As years go, 2020 was historic by any measure. As the Forum prepared to celebrate and reflect on its twentieth anniversary, the global Coronavirus pandemic emerged, upending well-laid plans and conventional work patterns for everyone everywhere. A year reflecting on accomplishments over the past twenty years evolved into adapting rapidly to new realities.
DTF did not miss a beat highlighting in media and social campaigns how member companies stepped up to respond to the global pandemic in large and small ways with shifts in manufacturing to medical devices and equipment and financial support for devastated communities. Like many of our companies, DTF tightened up its operations, cutting expenses, and shoring up the financial stability of the organization.
Leveraging its considerable experience in the digital medium and social and conventional media, DTF was well-equipped for meeting the challenge of virtual communications head-on, moving further into the online virtual space transparently and effectively to ensure our diesel voice was heard in large and small conversations. The Forum’s email outreach campaign metrics show results that consistently exceed industry benchmarks for engagement and visibility. New and creative online educational campaigns were launched to reach policymakers and influencers and brought in over 1,200 participants. On-site meetings evolved to virtual ones, with an outreach calendar that still saw 15 events in this extraordinary year. Connecting with policymakers and influencers during this period of virtual work also relied on DTF’s established social media channels that were the top referring sites for traffic to www.dieselforum.org and still saw a 3.7 percent follower growth in 2020 with almost 4,000 posts.
As the diesel narrative has evolved this year, so too has the Forum. Now more than ever, DTF’s voice of inclusion, of how and why diesel technology is vital in both an era of energy abundance and a clean energy future, is important, emphasizing how all technologies will be needed to meet the global challenges of climate change and sustaining economies. This moderate and fact-based voice has led to many opportunities that sought out DTF to deliver the message to key policymaker audiences in Washington, DC, progressive states in the Northeast (New Jersey) and the West Coast (Oregon) this past year. Environmental groups in Utah sought out DTF’s endorsement for initiatives to combat tampering with emissions controls, while industry leaders continue to rely on DTF’s analysis of benefits and effective use of public funds for maximizing environmental benefits.
DTF has effectively navigated this difficult period of the pandemic overlayed with an emergent period of technological disruption, and potential for dramatic future shifts in U.S. energy and climate policy. Threading the needle of opportunity for diesel, even as media narratives and new movements demand a move away from fossil fuels and internal combustion engines, has always been DTF’s strength. And in this difficult and tumultuous year, the Forum’s unwavering voice for diesel is more than ever, a fitting tribute to a twenty-year anniversary.
DTF created a broad range of new digital content to highlight the continued demand for the fuel of work while demonstrating the importance of diesel fuel during the pandemic. Press releases and Policy Insights articles highlighted the very moderate decline in diesel fuel consumption as commercial vehicles played an essential role in delivering PPE and household items and eventually the vaccine, the role that diesel-powered equipment will play in any rebuilding infrastructure efforts and continued strength of diesel-powered pickup trucks despite the slump in auto sales.
DTF also worked to amplify the good work of member companies during the pandemic. DTF member companies have done amazing things and shown tremendous ingenuity and effort to respond in so many positive ways since the pandemic began in March and still ongoing.
Whether it is making face shields and masks, producing hand sanitizer, producing parts for ventilators, or donating to organizations helping those in need, DTF commends our members’ efforts and we are proud to recognize their leadership in time of national crisis.
The Forum’s media work in 2020 generated significant coverage in trade and mainstream media. DTF's 30 press releases and media outreach drove over 4,500 news stories during the year, generating an audience of about a billion people.
DTF news coverage spanned the full range of diesel applications - light-duty, heavy-duty on- and off-road, power generation and even aviation. Themes of coverage ranged from comments on global policy to markets and technology.
@CNBC tweeted story 27 times since June with an average reach of 3.7 million each time.
Even though 2020 was a very different year in so many ways, DTF continued to provide content and insights to events throughout the year, all moved to virtual events after mid-March.
The Forum presented at a variety of EPA regional collaborative meetings as well as other NGO groups.
