panels.
NFI is working with Volvo, Daimler, and others on an ambitious project to “[o]perate the first 100% zero-emission drayage fleet in the U.S. with the deployment of 60 battery-electric tractors.” NFI wants to achieve this by 2023.
What does this mean?
These and other initiatives allow trucking companies to realize the benefits described above, from improved distribution to nicer smelling uniforms. The initiatives also allow flexibility should our diesel supplies be threatened.
And the Inland Empire, with its extensive warehousing footprint, provides an ideal proving ground to see whether these technologies will work in practice.
But I don’t know that electric trucks will give us any good songs.