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Reuters Events: Wanted - Customers for electric truck fleets



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By Lisa Baertlein

ATLANTA, May 24 (Reuters) -U.S. trucking firms say a government-mandated transition from diesel to electric big rigs could end up costing them big money if customers are not willing to pay a premium for zero-emissions shipping services.

Executives at several fleet owners told Reuters they have had trouble persuading clients to pay more for use of their electric trucks, with most prioritizing money over shining up their climate credentials in a tough market.

"We're competing with companies that aren't willing to change to zero-emissions," said Rudy Diaz, CEO of Hight Logistics, a Los Angeles port trucking company with 20 electric trucks.

Chevron Chief Procurement Officer Steve Freeman said his team plans to use hydrogen trucks for its outsourced zero-emission trucking services. But regardless of how those cleaner trucks are powered, shippers won't pay a premium.

"That's the reality. Why would you?" Freeman said at the Reuters Events Supply Chain conference in Atlanta.

State and federal regulators want to "green" U.S. transportation because it is the largest single source of direct greenhouse gas emissions. The sector accounts for 29% of U.S. emissions, nearly a quarter of which came from medium- and heavy-duty trucks, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Progress so far has been slow.

Deployments of heavy-duty electric semi trucks rose from 100 in 2022 to 700 in 2023 - less than 1% of the total U.S. trucking fleet, according to TRC Companies' 2024 State of Sustainable Fleets report released on Monday.

The pace of future adoption, meanwhile, is unclear due to truck manufacturing hiccups, California's delayed implementation of electric fleet purchasing mandates, charging infrastructure shortages and the Securities and Exchange Commission's decision to drop a requirement for U.S.-listed companies to disclose indirect emissions, according to the report.

Many U.S. trucking companies are also slow to buy EV rigs because they added diesel-powered semi tractors during the early pandemic's shipping boom and are now oversupplied, said Dan Hearsch, Americas co-leader of the automotive and industrial practice at consultancy AlixPartners.

"It isn't clear that electric semis and other delivery trucks are very important to consumers. It's a 'nice-to-have,' but not driving such decisions in any significant way," he said.

Electric semis can cost up to three times more than diesel rigs. And while many companies have used government incentives and grants to offset that extra expense, some of those subsidies are scheduled to expire or phase out. California operators with more than 50 trucks, for example, will lose access to state purchase vouchers on January 1.

Katie Griley, president of family-run Griley Air Freight in California, told Reuters she would like to buy more EVs for her fleet but needs customers to support those investments with long-term trucking contracts.

Her 90-truck fleet currently includes two electric Volvo VOLVb.ST semis.

"It's a waiting game," she said.

Griley said she provides zero-emissions services to Kuehne + Nagel KNIN.S without a premium because they move large volumes. A second logistics firm does pay extra for green trucking, but she did not disclose the fees.

Trucker Schneider National SNDR.N has 92 electric eCascadia semis from Daimler Truck's DTGGe.DE Freightliner division running cargo for PepsiCo's PEP.N Frito-Lay snack division and Goodyear Tire GT.O.

Other zero-emissions customers include Dove soap brand owner Unilever ULVR.L, online retail giant Amazon.com AMZN.O, solar software seller Nextracker NXT.O, scooter rental firm Lime Technologies LIMET.ST and Microsoft MSFT.O, companies and transport providers said at the Reuters Events conference.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm whether these companies pay premiums for zero-emissions services.

Brad Bayne, vice president of strategic initiatives at Southern California's 4 Gen Logistics, said some of his customers are paying a bit more for zero-emissions trucking from its fleet of 64 electric semis. But convincing new customers to pay extra is harder.

"With the current market conditions, I think the answer would be a little mixed," Bayne said.



Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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