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April 30, 2007 12:00 PM, EDT

Transport Demand for Renewable Fuels to Increase, Officials Say

By Andrea Fischer, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the April 30 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Agriculture officials said the growing renewable fuels industry will benefit the trucking companies that haul these products. 

Biofuels proponents and Bush administration officials spoke here during the first national summit on agricultural and food transportation.

“For trucking, the key word is distribution,” said Thomas Dorr, undersecretary of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Making biodiesel work is not just a matter of engineering and materials; it’s a matter of ton miles and loads.”

“The scale of this new industry will be huge,” Dorr said. “It is probably the greatest new opportunity for growth in our lifetime . . . and the distribution system will be truck-based.”

Hunter Moorhead, special assistant to President Bush for agriculture, trade and food assistance, said trucking firms also will be needed to haul raw products such as soybeans or corn.

“The agricultural community totally depends on the trucking industry to move its crops,” said Moorhead.
Greg Krissek, director of government affairs for ICM Inc., a company that builds ethanol plants, said demand for tanker trucks to move renewable fuels also will increase because fuel terminals and pipelines are currently unable to accept ethanol and biodiesel.

Krissek estimated that a national increase in biofuel production of 3 billion gallons a year would require about 4,500 trucks per day to move corn, fuel and other materials related to biofuel production.

However, Warren Hoemann, senior vice president of industry affairs, councils and conferences for American Trucking Associations, told Transport Topics that “capacity constraints and the driver shortage will make growth a challenge.”

In many places, the refineries that produce ethanol and biodiesel rarely are served by rail and never are served by fuel pipelines, making trucks one of the few sources of transportation for refined biofuels, he said.

“The renewable fuels industry is a bright spot, but [trucking] still faces the challenge of meeting capacity,” he said.

Tommy Windsor, director of transportation for Townsends Inc., a Wilmington, Del., company that hauls poultry and grain to and from farms and processing plants, said he expects more biofuel production to tighten competition for truck drivers in the coming years.

Windsor’s company operates a private fleet of 140 tractors, “but we rely on a lot of independent local truckers to haul grain, and if they start hauling for renewable fuels producers, we will be competing with those refineries, not just for grain but for drivers as well.”