Why do we need more efficient trucks, anyway?

The trucking industry has a right to ask – why do we need the current regulatory push towards more efficient trucks?

Transportation contributes around 27% of the greenhouse gases deemed responsible for global warming and increased climate volatility. Freight and commercial trucks account for 23% of that piece of the pie, working out to above 6% overall.

That may not sound like much, but that translates into more than half-a-billion tons of carbon pollution each year in the U.S. More troubling is the fact that emissions from freight transportation are projected to increase by nearly 150 million metric tons over the coming years.  For context, this increase is greater than what is expected in the entire commercial, industrial or residential sectors. 

If we continue on our current path of burning more and more fossil fuels, by 2050 between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of existing coastal property will likely be below sea level nationwide, with $238 billion to $507 billion worth of property below sea level by 2100.

We simply can’t afford to see trucking make such a significant contribution to growth in emissions.

Technology is already in place to make a huge improvement across all categories. Tractor-trailers can realistically reduce fuel consumption by 46% (against 2010 levels), bringing mpg as high as 10.7 mpg. Heavy-duty pick-ups and vans can lower fuel usage by 32%, with mpg coming up to 15 mpg. On average, we’d like to see all freight vehicles reduce their fuel consumption by 40% in the next decade or so.

Fuel-efficient trucks are not enough on their own. Low-impact alternative fuels are critical in the long-term; as is increasing the productivity of each truck trip. Supply chain optimization and modal switches can save millions more tons. These steps save companies money too – as Ocean Spray Cranberries has demonstrated.  But, even though operational improvements offer an important contribution to driving down emissions, truck fuel efficiency is a crucial factor. Trucking is essential to our economy; it has an important role to play in continuing to improve its environmental footprint.

The good news is that, at the root, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is about reducing fuel consumption and that also means saving money. Protective greenhouse gas standards and a healthy truck industry can go hand-and-hand.

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