By Doyle Sumrall
Senior Director of Business Development
The truck equipment industry is experiencing a rollercoaster of technology innovations for vocational truck applications. Companies are developing more and more green initiatives to meet the growing trend of reducing fuel usage and environmental impacts. Firms are also under pressure to comply with government regulations, and end-users want to capitalize on the incentives that are offered for going green. However, now that fuel prices are averaging only $1.50–$2 per gallon, it’s difficult to justify the development and use of these new technologies. So what happens now?
I believe the industry should follow the example of most forward-thinking businesses and continue developing beneficial innovations that will generate solid payback when fuel costs increase. When fuel was at $4.50 a gallon, companies invested a lot of time and money in decreasing equipment weight and fuel usage. There is still no question that using recycled materials, improving aerodynamics and reducing weight and fuel consumption are positive steps in preparing for the future. In addition, companies that do so will likely gain an advantage over competitors.
I recently met with the sales and marketing team at Supreme Corp. (Goshen, IN) and learned that the company is working hard to push the key elements of practical green truck equipment forward.
“This is a real challenge we are always working on,” said Bob Besse, Supreme’s director of marketing and product planning. “We are always involving our suppliers and challenging them to come up with renewable source and recycled materials to be used in our production. The balance is to get lighter, use recycled or renewable source materials and to keep the durability of our body as its key value.”
Supreme, which is partnering with alternative drive companies to build equipment that uses the least possible amount of fuel, is focused on developing aerodynamically designed bodies and is also offering products for smaller, lighter chassis.
Demand for small, aerodynamic bodies for light trucks is common in Europe, and Supreme is proving that there is demand in the U.S. as well. The company’s Astro body boasts smooth lines and is specifically designed to mount on GM’s lightest chassis-cab offering. The combination of a Colorado or Canyon chassis and the Astro body offers the end-user a small but secure package for delivery or service applications.
On larger trucks, Supreme is integrating its insulated body with Peterbilt’s hybrid offering. This Class 7 Model 335 diesel-electric hybrid chassis combination can improve fuel utilization by 20% in high stop-and-go applications, such as city delivery.
Also, Supreme’s dry freight body is mounted on the all-electric Zero, a Class 4 Isuzu N-Series repowered with an electric drive system capable of supporting a 75-mile delivery route with no fuel other than the electricity stored in its batteries.
In addition to truck bodies, Supreme also produces shuttle buses with its StarTrans Division for applications such as airport parking. StarTrans has partnered with Azure Dynamics to offer a hybrid-electric bus for city applications. The combination of an advanced drive system and the smooth lines of a molded body creates a highly efficient people mover.
Supreme is a good example of an organization dealing with the realities and executing the strategies summarized in the NTEA’s North American Truck Equipment Industry Outlook and Strategy Report. (This report is available as a bundled package with the Profitability, Cost and Technology Playbook: Strategic Insights and Best Practices for Truck Equipment Manufacturers and Distributors in the “Shop NTEA” section of NTEA.com.) Partnering with others, targeting small markets and investing with a longer-term view are all solid ways to demonstrate that you can improve your customers’ bottom lines.
For more information on Supreme, visit www.supremecorp.com.