Maybe it's the early spring weather or maybe Earth Day is beginning to gain some traction, but whatever the reason there's been a good deal of green news connected to trucking the last few weeks. Going through the various press releases and reports, I see radical change in attitude and approach among all interested parties.

Trucking used to consider environmental concerns an impediment, if not an outright threat to running a successful business. At best, green issues were addressed for reasons of image and at worst because the law said so. Today, though, the thinking at most fleets has turned around 180 deg. Green has become a key element in maintaining profitability.

What's really interesting is that many of trucking's critics on environmental issues have undergone a similar transformation. Both sides, it seems, have finally made the connection between productivity and environmental impact. In an unexpected outbreak of reason, both have come to the conclusion that more efficient trucks and operations are not just compatible with green initiatives, but actually advance them.

So we all agree. Saving fuel either by getting better fuel economy or by using truck capacity more efficiently improves fleet profitability, while also reducing greenhouse gas and other air pollutant emissions. The only question is, why did both sides persist in their adversarial relationship for so long?

Just last month the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued two reports that illustrate this change perfectly. The first, written jointly with the fleet management company PHH Arval, is called “Greenhouse Gas Management for Medium-Duty Truck Fleets.” Essentially a primer for wringing the utmost productivity out of medium-duty truck operations, it looks at 12 strategies in some detail, including how to match GVWs to individual applications, how to fine-tune engine electronic controls for optimal fuel efficiency, and how to motivate drivers to help realize those efficiency goals.

The second report is far broader in scope and really brings home just how well aligned trucking and environmental-advocate perspectives have become. Called “The Good Haul,” it makes a strong argument that we need a national freight strategy.

It starts with the premise that “trade is the lifeblood of the global economy, and freight movement is the backbone of the system.” It then goes on to outline 28 individual projects already underway that offer practical and effective environmental and economic benefits to all parties. Looking at all modes of transportation, not just pointing a finger at one or favoring another, the EDF offers these examples as a blueprint for a modern, rational freight system “that is cleaner and more efficient, supports a strong economy and creates stable jobs.”

That sounds very much like the position taken by trucking industry groups such as the American Trucking Assns. and this publication. Even a year ago, who would have thought that an advocacy group with environmental defense in its name would be publicly allying itself with trucking's call to address congestion, infrastructure investment and freight efficiency?

Things really have changed, to the ultimate benefit of everyone.


E-mail: jmele@fleetowner.com

Web site: fleetowner.com