Pilot’s Wright: Companies Must Lead Sustainability Movement

“The task ahead is daunting and it’s a bit bigger than we thought … but it’s worth it,” Pilot CEO Adam Wright told ACT Expo 2024 attendees. (Michael Freeze/Transport Topics)

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LAS VEGAS — To provide a better understanding of the drive for innovation of alternative fuels and electrification, Pilot CEO Adam Wright told a story of his family vacation at a water park.

Wright, who shared the anecdote during his May 21 keynote at the Advanced Clean Truck Expo, said he and his daughter were ready to ride down a waterslide at a frightening height of 80 feet. He mentioned that initially he was excited to go on the ride, but as he looked down the slide, the excitement started to fade.

“I began to have a little conversation with myself. I started saying things like, ‘What did I get myself into?’ ” Wright described. “ ‘This is too dangerous. Let’s walk it back.’ ”

As Wright’s daughter prepared to go down the slide, she paused as if she changed her mind. As he attempted to console her, his daughter responded, “No, Daddy, I just want you to go first.”

After delivering that punchline, Wright, who became CEO in May 2023, took that analogy to emphasize the end lesson for those in sustainable transportation to find their “waterslide moment.”

“The task ahead is daunting and it’s a bit bigger than we thought. Second-guessing starts to abound. Some are falling away, some are backing out … but it’s worth it,” Wright said. “We each have to find our own moments to go first, over and over again.”

Wright offered that there is opportunity in industry partnerships to take the lead and usher in the path of sustainability. As the largest supplier of renewable fuels in the U.S., surpassing 2.5 million kilograms of hydrogen delivery, Pilot, he said, is well-positioned to be a major player in the alternative-fuel space. In addition, he touted the collaboration with General Motors to build the first coast-to-coast charging network for 2,000 fast-charging cells for passenger vehicles across 500 pilot flying locations over the next few years.

“We can support policies that shape our industry as more technology and other solutions start to emerge. We can continue investing in alternative energy and transportation technology,” he said. “We can partner with shared risk to allow companies to scale. Together, we can redefine our industry as we move through this once-in-a-century energy transition.”

Wright noted that he was fascinated that conversation is just now turning to EV infrastructure.

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“We’re just now really starting to put the accelerator down and talking about infrastructure …the idea of transitioning the energy ecosystem to being low carbon and renewable and changing anything at scale, particularly from an energy standpoint. It’s massive,” he said. “I’m surprised that the conversation hasn’t happened earlier, but I’m glad that it did because it’s wildly important.”

Wright also said that Pilot is working to provide an EV charging network for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. He was disappointed, however, from an industry perspective that the conversation is moving at a slow pace and suggests leaders should meet more often than the annual ACT Expo.

“Maybe this is not the case for everybody, but for us as a company, we have access to awesome companies like a Volvo, GM, J.B. Hunt,” he said. “This is a big expo. We have thousands of people here in the hallways. Conversations are great. Wouldn’t it be nice if we can just find ways to partner, frankly, consistently with the customers we serve, those who love our products? Let’s start to have these conversations and try to find solutions together. That’s a big step.”

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