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May 2, 2018 6:00 PM, EDT

Editorial: A Relevant Conversation

The term “relevant” is used frequently to describe industries, products and services, and whether the subjects of those discussions have any relevance to modern society can cause fiery debate.

In business, it’s rare to hear a CEO question the long-term relevance of the products or services his company provides, but the head of a component manufacturer said at a trade show last week that his company could become irrelevant in a decade if it didn’t invest in advanced technologies.

The suggestion that a recognized supplier to an industry as vital as trucking could become irrelevant in 10 short years may seem drastic, but it’s arguable that we’ve never seen a period of rapid technological growth like the one we’re living through now. This executive was making the point that the smart companies will stay ahead of the curve.

Burying one’s head in the sand or being a naysayer when it comes to new ideas that come along always brings with it risk. What if you’re wrong? What if that Next Big Thing really catches on? Automobiles. Rock ‘n’ roll. Cellphones. They all had their doubters. ‘I don’t want people to be able to reach me all the time’ was a popular refrain during the early days of cellphones. How’s that working out?

The better course of action is to learn about what’s percolating — and see if it can work for your business.

A lot’s being said and written right now on various fronts about electrification. Options include pure-electric power, electric backed by fuel cells and electrification on wheel-ends, to name a few. They join a list of alternative fuels that offer their own pros and cons. None threatens alone to replace diesel as the primary fuel that propels trucking, but each offers motor carriers a potential option to expand into a new area — and perhaps identify a segment of an operation where one of these technologies might work. For natural gas, perhaps it’s in regional haul. For electric, maybe cities.

The important point is to keep an open mind and consider that one or more of these technologies could — maybe not tomorrow, but someday — be relevant to your operation.