NBB In Sight

Truckers embrace biodiesel
By Joseph Jobe | October 01, 2005
If the 55 billion gallons of distillate fuels sold in the United States each year, the single largest category is on-road diesel fuel at approximately 35 billion gallons per year. This category is consumed almost entirely by over-the-road trucks. For many years, it has been suggested that NBB focus its outreach efforts on this highest-volume market. However, the trucking market is also the most cost sensitive market, as fuel is its No. 1 operating expense.

It has been the contention of NBB that until the cost differential is better addressed, an effort to promote biodiesel to truckers would be premature. Indeed, premature introduction to truckers could have had long-term negative effects. Asking truckers to use B20 at a 30-cent upcharge when it was not available at truck-accessible sites would have probably led many truckers to dismiss biodiesel. Fuel is lifeblood to truckers, so they are understandably sensitive about cost, availability, performance and fuel economy. They also have a long memory. Once you lose them, it is hard to win them back.

A number of factors have conspired causing the trucking market to burst wide open this year. The first factor was the implementation of the biodiesel excise tax credit, which did much to address incremental cost. The other major force that had an enormous impact is Willie Nelson. There could not be a better spokesman to truckers than Nelson, whose biggest hit, "On the Road Again," is an anthem to truckers. Willie has inspired XM Radio and trucking talk show hosts like Bill Mack, Dave Nemo, Dale Sommers and others to talk about biodiesel. This has created such a buzz among truckers that is unbelievable.

Actually, buzz may not be a strong enough term because this doesn't look like it will be a passing fad with truckers. Truckers have educated themselves on biodiesel through CB radios, interactions at truck stops, cell phones and by using the fuel. What we hear from truckers is that biodiesel operates smoothly and quietly. It manages hills better, cleans out the fuel system and gives them better mileage.
They are also excited about supporting American farmers and increasing our independence from imported oil.

If you would like to witness this phenomenon for yourself, I encourage you to tune in to XM channel 171 on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. CDT. Bill Mack's trucking show features "Willie Wednesdays." Willie calls in most Wednesdays from wherever he is in the world to talk to truckers about anything they choose. Surprisingly, they mostly want to talk to Willie about biodiesel. Willie is always gracious and knowledgeable, and be often refers truckers to NBB for more information.

The No. 1 question by truckers: "Where can I get it?" Truckers have been flooding the NBB hotline to ask this question. As a response, NBB has launched a new Web site, specifically tailored for truckers' interests: www.biotrucker.com. The site features information and a directory of more than 200 truck-accessible locations. In its first week, BioTrucker was visited by more than 2,500 truckers.

In addition, NBB has been working with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association as well as the American Trucking Association to continue to throttle up trucker outreach efforts. In July, Willie was on hand at Carl's Corner Truck Stop when Carl Cornelius was given NBB's Pioneer Award for being the first truck stop in the nation to offer biodiesel blends exclusively. Since then, additional truck stops have begun offering B20 almost every week. Besides music, Willie has demonstrated his devotion to farmers and truckers. In Willie's words, biodiesel offers the opportunity for America's farmers to fuel America's truckers, and for America's truckers to support America's farmers. The exciting part is that this is not just a nice ideal; they are doing it.

Joseph Jobe
National Biodiesel Board
Executive Director
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