The Forum’s expanding digital outreach capabilities enabled DTF to seamlessly pivot to a virtual event strategy when the pandemic hit, producing nine webinars with almost 1,300 combined registrations - 32 percent of those coming from key target audiences of policymakers, NGOs, the media and academia, including a variety of technical colleges.
This two-part series featuring DTF member experts highlighted the key ways in which diesel will fit into the future. With registrations numbering over 600, the demographics of attendees met expectations with 24 percent of DTF’s key target audience of Policymaker/NGO/Academic/Media while 33 percent were industry attendees including industry analysts, along with 26 media attendees that resulted in several business/trade news published articles.
DTF’s state fact sheets have a wealth of state specific data on diesel use in key sectors of the state economies and provide important data points, rankings and trendlines for policymakers and the media. This content was transformed into a series of regional webinars targeted to EPA, AGC chapters and trucking associations in each region. The series consisted of five webinars that included almost every state in the U.S. including the District of Columbia, and had an attendance of over 350 for the series.
During the ongoing pandemic, DTF’s digital efforts, including social media, were more critical than ever in reaching and engaging target audiences. Despite the challenging media and social conversations dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. Presidential election, DTF saw audience growth across all social channels. That volume of social media content drove traffic to the DTF website with social media topping the list for top referring sites for 2020.
Reaching target audiences in a new virtual world rsequires an array of tactics. DTF’s highly targeted email outreach campaigns reach over 3,000 highly curated Diesel Direct subscribers (government, industry, media, NGOs) each week. The newsletter is the #2 referral source for DTF’s website traffic with visitors spending an average of five minutes on the DTF website when coming from Diesel Direct. If you don’t already receive it, subscribe now and check out past issues.Newsletter Subscription
DTF also developed and distributed highly targeted blast emails featuring notable policy analysis and content and key media stories in 19 separate HTML email campaigns to hand selected target audiences, targeting 8,370 verified policymakers at the federal, state and local levels of government.
Should diesel be prohibited from receiving state funds to replace older trucks, buses and equipment? DTF certainly doesn’t think so. DTF was instrumental in providing data and analysis to staff for the Governor of Ohio to oppose efforts on the part of clean fuels advocates to exclude diesel projects from being funded in the Buckeye State. Diesel will still be a technology eligible for replacement through state programs. Communities in Salt Lake City, Utah suffer from near year-round temperature inversions that drive air quality concerns. Elected officials considering a new major inland port that would see 10,000 additional heavy-duty truck trips per day were seeking stakeholder inputs. Concerned over the negative consequences of air quality, leading environmental advocates and state legislators in Utah turned to DTF to provide guidance on voluntary programs linking the use of the latest advanced diesel technology for the port to sustain economic growth for the region and safeguard air quality.
Lawmakers in Oregon invited DTF to serve on the Oregon Joint Legislative Taskforce to Reduce Diesel Emissions to provide policy insights to retrofit and replace older trucks and equipment with the latest diesel technology. From developing a state incentive funding program to make sure trucks in the state come with the latest near-zero emission controls, to inventorying off-road equipment to analyze benefits of the latest Tier 4 near-zero diesel emissions solutions in the field, DTF was actively engaged with policymakers in Oregon throughout the year. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality also relied on DTF and its members to learn more about how off-road equipment is used in the field to better understand the benefits of the latest Tier 4 off-road equipment.
New Jersey is the East Coast leader in progressive environmental and climate policy particularly for sensitive communities. Senior appointed officials in New Jersey requested DTF to brief the New Jersey Clean Air Council with the current state of near-zero emissions diesel technology and the benefits of the latest near-zero diesel emissions solutions that power marine and rail applications to delivery big air quality benefits directly to frontline communities located near ports and railyards. DTF effectively demonstrated significant near-term benefits that accrue to sensitive communities by introducing the latest diesel solutions to help policymakers understand the benefits of introducing these technologies through policy changes.
