Friday, January 28, 2011

Panel Proposes Policies to Speed High-Tech Truck Development

A panel of transportation manufacturing, operating and service industry experts are recommending an incentive program, spending on research and development, and manufacturing grants as the best options to rapidly convert the trucking industry to cleaner high-tech vehicles.

Released Monday, the 25-page report titled “Speeding High-Efficiency Truck Adoption: Recommended Policies, Incentives and Investments,” was authored by non-profit clean technology consulting and services group CALSTART. The report was based on transportation industry surveys and input from a task force of 40 leaders from various transportation and transportation-related firms.

The report makes clear that the trucking industry is facing growing performance- and emission-related regulations in the coming years and the transportation industry should pusue a proactive plan to see those regulations complimented with "carrot and stick" policies.

In developing the report, CALSTART surveyed truck fleet users, manufacturers, and suppliers in order to better understand the primary implementation barriers, needs, and policy recommendations that could address an accelerated transition to more efficient, cleaner trucks.

The initial survey found that over 90 percent of respondents rated truck efficiency as "very important" or "critical/must have."

The report also found that incremental cost is the key barrier to widespread adoption of efficient truck technologies. Close behind this barrier, respondents said that the availability of new technology is an issue, as well as a lack of available performance data on new technology. These barriers create a lack of investment incentive through perceived risk and lack of information.

CALSTART presented these findings to the 40-member task force to further refine the policy recommendations from the survey.

The report details three policy recommendations: implementation of a streamlined voucher-incentive program for high-efficiency vehicle and technology purchase; long-term, substantial research and development funding for improvement of truck efficiency; and, manufacturing grants for efficient transportation technologies.

"Vouchers are preferable to tax credits, grants, loans, accelerated depreciation, and other purchase incentives because they are simple, direct, and immediate," the report said.

Because vouchers follow simple simple rules and provide funds at the time of purchase, the report said that these incentives can improve the business case for new technologies--helping fleets purchase more efficient trucks and helping manufacturers and suppliers increase sales and comply with standards.

R&D funding ranked as a close second in the report's list of policy tools to support high efficiency truck technologies.

"The Task Force believes that a bold and coordinated federal approach is needed to bring the next generation of high efficiency, low emission trucks to market," the report said, calling for a $200 million a year investment by the federal government with an equal amount contributed each year by industry.

Support of manufacturing came in a close third on the report's list, ranking even higher among those from the manufacturing and supply sectors. The report task force concluded that grant programs are needed to support the domestic manufacturing of advanced truck technologies.

"This assistance is especially important during times of industry transition, as manufacturers are retooling factories, changing their focus, and ramping up production of new advanced technologies such as batteries, hybrid components, and advanced engines," the report said, recommending an expansion of the federal government's Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing Incentive Program as a good approach for manufacturing assistance.

The full report can be downloaded from the CALSTART website at