Future Technology

Trucking is on the cusp of major changes; our guidance reports explore upcoming technologies that will impact fuel economy.

The trucking industry is on the verge of some potentially disruptive, revolutionary changes. Over the past few years, discussions have matured on all-electric powertrains, automated or even self-driving trucks, e-commerce adding last-mile modes, and others. These solutions come from significant challenges for our transportation systems such as environmental impacts, urbanization, population mix, etc.

NACFE has decided to build on the work that we have done in scaling available technologies and promoting emerging technologies, to now work on guiding future technology solutions. Available technologies are those that an end user can purchase or easily add to their new equipment. NACFE defines emerging technologies as those that are evolutionary or incremental in nature. Most of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SuperTruck program solutions fall into the category of emerging technologies.

The Run on Less verification of 10.1 MPG using available technologies, of course inspires us to continue the work of Confidence Reports utilizing data and information from early-adopting fleets, the manufacturers of the technologies, and all others with key information. But at the same time, these future—possibly revolutionary—technologies, need the same sort of unbiased review to help fleets consider them and for manufacturers to learn and adapt their product solutions to better meet fleets’ needs.

For NACFE to conduct Guidance Reports on future technologies, the technologies must be moving from the lab into the real world, including a demonstration of an acceptable payback for fleets to adopt, but with many unknown questions still needing answers. They may be developed by new companies, either startups or companies from adjacent industries, or by more traditional commercial-vehicle manufacturers or suppliers.

This work will require NACFE to ask, “What do you expect the benefits and consequences to be if you adopted this technology?” versus “What has been your experience with a technology?” But we believe the processes that have been employed for Confidence Reports will also serve to answer these questions for future, revolutionary Ideas.

Electric Trucks

Fully electric Trucks, often referred to as battery electric trucks, are reaching wider-scale consideration as truck, engine, and other component makers are developing the systems that will support such vehicles. Battery and power-electronic development has progressed to make these trucks viable and other powertrain solutions such as fuel cells are being developed to help reduce adverse consequences. These trucks will have many benefits (more renewable energy, simpler design) but come with challenges (need for new infrastructure, development investments).

NACFE will begin with an Overview of Electric Trucks and then provide detailed Guidance Reports on different market segments, defined primarily by the trucks’ duty cycles. Potential studies will cover light-duty delivery, medium-duty box and heavy-duty city, regional and long-haul tractors.

Other New Powertrains

Additional advancements are underway to improve the applicability and payback for trucks. One such example are range extenders for battery electric trucks, which could include hydrogen or other fuels.

Highly Automated Trucks

Advancements in technologies that enable vehicles to be self-driving have progressed significantly in the past few years. Demonstrations around the globe are proving that this is possible for all types of vehicles from personal mobility passenger cars to many forms of commercial vehicles, and will have many safety, efficiency, and utilization improvements.

In late 2016, NACFE published a report on two-truck platooning where the benefits and consequences of platooning two driven tractor-trailers were studied in depth. That work resulted in the insight that the trucking industry is on a path to more automated driving with real value to end users occurring throughout various stages of an evolution to autonomous trucking.

This is another topic for a series of Guidance Reports for the industry and the key developers of these solutions.


Efficient goods movement not only comes from improving the miles traveled per unit of energy, but more importantly, from the amount of freight hauled. Many other technologies, such as the use of big data via telematics, mode-shifts, and freight matching will also have a big impact on freight efficiency as connectivity will allow better deployment of assets.

NACFE is interested in your thoughts. Reach out to us with your ideas.