Trucking companies see a not-too-distant future for battery-electric trucks

CHAT SUBJECT AT THE HEART OF THE HOME: First experiences with battery electric fleets.

DETAILS: Bill Bleim of NFI Industries participated in the first-ever tests of Class 8 electric trucks. Bleim knows their limitations and the roles they perform best. Schneider’s Rob Reich has less experience, but both companies are proving electrified transport’s place in the heavy freight world.

SPEAKERS: Bill Bliem, senior vice president of fleet services at NFI; and Rob Reich, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Schneider.

BIOS: Bliem oversees the end-to-end management and maintenance of NFI’s fleet of trucks and material handling equipment. He and his team manage NFI’s purchasing, licensing/tolls and fuel departments. NFI operates over 4,200 tractors and over 12,000 trailers and chassis. Bliem joined NFI in 2009 as Vice President of Maintenance, bringing over 30 years of fleet and maintenance experience to the company.

Reich has been chief administrative officer of Schneider since 2019, having served as senior vice president of equipment, maintenance and driver development. He held several leadership positions during his tenure at Schneider in the areas of maintenance, human resources, driver development, driver training and safety. Additionally, Reich has served on the board of directors of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency since 2015 and has served as its president since 2017.

KEY QUOTES FROM BLIEM AND REICH:

Bliem: “I think the funding opportunities, not just in California but the rest of the country, will have to be in play for at least two, three, four years if we’re going to see a large-scale rollout.”

Bliem: “What we find is that once [the drivers] get over that anxiety and get into those trucks, it’s pretty hard to get them out of them. … They love the power behind them. They like calm. They like not to come home smelling of diesel [but instead] just the comfort of the ride [and] do not sit over a hot engine or sit behind a hot engine. They really like electric trucks.

Reich: “We had to rethink only operationally how the trucks are assigned. Historically, two drivers would share a truck because you didn’t have much time to transition. Now we know it will be more of a next truck because they will be fully loaded. And so, [there are] slightly different operations that we had to think about from a truck assignment perspective, and we’ll have to work with our drivers on that. But we believe we have the right plan in place and the right infrastructure in place to support that.

Reich: “We have set ourselves ambitious sustainability goals. For example, by 2035 our goal is to reduce our emissions per mile by 60%. And while we were working on that goal, we really came to the conclusion that by 2035, all of our daytime taxis would be electric. And so you think about where these day taxis are in our business – that’s a big part of our intermodal drayage. So this is a great first opportunity in California. We expect this to spread over the years throughout the country. I also think that many of our dedicated activities will integrate well. It’s not as high end. It’s often back and forth. …So those are really the two places we think we’ll see electric [trucks] grow first: intermodal platform then absolutely in the dedicated space.

FREIGHTWAVES’ list of Top 500 For-Hire Carriers includes Schneider (#7) and NFI (#33).

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