In the meantime, the consensus is that hybrid technologies have reasonable pay-back in limited applications such as refuse collection, boom trucks, and transit buses. But for the typical work truck, the potential savings just don't justify the additional investment of time and money required to find and apply for the specific stimulus program that will pay for a more expensive vehicle.

One manager said he'd have to own a particular vehicle for at least 35 years to break even. Managers would like to try the new technologies, but except for the refuse, boom trucks, and buses, hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles aren't cost-effective.

So we seem to be in a perfect storm of conflicting requirements, limited budgets, new regulations, pending funding, and increasing demand for the services your operation provides. Your talents have rarely been as stressed — or as critical to investing taxpayer dollars wisely — as they are today.

— Paul Abelson ( is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association, a board member of Truck Writers of North America, and active in the Society of Automotive Engineers.