Outlook for trucking looks promising, say industry leaders

Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and CEO of Daimler Trucks, and Pat Cavanagh, 2014 Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA) Chairman and president of Enovation Controls, predict continued growth for the trucking industry within North America and globally as well.

There is the potential for “significant growth this year,” said Cavanagh. Bernhard said that all signs to “even bigger growth” as recent order intake has been up and the age of the truck fleet is around 11 years.

The two were speakers at the Annual HDMA Breakfast Briefing, held last Friday at the 2014 the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS). More than 900 people were in attendance.

Daimler is one of the world’s most successful automotive companies. HDMA is an organization of NAFTA-based heavy duty original equipment and aftermarket commercial vehicle suppliers.

Enovation Controls provides a complete solution approach for engine control, protection and monitoring.

Rising North American truck demand looks promising for the next two years, said Cavanagh, and projected a 10 percent growth in 2014 and 9 percent in 2015.

In press events held during MATS by truck OEMs, including, DTNA, Kenworth, Mack, Navistar, Peterbilt and Volvo, the consensus by company officials was that retail truck sales for 2014 would be between 210,000 and 240,000 units

While there continues to be a number of business challenges that must be dealt with, like more government regulations and the impact of a global economy, this year “we see more upside than downside, and there are a lot of opportunities for growth,” noted Cavanagh. “The key to success is having the right information and access to the resources that you need to get the job done.”

Daimler’s Bernhard told the audience that much of the truck demand is coming from small and medium fleets, as well as from rental fleets. This is “exciting,” he observed, because when businesses rent equipment it is a sign of the need for increased capacity,  but concern that business growth may not be sustained.

 

Diesel versus alternative fuel

“I am convinced that a highly efficient diesel engine will remain the most important power unit to reduce emissions,” said Bernhard, while acknowledging that there is continued interest in natural gas, especially in certain shorter distance applications where vehicles comes back to a facility every day. “We don’t see any long-haul applications so far.”

The hype with natural gas “is broken and there is more realism,” he added, and pointed out that there is still an issue with infrastructure. “We still have 200 times more diesel stations than natural gas stations and they are all not the same, and many can’t handle fueling trucks.”

 

Regulations

Bernhard also offered some thoughts on Phase Two of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium and Heavy Duty Engines and Vehicles, set to take place in 2017. He suggested that in the discussion of establishing these standards the entire vehicle be considered since fuel efficiency is influenced by more than just the vehicle’s engine.

The infrastructure – condition, road surface, traffic congestion, etc. – also needs to be considered as this too impacts fuel consumptions, he added.

Bernhard emphasized that government regulators need to be mindful of costs when formulating regulations because “when economics gets in the way of the environment, the outcome is not a good one. What good is it if manufacturers and suppliers developed products that customers won’t buy?”

The payback on innovations put on a truck should be about 18 months, he stated.

Furthermore, he recommended that all countries become more flexible in their trade agreements. “There are way too many outdated tariffs still around from the 1950s and 1960s, plus so much paperwork and red tape that is mindboggling and not helping anyone. It’s just a lot of wasted time.”

 

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