Communities across California experienced record heat, wildfires and threatened power shutoffs to protect the grid from further outages. To keep power flowing to critical facilities like health centers, utilities in California relied on a large fleet of diesel generators to provide mission critical power during these unprecedented events. Diesel was a critical technology to protect public health and safety, yet a large cadre of health and environment advocates and renewable industry representatives ramped up their efforts to discourage any future use of diesel as a source of emergency backup power in the future. DTF was sought by the California Public Utilities Commission to provide a fact-based understanding of the current capabilities of diesel technology directly to decisionmakers to inform debate on future technology solutions to meet emergency backup power needs. While renewables may be available today, few solutions other than diesel can provide power when needed and where it is needed to generate emergency power.
DTF’s campaign also connected on social media with PUC Commissioners, the utilities themselves and NGO groups, about why expanded use of diesel generators during wildfires and planned power shutoffs makes sense.
Beyond direct outreach, DTF launched two media campaigns in August that focused on the role of diesel generators in California including mitigating the effects of the rolling blackouts and fighting the devastating wildfires in the state. Images of diesel-powered equipment in action made a compelling case for the unique role of diesel during crisis.
What’s the fastest way to reduce emissions from heavy-duty trucks? Replace old trucks with new models. One of the biggest financial hurdles for many trucking operators to purchase new trucks is the 12 percent federal excise tax on new trucks. As truck manufacturers and their dealers worked the halls of Congress urging a temporary suspension of the tax as part of economic stimulus, DTF pursued a supportive outreach and digital advocacy campaign emphasizing the environmental and climate benefits of suspending the tax and encouraging investment in new technology diesel.
It takes the brawn and brains of the latest diesel technology powering construction equipment to complete must-do infrastructure projects while delivering near-zero emissions benefits to frontline communities. From broadband infrastructure, clean water, renewable and resilient power, and next generation transportation projects, DTF organized outreach campaigns targeting Congressional policymakers and media featuring member companies Caterpillar, CNH Industrial and Volvo Construction Equipment. The session provided policymakers with key information about the benefits of off-road equipment necessary to complete the projects. The virtual web event was attended by hundreds and a social media partnership with the United for Infrastructure organization worked to deliver the message.
As elected leaders on Capitol Hill considered strategies large and small to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, DTF research was incorporated into the work of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to inform future policy. Making the case that more can be done immediately to substantially reduce GHG emissions by relying on more efficient diesel engines and advanced biofuels like renewable diesel and biodiesel fuel.
A campaign highlighting the workforce development opportunities for diesel mechanics, dovetailed with other industry efforts to address the ongoing technician shortage. Utilizing social channels with a focus on the job-oriented LinkedIn, the Forum worked to amplify the industry efforts to grow the workforce as it makes contributions to local technical colleges with equipment to train on and scholarships. A press release in support of National Truck Technician Appreciation Week was also issued.
DTF has played an instrumental and sustaining role in advocating for the nearly $1 billion in federal funds that has been appropriated to the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (2008 to 2020), corralling support among the environmental and health advocates and industry to demonstrate continuing need for the program and amplifying the bipartisan support on social media. The highly effective program uses grants and financial incentives to encourage the owners of older and higher emitting vehicles and equipment to scrap and replace them with new cleaner technologies. Since funding was first appropriated in 2008, tons of clean air benefits have been delivered to almost every community and new diesel technology has been the technology of choice.
In 2020, DERA reauthorization through 2025 was included in the final legislative package of the year.
DTF has been at the forefront of advocating for investments in diesel solutions as a cost-effective strategy to make the most of Trust revenues to deliver the most benefits to the most communities in the fastest amount of time.. Through the VW Trust, states have access to nearly $3 billion to replace older and higher emitting vehicles, equipment and engines to generate big immediate term benefits. From smaller school buses to large marine vessels and locomotives, more than 7 out of every 10 projects funded have included a new diesel option driving big clean air benefits. DTF’s analysis and media campaign directly resulted in national coverage from the New York Times.
