Comment: Back to the future

I was first involved in Transport Engineer back in 2009, when the world was a very different place in terms of commercial vehicle operations.

Not only was telematics in its relative infancy – and the desire for ever greater efficiency across the fleet was nowhere near as great as it is now – but the choice of powertrains was much simpler. Certainly, the idea of almost every truck manufacturer presenting electric versions of their best-selling vehicles was far-fetched. Fast-forward 15 years and operators are seriously considering – or have already started – the transition to battery-powered propulsion for their fleets, and vehicles are tracked, monitored and judged on their environmental and economical performance to the nth degree.

Staying in the late 2000s, while they weren’t mainstream, attempts to look beyond traditional diesel engines were being touted. Not least the likes of biodiesel and dimethyl ether C2H60 (DME), which weren’t without their drawbacks, but lauded for their environmental and operational benefits. The engineering within the transport sector to incorporate different fuels was extensive, but things never really took off.

But times, as I mentioned, have changed. Leading the charge for a potential resurgence of DME is Volvo, which had previously worked with the fuel to the point of having demonstrators running and a launch into the US and European markets pending. As you’ll read on p14, that project never took off, but a number of European players look set to try again.

Meanwhile, biodiesel has become more commonplace and features in regular diesel fuels, but Thermo King is putting its refrigerated trailers behind – literally – B100, a 100% biodiesel fuel (more on p17). The big benefits are reductions in harmful emissions (as much as 60%) and lower level fine particles (80%). It remains to be seen whether truck manufacturers will also jump on board with the pure biodiesel as a fuel, or whether the lure of the electric drivetrain will be too much, but greater choice is sure to be welcomed by many.

Away from vehicles, two institutions that have stood the test of time are on the horizon – the IRTE Skills Challenge and the CV Show. Like the truck industry itself, both have adapted and grown over the years and you can read the latest news about both events on pages 25 and 27, respectively.

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