We’ll say this, commercial trucking in the United States is about to enter a phase of dizzying change, starting with the need to address driver turnover in the industry while simultaneously contemplating a move to self-driving vehicles. Globally, the manufacturers of heavy trucks have been scrambling for years to reduce their vehicles’ not-insubstantial carbon footprints. Clearly, the widespread adoption of hydrogen fuel cells is going to be a major part of the solution. Hyundai is already rolling out the first of its new heavy trucks powered by fuel cells for fleets in Europe. Last week, the same initiative came to the United States, as the first two heavy haulers equipped with hydrogen fuel cells, this time from Toyota, were readied for their first fleet use.
These are Class 8 diesel trucks, produced under auspices of the Zero and Near Zero Emissions Freight Forwarding (ZANZEFF) project sponsored by the state of California, the largest vehicle market in North America. The trucks are Kenworth T680 tractors, developed under a $41 million proof-of-concept grant issued by the California Air Resources Board, with the Port of Los Angeles as the main applicant. The first two trucks will go to Toyota Logistics Services and to Southern Counties Express, which handles forwarding and warehousing in the Southern California regents. The initial pair of rigs will be joined by eight more in 2021, several earmarked for UPS. The first two will be used largely in container-transfer operations – each tractor is pulling exactly that – at the sprawling ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California.