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Wrap up for Logistics 2013
Day Two Highlights the Future of Energy
The future was the topic in two separate interesting sessions at RILA 2013—is natural gas the fuel of the future?
The fist session, specifically on that topic, was called “myth-busters”, but was in fact a subtle endorsement of the idea. Cummins, the engine developer, while admitting there wasn’t enough data (time) to fully assess the engine, obviously believes the concept has merit, as did several enthusiastic private fleet owners in the audience. At this point the surplus cost over the equivalent diesel unit has been reduced form +$60K to “just” $20K more. Obviously, busses, local fleets etc have easy infrastructure adaption but the panel seemed to endorse published studies suggesting 20% to fully 50% oif the over-the-road (OTR) fleet is “achievable”! Their sense that the competitive challenges trucking adoption would bring would compel other modes (rail, marine) even before government would.
The transport panel included Werner, NFI, Wal-Mart and Stein-Mart. There, drivers obviously were the number one worry (Stein Mart demonstrated that cultural changes allowed it to reduce turnover form 100%+ to below 30%) exacerbated by government regulations such as CSX2010 and on-board recording devices. But after drivers, the age-old recurring issue, came the topic of gas. Werner stated a NG fleet was a matter of when, no longer “if”. It should be pointed out that the rail network and infrastructure – a series of terminals, yards, crew switching points, fueling stations, etc – lends itself far better to fuel switch than irregular route trucking. At RILA it was also report that a Jones Act shipping fleet is now powered by gas as well - the savings potential are just too great. This may not lead to modal shift, but will save shippers rail money when fully implemented, perhaps early in the next decade.