The recent visit with trucking associations representatives and truck drivers at the White House has made great gains in the trucking industry. Everyone just loves the pictures of Trump behind the wheel of a big rig, the Interstate One to be exact. And while the topic of discussion was centered on health care for truck drivers, other topics could have been brought to the meeting. For starters, in the proposed budget the Trump administration is nixing the programs for advanced vehicle technology research. The problem is, this technology is doing more than saving the environment. It’s instrumental in helping the trucking industry keep rolling without letting rising fuel costs eat away at profits.
Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program
In Trump’s new budget proposal the administration has promised to increase military defense and border security funding by $54 billion. At the same time, programs that landed on the chopping block include clean energy programs and environmental protection at the least. According to the new budget the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program provided funding through so called “green loans.” These loans bolstered US manufacturing facilities that support higher efficiency standards.
The program has been used to successfully back projects like fuel efficiency technologies in vehicles. Backed by the Title XVII Innovative Clean Energy Projects loan program, the program has issued $32 billion in loans, with only 2 percent losses of commitments aka loans that weren’t paid back. The programs supported by these loans have reduced carbon dioxide, while promoting clean energy. But that’s not all the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program has done for the transportation industry. It is also promoting research that will help advance truck driving technology to improve fuel efficiency. At face value you look at a program like the ATVM and think that it’s obvious why Trump would drop it, given his stance on climate change and the environment. However, this is where the problem lies.
Trucking and Fuel Technology
In addition to being a green, clean energy program the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing has another purpose. The other less obvious purpose of fuel efficient technology is to reduce the amount of fuel used, and therefore paid for at the pump. If you can haul a load on 4 miles a gallon of diesel, but your competitor is running at 6 mpg fuel capacity, they are going to come out ahead every single haul. In the trucking industry fuel makes up more than 30 percent of expenses for trucking companies like Central Oregon Trucking Co., John Christner Trucking, and Heartland Express. To make ends meet, trucking companies have to do whatever it takes to cut diesel expenses.
Fuel efficient technology is the perfect solution for the trucking industry, which is why it’s so disappointing to see the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program on the way out the door. In order to keep pressing forward with fuel efficient tech, the US has to make it a priority. And by cutting it out of the budget for government spending, well, that’s not making it a priority. It is taking away from the trucking industry in a time when trucking needs all the help it can get.
What to Expect
The good thing is that the proposed budget is just that, a proposal, and it has to get approved, passed, voted through, and enacted. During that lengthy process there is a good chance that the ATVM program will stay put, just like some of the other proposed eliminations. Call it politics, and it also shows that the trucking industry has a chance to have its voice heard regarding fuel efficiency tech programs. What we need is an advocate group for truck drivers and trucking companies, along the lines of the American Trucking Associations, that will step up and call out the administration on this oversight.
It is clear that the administration hoped to knock out any budgetary spending on so called green energy programs. This is what you want to see from POTUS given his stance on putting America First through economic and military power. But the problem is that these green energy programs have the potential to turn the trucking industry around. If we can continue to improve fuel economy the trucking industry will be able to get more hauled on less, which will only boost the US economy. Those in support of trucking need to speak up and make sure programs geared at helping the industry stay in place.