Charge! – The rise of the electric trucks

electric trucks

For as long as anyone alive today can remember, trucks have had big powerful engines in them to haul any load they were asked to move, and almost since the first trucks left the factory, the battle to get more mileage out of them started. Today, things are changing, electric trucks are being seen on haulage routes all over the country, but what are they like and what does it mean for truck drivers now and into the future?

Modern trucks have made huge strides in fuel efficiency, the latest Peterbilt trucks are so far ahead of where the industry was just 2 decades ago that the progress really is amazing, but even that cannot compete with the possibility of an electric drivetrain for running costs. While much of the talk about a new wave of trucks has focused on autonomous models that drive themselves, the reality is that for the foreseeable future, it is the change in drivetrain to electric that will affect drivers the most.

As an industry, trucking is not renowned for running to embrace new technology, exactly the opposite in fact, we like what we have because we know it works, and we like things that we can rely on to work. However, this is a big change that none of us can ignore, and eventually this technology will prove itself as reliable as anything else, this means that it is important for all of us to understand what the technology is and what it means for working truck drivers.

Currently there are half a dozen or more manufacturers  investing heavily in electric trucks, from Tesla that everyone has probably heard about to new US startup Nikola, but there are others all over the world. In Japan, Mitsubishi, Fuso and Hino are all producing working trucks, while in Europe both Mercedes-Benz and Swedish company Scania, who do not currently sell their product in the US, are also ploughing development funds into creating electric truck lines.

With so many manufacturers involved, it is clearly the future for the industry, and it’s not just fuel savings that are driving this. At the moment, electric buses and garbage trucks are highlighting just how much electric power can save operators, with savings of $60,000 a year possible thanks to the fuel and much decreased maintenance costs, so while electric power requires a significant upfront investment compared to traditional trucks, long term, operators are saving money. With initial purchase costs decreasing quite rapidly as the technology advances, the cost advantages will become more and more attractive to operators.

As battery technology is advancing rapidly, increasing range and decreasing charge times simultaneously, electric trucks become viable for more and more uses, so it perhaps won’t be long until the revving of a big engine is replaced by the gentle whir of an electric motor at every truck stop in the country. How much working life changes for truck drivers will depend on the range and charge times of course, but it is certainly to be a lot cleaner at the fuel stop.

Requirements for How to Get a CDL

While certification programs will prepare an individual when it comes to how to get a CDL, they will also include several hours of in-class and on the road training, in order to qualify for the CDL exam.

A commercial driver’s license will allow an individual to operate commercial trucks that have a cargo area and an attached cab, with a combined weight that is greater than 27,000 pounds, in addition to trucks that have a detached towed vehicle that weighs less than 8,000 pounds. Vehicles a driver will be qualified to operate will include tow trucks, dump trucks, utility trucks, big rigs and delivery trucks. Drivers of certain special purpose vehicles, such as farm vehicles, commercial buses, school buses and fire engines may be required to take additional tests. Requirements for special purpose vehicles can differ, depending on the state.

The minimum requirements for how to get a CDL have been established by the federal government. State requirements can vary, but will be just as strict as federal regulations. Testing for the commercial driver’s license can be conducted through an accredited training program or school, or by the state.

These training programs are found through community colleges and vocational schools and will provide students with the knowledge and skills that are needed to pass the CDL test. The program length will vary, and will range from one to twelve months. During the first week of training a student will be taught trucking and traffic laws, in addition to federal safety regulations. A student will learn about the laws that apply to cargo and truck transportation and they will also learn how to complete paperwork that’s relevant to transporting freight.

Program instruction will move outdoors, where a student will learn how to perform pre-trip freight and vehicle inspection. There will be a significant amount of time that’s devoted to on the road training. A student enrolled in a CDL program will practice on the road and be accompanied by a CDL certified driver. The skills that are covered will include such topics as docking, parking and backing, vehicle control and gear shifting, defensive driving, unloading and loading and city and highway driving. During the final month of the program a student can choose to complete an internship or an advanced driving course.

Enrollment Requirements for Driving Programs

How to get a CDL will also involve obtaining a learner’s permit, prior to applying for program enrollment. Other program enrollment requirements can also include being at least eighteen years of age, having a valid driver’s license and a clean driving history and passing a drug screening. Most schools will also require an applicant to have a high school diploma or the equivalent.