Key Takeaways from ACT Expo and the NACFE Workshop

June 1, 2022

I am still not sure I’ve processed everything yet from last month’s ACT Expo. It was an amazing week of learning and interacting.

At the very end of the event, NACFE held a workshop — Efficient Scaling of Electric Trucking. Given where we fell in the schedule, I was very pleased at the number of people who attended the workshop. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that attendees represented a cross section of the folks that are working on making electric vehicles in commercial applications a viable option. A poll we conducted during the webinar showed that 23% of the audience were from OEMs, 15% industry organizations, 16% fleets, 6% folks working on infrastructure, 4% utilities, 2% were from government agencies, and 35% described themselves as other. I wish we had asked a follow-up question to get a better handle on who was in that “other” category.

The mix of stakeholders in the audience was encouraging because it is going to take the whole electric truck ecosystem to overcome the challenges we are facing — some of which are pretty significant — as we try to increase the adoption of commercial battery-electric vehicles.

What was really interesting to me was that 50% of the people responding to a question about who has the biggest challenge to scaling electric trucks said utilities. On a side note, NACFE has been engaging with more and more utilities and speaking at more utility-related events which I take as a sign that utilities are eager to learn about what they will need to do to help trucking scale the adoption of EVs. It was not a big surprise then when 41% of those responding to a poll question about what the biggest need for scaling EVs is, said a national charging network. However, another 41% responded, incentives for trucks and charging.

The workshop was also a mix of people who were there to learn but were already doing a deployment project (68%) and others who were there to learn because they were trying to decide how to deploy electric trucks (22%) At one point during the workshop, Bill Bliem, senior vice president of fleet services at NFI, basically told the attendees to jump into the EV pool. He encouraged them to take action and not sit on the sidelines. I think, given how willing people who are already deploying EVs are to share what they are learning, that Bill’s advice is sound.

I was also impressed with the incredible talent, diversity, and passion of the people working in the EV space. We are attracting all kinds of new faces to trucking in addition to engaging some people who have devoted their entire careers to trucking. While it is great to have the experience of some of us “old timers,” it is also refreshing to see that the people sitting around the alternative fuel table bring different backgrounds and points of views than we typically don’t see in our industry. For too long, trucking industry meetings have been populated with lots of men with gray hair, and it is nice to see that trucking is now bringing in folks from a wider variety of backgrounds. The benefits of diversity are well chronicled, and I think we are in for some very creative solutions to the challenges we are facing to get to zero-emissions transportation. We sure need them.

People did not come to the workshop to just observe or even to complain — I’ve been at a fair number of alternative fuel events where all people do is talk about how hard it is going to be deploy vehicles powered by something other than diesel. The people at our workshop, and at ACT Expo, were engaged and shared their experiences and interacted with each other.

Like I said at the beginning of this blog, I have not processed all the things I learned at ACT Expo, but the key takeaways for me are that we have the right people in place, with the passion, drive, and willingness to collaborate to get us to where we want to be. That is, a more sustainable and profitable freight industry. Let’s go get it done.