Trucks Lead the Way to a Cleaner Future

While we had all heard of the issues of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions,
it was Al Gore who brought home the inconvenient truth to many of us in the trucking
industry back in 2006: an urgent climate crisis demands global action now.

Tommy Hodges

My company and my colleagues at the American Trucking Associations (ATA) have now committed themselves to doing something about the threat. At the front of our minds is the knowledge that for every gallon of fuel we burn, 22.2 pounds of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. That striking statistic drove us through the challenging process of developing an industry-wide set of initiatives to reduce the greenhouse gases our industry generates.

It was my privilege to chair ATA’s high-level Sustainability Task Force, which brought together a cross-section of our industry, including CEOs of major trucking companies and CEOs of engine manufacturers. They had different interests but a shared goal of building a sustainable future for the industry.

Our industry is no stranger to cleaning up the atmosphere. Over the past 20 years we have eliminated 90 percent of the particulates from diesel fuel and lowered nitrous oxide emissions through new technology. When we started trying to approach the problem of CO2, we had the background and an understanding of what it could cost the industry and of the practical applications that would go with it. We came up with six major points that our executive committee bought into unanimously, without one dissenting vote.

First of all, we call for a national speed limit of 65 miles per hour for all cars and trucks. Speed limiters on all new trucks would be required to be set at 68 miles per hour or less.

Second, decrease idling. Idling in our industry comes in two forms. One form everyone can probably relate to—non-discretionary idling. That’s what we do when we’re sitting in a traffic jam and we can’t go forward, backwards or sideways; we’re just stuck, and very few of us turn that engine off. Discretionary idling is where drivers leave their engines on at truck stops to power their appliances and heating systems. We are making progress here too by using energy-efficient options.

Our number three proposal is to increase our participation in EPA’s SmartWay—this is a government program that works. To be a member of the program, you do a self-audit that shows how you’re stacking up: what technologies you are using, what things you are doing to enhance your fuel burn so that you use every gallon in the most efficient way you can.

Number four is reducing congestion. I have often likened our industry to the blood that flows through our bodies. If you can envision our industry as the blood that flows through the economic veins and arteries of this country, you know that when you have congestion, you have problems. And we do have problems—problems that cause a lot of the environmental issues we also have to deal with. We need to get more productive.

Our item number five is that we have one driver in one truck driving down the road by himself, and he’s limited in the load that he can handle. We’ve got to figure out ways—whether by increasing weights or lengths of trailers, by using combination trailers, or by setting uniform standards in the western part of the United States—to become more productive, to get more value out of every gallon of fuel we burn.

And finally, we are supporting national fuel economy standards, working with the OEMs—the original equipment manufacturers—to come up with standards that help us get a better burn of fuel.

We must always remember that nearly 100 percent of the communities in North America are served by truck, and 80 percent are served only by trucks, so people in every community depend on trucks. Trucks are here to stay, which is why our programs make common sense, economic sense, business sense and, above all, environmental sense. They will help lead the way to a cleaner tomorrow.

Although Neiderle’s research found that women did as well as men and that a competitive environment improved both group’s performance, women were less likely (35 percent as opposed to 73 percent for men) to participate in a tournament setting. Even the best performing women declined to compete more often than the worst performing men.

Neiderle’s conclusion is that women are more comfortable in a less competitive environment, and that creates a more risk-averse level of performance. This confirms Lang’s view that women who are competitive are often stepping outside of their comfort zone.

To be in a leadership position requires addressing challenges that are not always within one’s realm of comfort. While this research supports my male friend’s view that competitive women are not always appreciated in the executive suite. Perhaps it is a better indication that it’s time to expand the comfort zone of both men and women and to surrender some long-held perceptions that could be affecting the presence of women at the corporate level.