It's long been said it's not easy being green and when it comes to truck fleets, the reason why is that there are a plethora of choices that can only be sorted out after negotiating a steep learning curve. But according to expert speakers at the second annual “Hybrid Truck & Alternative Fuels Summit,” sponsored by International Truck & Engine Co. in conjunction with the Annual National Truck Equipment Assn. Convention and Work Truck Show, there's no need to stay green about going green.

Dan Kratz, truck operations manager for GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services, stated that market drivers for hybrids include not only concern about high fuel costs, national reliance on a globally unstable petroleum supply, and idling restrictions but also corporate mandates to reduce a fleet's carbon output. “I get calls every day [from customers] stating that the CFO or CEO ‘wants the carbon footprint cut 20% and how do we do that?’”

Speaking for the National Biodiesel Board, Dr. Richard Nelson, a professor at Kansas State University, said biodiesel demand has been driven up most sharply by tax incentives and reached the 450-million gallon production mark last year.

According to Nelson, expansion of biodiesel will hinge on fuel quality and access to feedstocks, be they based on vegetable oils or animal fats. “Biodiesel will not make it if we cannot get fuel quality on a consistent basis,” he stated. “And there must be adequate feedstocks for production.” He said demand for ethanol has driven up corn acreage and as a result soybean acreage used for biodiesel has dropped. On the other hand, he noted, “access to oils, fats and greases” will play a role in meeting biodiesel demand.

Greg Loew, market manager-hybrid vehicles for Altec Industries, a supplier of aerial bucket truck equipment, detailed the nitty-gritty aspects of getting a hybrid truck into the hands of a user. He said there are assembly, truck operator safety, service and sales challenges. “It's night and day to assemble a hybrid-equipped truck,” he stated, so planning must ensure other utility trucks are not delayed on the line. And in designing the truck, he said it's “critical to minimize the differences [in controls, etc.] for the aerial device operator” and also to provide a truck that will “operate smoothly for safe operation in the work zone.”

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