In 2020, consumer advocates engaged dozens of state legislatures in hopes of advancing new laws to allow for right to repair that effectively encourages tampering with emission controls. DTF supported industry initiatives to pushback on right to repair initiatives in several states, making the connection between tampering and higher emissions. From social media engagement to educating state policymakers, DTF delivered the message about the unintended air quality consequences of right to repair legislation, supporting a broad industry coalition’s effort.
In 1999, industry leaders came together determined to tell the story about diesel technology, its importance to the global economy, energy efficiency and transformation of environmental performance. A new entity was formed – a Forum – that was charged with engaging all stakeholders and filling a void for fact-based information about the benefits of diesel technology.
After a public debut in Washington in March 2000, the Forum went on to undertake landmark research on economic and energy importance, held its first press conference at the National Press Club, launched a new digital presence and was rapidly established as a new authoritative voice for the diesel industry.
The first five years saw DTF engaging environmental groups and developing relationships with national reporters, discussing a full range of diesel issues. A major initiative that brought industry together with key environmental and public health stakeholders was a new effort at EPA aimed at reducing emissions from older technology engines in school buses. Clean School Bus USA laid the groundwork for new legislation known as the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, where DTF played a key role in its roll out on Capitol Hill. Today this landmark program continues to receive bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, funding the modernizing and upgrading of older technology with new. Over $800 million has been invested into repowers, replacements and servicing since funding was first provided in 2008, and and the program was just reauthorized by Congress for an additional five-year period.
From 2005 to 2010 the Forum’s efforts were centered largely around a “Meet Clean Diesel” campaign to herald a new chapter in diesel technology, with a systems-based approach of cleaner fuels advanced engines and new emissions control technology. Aggressive outreach efforts ranged from demonstrating a white handkerchief test on a truck exhaust pipe for President George W. Bush, to large scale technology demonstrations at the National Conference of State Legislatures, in Sacramento and in downtown Washington, DC. Technology displays, receptions and ride-and-drives on Capitol Hill brought the new generation of diesel power in passenger vehicles to the doorstep of the nation’s top decisionmakers. DTF also established our voice in the increasingly important world of social media, establishing an identity on multiple channels with timely and relevant content, and then growing to a combined audience of over 22,000 in 2020. DTF used this new medium to amplify member company content, extending the reach to DTF’ targeted audience of policymakers, NGO groups and members of the media.
From 2010 through 2015 the Forum deepened its work with government and other stakeholders and expanded its outreach to regional and state audiences, often engaged in over 40 outreach events a year. New relationships with the biodiesel industry were formed to advance common causes, and DTF started a new research and data analysis to bring detailed diesel engine and equipment use information and rankings to all 50 states. DTF also met head on two of its largest media challenges in history: the World Health Organization’s health effects designation on diesel exhaust and fallout from the largest emissions cheating scandal involving diesel vehicles in history.
Since 2015, the Forum’s voice responded to continued criticism of diesel technology from the emissions cheating scandal. DTF became a leading voice in the debate over spending of nearly $3 billion in an emissions scandal settlement fund to compel policymakers to invest in new diesel technology as opposed to other alternatives. Dedicated campaigns were instituted to advance the new generation of advanced diesel technology as key to achieving future energy, environment, and climate goals, including emissions and greenhouse gas benefits of new generation diesel in the trucking sector. The Forum also partnered with international environmental advocates on a joint research effort to analyze modeled emissions levels and equipment ages and cost-effectiveness benefits of engine repowering into marine and locomotive sectors. International audiences that long were cultivated received more attention with new international digital content and media campaigns, and ultimately DTF exploring the establishment of an outpost in the United Kingdom.
Throughout its history, the Forum has enjoyed a solid reputation as a fact broker, trusted partner and effective voice for the diesel industry and the members it represents. Working alongside of government leaders of all kinds, responding to media requests from around the world and maintaining positive relationships with environmental and other stakeholders, have been hallmarks of the Forum’s first twenty years, and set the stage for a successful future.
In 2021, the United States will undergo a transition of government unlike any other in modern history. President Biden’s policy goals forecast a sea change in energy, environmental and policy as the nation struggles to emerge from the global pandemic. This will be a time of great challenge but also of great opportunity for diesel technology.