The anthropologist Margaret mead is credited with the quote: "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
After two recent industry meetings, I don't doubt the truth behind those words.
In January, I was invited to a press conference at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 offices in Chicago announcing the formation of the Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative Leadership Group.
I was invited as a guest of Cummins Emissions Solutions, whose Government Relations Director, Brian Mormino, sits on the Leadership Group. And this "small group of thoughtful people" is actually a big group; I was impressed to see that this was a standing room only event!
The Midwest Clean Diesel Initiative has the lofty goal of reducing emissions from one million diesel engines the EPA's Region 5 by 2010. According to their statement of collaborative principles, "U.S. EPA Region 5 estimates that 3.3 million diesel-powered engines in the Midwest can be affected through the adoption of cleaner fuels and idle reduction and diesel retrofit technologies/strategies including rebuilding, repowering, replacing, refueling and retrofitting them with emissions control devices."
Region 5 is a perfect place for such an initiative. Encompassing Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the region is home to the busiest crossings on the U.S.-Canada border, as well as the world's third-busiest intermodal hub, in Chicago. About one third of the nation's freight moves through the Midwest, and the volume of that freight is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2020.
So, there's some clean-up work to be done.
Although the group is new, they have already mapped out a clear, three-part agenda: development of state diesel emission reduction programs; development of an education campaign for fleets; and development of an educational strategy for transportation planning organizations and elected officials.
The good news for fleets in Region 5 is that financial and technical assistance will be available for retrofitting older diesels. To get involved, go to www.epa.gov/midwestcleandiesel/
I came across a few more small groups of thoughtful people at the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting and Expo last month in Tampa.
While sitting in on the "State Maintenance Council Development Guidelines" Task Force meeting, chaired by Bruce Stockton, maintenance director at Contract Freighters, Inc., out of Joplin, MO, I learned that Bruce's efforts to start a State Maintenance Council in Missouri may be about to pay off.
We had written some time ago about Bruce's attempts to get a state council going in Missouri, and his frustration that the state's trucking association wasn't willing to sponsor and support a council at that time.
Well, times have changed. At the TMC meeting in February, Bruce announced that Tom Crawford, the new president of the Missouri Trucking Association, is actively supporting the creation of a Missouri State Maintenance Council.
It's not just talk, either. Bruce announced that Mr. Crawford has set a goal of holding a Missouri State Maintenance Technician Championship in June, 2008.
As the meeting went on, attendees from both Maine and Arizona spoke up to say that their states were also in the game. A Maine maintenance council is in the works, and the Arizona Trucking Association is "looking into it."
We've been big boosters of State Maintenance Councils for a long time, so the possibility of three new groups spread out across the country is phenomenal news.
And Missouri is not the only state with ambitions to start its own technician championship: at the Task Force meeting charged with planning TMC's SuperTech2007 national technician competition, representatives from the Tennessee State Maintenance Council announced that their first state technician competition will be held May 11th in Nashville.
At this rate, there could someday be a state champ from all 50 states competing in TMC's SuperTech competition, and that wouldn't be a bad thing at all.
Small groups of thoughtful people seem to be popping up all over in the fleet transportation industry. Are you a member of one?
Go to www.fleetmag.com for a listing of State Maintenance Councils.