With Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements, and the explosive growth of e-commerce, the emphasis on reducing fleet emissions by trucking companies is gaining significant traction.
According to the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emission and Sinks, the transportation sector from 1990-2020 accounted for the largest portion — 28% — of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the United States with medium- and heavy-duty trucks contributing about one-fourth.
Finding a Middle Ground
There’s no doubt that GHG emissions can have far-ranging environmental and health effects. The adverse effects on the environment include contributing to the production of ground-level ozone, which damages crops, trees, and other vegetation. Health-wise, GHG emissions contribute to respiratory disease from smog and pollution.
While GHG emissions from trucks can negatively impact the environment and citizens’ health, the flip side is the positive impact trucks have on the U.S. supply chain and citizens’ lives. Trucks are indispensable. Without trucks to move goods, businesses would shutter and the economy would likely crumble.
So, is finding a middle ground that helps benefit the environment, the economy, citizens, and trucking companies possible? The answer is a definitive yes — and it’s achieved by trucking companies taking advantage of opportunities and leveraging best practices that help reduce their fleets’ GHG emissions and carbon footprint.
Let’s take a closer look at four key ways this can be achieved.
1. Invest in Emissions Reducing Products
Looking at the big picture —taking into account a truck’s cab, tires, and trailer — is a good starting point when looking for ways to reduce your fleet’s GHG emissions.
Numerous products are available that ensure proper tire pressure, reduce rolling friction, and improve aerodynamics — all of which lower GHG emissions by improving fuel efficiency.
Examples of such products include:
- Low rolling resistance truck tires that are specifically crafted to reduce friction and energy loss by covering the ground more efficiently.
- Tire pressure monitoring systems that monitor tire pressure every few seconds while the vehicle is in motion
- Lighter weight components such as cast aluminum hubs and wheels to reduce vehicle weight
- Side skirts to reduce air underneath the trailer and devices that close the gap between the tractor and the trailer
2. Let Telematics Be Your Maintenance and Routing Guide
Staying on top of maintenance is key to reducing your fleet’s GHG emissions. Regular maintenance improves fuel efficiency, which shrinks your fleet’s carbon footprint and reduces fuel costs.
Telematics can help fleet managers conveniently track and optimize maintenance schedules by providing visibility into various parameters, including engine power, fuel consumption, hours of service, when it’s time to change air filters, and the grade of oil needed.
In addition to maintenance, telematics can help lower GHG emissions by improving route optimization and scheduling. Efficient route planning with faster travel and fewer stops can lower GHG emissions by as much as 30% each trip — which also boosts your bottom line by lowering fuel costs, providing customers a better experience, and giving drivers the ability to make more deliveries and make them on time.
3. Put Drivers in the Sustainability Driver’s Seat
A driver can have as much as a 33% impact on fuel efficiency, which makes them key to reducing GHG emissions and developing a successful sustainability strategy.
Driver behavior is the most common cause of fuel waste. Monitoring, coaching, and rewarding drivers for proper driving habits can result in a significant reduction of GHG emissions through greater fuel efficiency. For example:
- Drivers who accelerate and brake rapidly use up to 30% more fuel
- A tractor-trailer uses 20% less energy to move at 55 mph than at 62 mph
- An idling truck can burn up to 0.8 gallons of fuel per hour, which increases engine wear, diminishes air quality, and contributes to climate change
4. Use Alternative Fuels
The desire for more environmentally friendly alternatives to petrochemicals, lower emissions, and local, state, and federal government mandates and incentives has generated greater interest in alternative fuels.
Several alternative fuels are in production or development, but currently the most promising alternative fuel sources for the trucking industry are ethanol, biodiesel, electricity, hydrogen, natural gas, propane, and renewable diesel.
Each has its strengths, challenges — such as vehicle or engine conversion — and unique value propositions. Evaluating the fuel options to determine what alternative fuel would be the best fit for your fleet’s needs, sustainability goals, and budget should be discussed with your fuel provider so that together you can build a comprehensive selection strategy.
Incremental Changes for a Lasting Impact
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to reducing GHG emissions and your fleet’s carbon footprint, but these four best practices are a good starting point. Even small changes can have a big impact on the environment, citizens’ lives, and the bottom-line.
Start small. Think big.