LAS VEGAS. In the next ten years, trucking will see a surge in hybrid and electric vehicle adoption, widespread use of wireless vehicle management systems, and a sharp new focus on freight productivity, according to a research specialist on advanced technology, an international consultant on wireless management systems, and the chief executive of a major truck manufacturer who spoke on a panel here at Heavy Duty Dialogue. Conference.

“De-urbanization” or the development of linked sub-cities banded into enormous metropolitan areas, “point towards a future where light and heavy trucks,,,,, more specifically hybrid and electric commercial vehicles will have a key role to play, “ said Sandeep Kar, global program manager of commercial vehicle research at Frost & Sullivan.

Hybrids not only offer fuel economy and emissions benefits that will be important within these “mega-cities,” but they put the least pressure “on the existing transportation and energy infrastructure,” said Kar. Unlike some other alternatives, “hybrid trucks do not need to rely on a nationwide fuelling infrastructure, nor do they increase exposure to new energy source,” he told conference attendees.

“In 2015, Frost & Sullivan predicts that 39,400 hybrid Class 6-8 trucks will be manufactured in North America, which will represent roughly 8% of the total truck production that year,” Kar reported. About 72% of those trucks will be diesel electric hybrids, with the remainder using hydraulic hybrid technology, according to the company’s research.

“Based on directional trends, we estimate that by 2020 about 15% of all Class 6-8 trucks manufactured in North America will be hybrid trucks,” Kar said.

About 40% of all trucks in truckload fleets are equipped with wireless data systems, said Clem Driscoll, president of C.J. Driscoll & Assocs. Preferring the more general term “mobile resource management (MRM) systems,” Driscoll told attendees that private fleet adoption of wireless systems is now at 25 to 35%, but growing even more strongly than among truckload carriers.

Expanding features and capabilities combined with declining costs for both hardware and wireless service and strong return-on-investment performance will expand MRM use to fleet applications of all types in the near future, according to Driscoll. Those new capabilities include increased monitoring of vehicle sensors for safety and maintenance applications, better displays and driver interfaces to reduce driver distractions, dynamic routing based on real-time traffic information, and better integration with handheld devices, he said.

“There’s really no disputing that trucks will remain the essential means of moving freight in North America,” said Dennis Slagle, president & CEO of North American Trucks, the parent of Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks. “No other mode has the same reach or flexibility. But as good as we are, society will demand in this new decade that our industry get even better – more efficient, more productive, more responsive – and at the same time, reduce our impact on the environment.”

Finding this new productivity, which will also address environmental needs by minimizing energy consumption, will require reexamination of “the entire freight hauling system, including infrastructure, logistic patterns, inter-modality and truck technology,” Slagle said. “It’s not enough to address any one of these areas. Truly enhancing the efficiency of trucking requires a comprehensive approach.”

“Trucks exist to move boxes,” Slagle said. “That’s what they evolved to do. But this evolution is not finished. I think it’s safe to say that 10 years from now, our trucks will still move boxes – and all other kinds of freight,” he concluded. “ But all the stakeholders, including the manufacturers, carriers, shippers and regulators – and maybe even the consumers – will have to collaborate to do it more efficiently … with less fuel, a smaller carbon footprint, [and] a lower cost of operation.”