The use of alternative fuels in the trucking industry continues to increase, and truckstops and travel centers have a critical role to play in their distribution. Operators are preparing for the future and getting ready to meet their customers’ needs no matter what is powering their vehicles.
"I do think that sometime in the next five, 10, 20 years travel centers will look materially different than they do today," said David Fialkov, executive vice president of government affairs for NATSO during NATSO Connect 2023. “I think the pace and extent of the changes that are coming in the next generation will be far more robust than it has been, mainly because the fuels that truck stops are going to sell are going to be different than the ones we have been selling.”
Fialkov moderated a keynote presentation during NATSO Connect 2023 with Bill Zobel, director of alternative Fuels at Pilot Flying J and Randy Gard, chief operating officer for Bosselman Enterprises on hydrogen.
Zobel said hydrogen is emerging as one of the most viable, long-term alternative fuels for the long-haul trucking industry. “I firmly believe this will be a fuel for heavy-duty trucking,” he said while speaking on the panel Is Hydrogen the Fuel of the Future? “Is it hydrogen going to be the entire heavy-duty trucking market? No, certainly not. Electric trucks, diesel, biodiesel and others will play a role for a very long time, but hydrogen’s time has come.”
Hydrogen vehicles are zero-emission, can be refueled in 10 to 15 minutes and have a range of 300 to 500 miles. Plus, there is less of a weight penalty with hydrogen-fueled trucks.
There is an opportunity for all participants in the fueling marketplace to get involved with hydrogen and make it part of their value chain, Zobel said.
Opportunities for Retailers
Gard also spoke on the NATSO Connect panel said, “If you’re anywhere close to an interstate highway, you need to be watching this. Hydrogen is just another fuel that our customers will want and need, and we have an opportunity to provide it. Right now, it kind of feels like the Wild West, especially at the retail level."
Bosselman Enterprises is working with the Mid-Continent Clean Hydrogen Hub. The Hub includes state officials from Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, along with representatives from several industries, including agriculture, public power, manufacturing and transportation. “We are collectively working to create the infrastructure for hydrogen,” Gard said. (Learn more about the Mid-Continent Clean Hydrogen Hub’s work here.)
Gard explained that for fuel retailers, hydrogen is just another fuel, but he encouraged operators to get involved at the state level to ensure their interests and concerns are represented…
// This article was created for Stop Watch magazine, the magazine of the NATSO Foundation. The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of NATSO, Inc. The NATSO Foundation provides programs and products to strengthen travel plazas’ ability to meet the traveling public's needs through improved operational performance and business planning. Visit www.natsofoundation.org for more information. (Donate to the NATSO Foundation here.)