Commentary: Lewis County is driving the shift to trucking’s green hydrogen future


For generations, our region's trucking industry has been a driving force behind our economy, connecting businesses and communities along the Interstate 5 stem by ensuring the reliable delivery of goods — even in the face of unprecedented challenges. It's a legacy we take great pride in: Our truckers, hauling timber, lumber and other wood products, agricultural products or consumer goods, have not only kept the wheels of commerce turning but have also provided a bedrock of consistent, high-quality jobs for our workforce.

The trucking industry will continue playing this pivotal role within our community; however, as the landscape and technology within our industry continues to evolve, so must we.

One of the most significant evolutions for our sector will come by way of fleets and drivers transitioning to zero-emission vehicles, as new state and federal policies require and incentivize such developments. The move to zero-emission, heavy-duty vehicles will undoubtedly have its challenges and certainly won’t happen overnight. However, the exciting work being done to advance the production and commercial viability of a green hydrogen ecosystem in Lewis County will help our industry successfully make this transition into the future.

Well before the announcement of the Department of Energy’s $1 billion hydrogen hub award, our region and our industry have been making significant investments to advance heavy-duty, commercial hydrogen fuel cell trucks. Washington state-based Paccar recently announced a partnership with Toyota to advance the commercialization of zero-emissions versions of the Kenworth T680 and the Peterbilt 579 models, featuring Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. 

Now, with a substantial chunk of the $1 billion federal funding eligible to be invested right here in Lewis County, our industry will soon see the rest of the hydrogen ecosystem — including production centers and fueling infrastructure — catch up to the investments being made by the most renowned heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers.

The benefits of using hydrogen fuel cells for heavy-duty and long-haul commercial trucking are clear. One of the most significant benefits of hydrogen fuel cells is their extended range. Hydrogen-powered trucks can cover longer distances on a single refueling compared to battery-electric trucks. This makes them well-suited for long-haul transportation, where range is a critical factor. Hydrogen fuel cell trucks also offer rapid refueling times, taking approximately 30 minutes per refuel. This quick turnaround time is particularly advantageous for companies that require rapid and continuous operations. Hydrogen fuel cells are also generally lighter than the large batteries needed for heavy-duty electric trucks, allowing hydrogen-powered trucks to carry heavier payloads, making them more suitable for applications where maximizing cargo capacity is essential.

As many benefits as hydrogen fuel cells and green hydrogen production may bring to our industry, more important are the benefits that will be brought to the communities where we live and work. This evolution in hydrogen fuel production is attracting exciting new companies to Lewis County such as Fortescue and First Mode, enabling further investments in fueling station infrastructure from existing stakeholders such as Twin Transit.

The direct and indirect economic benefits created by these opportunities are profound, creating a ripple effect that extends well beyond our industry. The overall benefits to the trucking industry include not only a transition to cleaner fuels but also a catalyst for job creation and economic growth within our community.

The opportunities that lay before our region and our communities create an incredibly exciting time, where the trajectory of the trucking industry converges with the promise of the green hydrogen economy. As we look to the road ahead, the trucking industry stands ready to embrace this new era of efficient transportation, environmental responsibility, and economic prosperity with determination and an unyielding spirit.


Dale Lemmons is the owner and president of Interstate Wood Products and Signature Transport, and served as immediate past chairman of the Washington Trucking Associations.