Trucks are always on my mind. As they approach on the highway they literally pull me toward them. Alongside me, I feel the heat of their engines. Once past, their tailwind pulls me in their wake. I grip my handlebars extra tight to steady my meager bike against their massive tug.
Trucks are also everywhere. Every object we see and touch has been on a truck. Every finished product has been on multiple trucks in its transformation from raw material to consumer good. There are 15.5 million delivery trucks in the United States, one truck for every 21 people.
Zachary England and his brothers are the fourth generation to run C.R. England, an international trucking firm with 1,700 staff and over 6,000 drivers. “My great grandfather started with one truck. We have survived and grown through World War II, gas rationing, and the deregulation of the 1980’s. We continue to address the issues that face material transport. These days that focus is on technology, safety, and sustainability.”
C.R England has a company pledge, ‘Work Safe, Home Safe,’ that combines a focus on safety and personal responsibility to create a positive work environment as well as, “to come home safely to my loved ones.” The pledge permeates C.R. England’s culture – down to being posted on the restroom walls.
Zach his co-COO Brandon outlined key issues facing C.R. England, and the entire trucking industry. “Trucks continue to get cleaner. Today’s trucks emit 60 times less emissions than we did in 1988. In the fifty most polluted areas of our country, the exhaust from our trucks is cleaner than the outside air. We don’t like to say ‘add regulation’ but regulation got us there.”
“We have more trucks on the road than ever before, but are also seeing a shift toward intermodal transport: truck to rail to truck. Intermodal transport provides a 60% reduction in the carbon footprint of moving goods.
“Natural gas trucks are becoming a reality. We purchased our first five LNG trucks in 2011, added two more in 2013 and ten in 2014. All of these are operating in Southern California. LNG trucks cost 50% more to buy, but our early purchases were aided with grants. Much of our network is long haul trucking, which is not well suited to LNG. It takes a long time to refuel an LNG truck, so they work best for trucks that run daily routes with a rest period, often overnight, for refueling. Natural gas is still finding its niche in the industry.”
An interesting trend is partnering with dedicated customers to invest in more environmentally friendly trucks. Where we have regular routes for prominent national companies, we share the increased cost of sustainable trucks. It becomes part of their overall sustainability effort.
One of C.R England’s challenges right now is finding drivers. “There is a serious shortage of drivers. Part of it is a generational change: truck driving is not viewed as a desirable occupation. People don’t want to be away from home.” C.R. England operates its own driver training school at five locations throughout the country in order to help meet demand and create drivers that follow their protocols. Ninety percent of their drivers come without a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The school lasts 17 days, followed by 30 days of in-cab training. New classes start every week, and there is a tuition payback option that allows people to attend for free if they fulfill a minimum nine-month work commitment. One key aspect of C.R. England’s driving strategy is driving in pairs. Regulations mandate maximum drive time for a driver, so having pairs allows C.R. England to better utilize their equipment and create a less isolating experience for drivers. “We help many people embark on new careers. It is satisfying to give people the opportunity for stable, career level employment.”
Along my trip, many people cite autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles as a feature of how we will live tomorrow. Brandon explained his thoughts on this. “We think about autonomous vehicles in four stages. The first is providing drivers with automatic aids, such as adaptive acceleration and braking. We already have these. The next phase is adaptive systems like self-parking and proximity detection of obstacles and other vehicles. These are happening now or will be in place soon. The third stage will be fully automated driving with a driver in the cab to handle stops, fueling, and unloading. The fourth stage will be fully automated vehicles moving between points without any humans. We are too far from that to actively plan for it now.” Zach added, “A few times a year I drive a route to stay in touch with our drivers experiences. I recently drove from Salt Lake to Las Vegas. I don’t think I touched the brake or accelerator pedals more than five times total on the entire trip.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“Better than we live today. We’ve always been forward thinking. We believe in continuous improvement for employees, customers, and communities. We have to adapt and adjust to new conditions, but we will continue to improve.” – Brandon Harrison, COO
“We will continue to focus on our core competency with training. We have made improvements in the past, and will continue to do so moving forward.” – Zach England, COO