Transportation accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon emissions, with road freight being one of the largest contributors.
As a result — and as sustainability becomes more important to businesses, investors and consumers — trucking companies are looking for ways to make their work greener. New strategies and technology are helping the industry improve its sustainability and reduce its carbon footprint.
Utilizing these strategies could help make a trucking industry that’s more sustainable and just as capable of moving goods around the country. Here are some tactics that are helping companies to go green.
New Technology Paves the Way for Green Trucking
A handful of innovations may help the trucking industry tackle its most significant sources of carbon — primarily, emissions generated by trucks burning fossil fuels.
The most significant new technology will likely be the electric vehicles (EVs) and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) arriving on the market. These trucks are powered by nondiesel energy sources — like hydrogen, biodiesel, renewable natural gas or pure electricity.
Depending on their particular fuel source, they can produce reduced carbon emissions compared to diesel, or none at all. This allows trucking companies to significantly reduce their largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Limitations of these EVs and AFVs — like a lack of national electric vehicle charging and infrastructure — made them a risky investment in the past. However, as charging stations become common and manufacturers release electric trucks with ranges comparable to diesel ones, companies are beginning to reconsider these vehicles. The growing AFV and EV market segment also means businesses have more options than ever when it comes to nondiesel trucks.
Some AFVs, like those powered by biodiesel and renewable natural gas, aren’t emissions-free but are a more sustainable option than conventional trucks. For example, biodiesel is a renewable resource produced from feedstock that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it grows. Burning it isn’t completely green, but making it can help to actively sequester atmospheric carbon.
Adopting either AFVs or EVs will take a major investment from the industry, and there are still risks to pivoting away from conventional fuel-powered trucks. However, these AFVs are likely the best way for a trucking business to reduce its individual carbon footprint.
Other significant innovations come from the IT world. New monitoring and driver management software provides businesses with data management and gathering tools that were never available before. Telematics and GPS technology can help companies monitor their fleets and driver behavior, allowing them to identify unsustainable driving habits and route choices.
These GPS devices could be combined with other monitoring technologies, like Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors that gather truck health and performance information. They are already being used in the intermodal transportation industry to improve business efficiency.
This technology could make tracking driver behavior and vehicle health much easier.
Best Practices Could Reduce the Trucking Industry’s Carbon Footprint
Businesses may not need to adopt entirely new technology to improve their carbon footprint. Instead, new business services, models and best practices may help the trucking industry cut back on carbon emissions while using existing trucks.
Full truckloads (FTLs) are a strategy that aims to minimize empty miles and underutilized truck storage space. This allows businesses to make trucking a much more sustainable shipping approach.
In some cases, trucking companies may be able to maximize their FTL count by outsourcing logistics operations to the right partner. Business-to-business freight shipping company FlockFreight has launched a new service that combines multiple less-than-truckloads (LTLs) to maximize goods shipped while reducing carbon emissions.
In 2017, empty miles accounted for around 17% of all greenhouse gas emissions from the trucking industry. Cutting down on these miles while maximizing full truckloads could help improve the industry’s productivity and minimize carbon emissions at the same time. All it takes is partnering with a sustainable logistics company.
The Right Maintenance Approach Can Minimize Carbon Emissions
Even simple changes to a business’s maintenance strategy can significantly reduce carbon emissions. For example, tire rolling resistance is considered to be one of the main factors impacting a vehicle’s fuel efficiency, along with the engine and aerodynamics.
A company’s choice of tire and maintenance practices that keep tires inflated can help significantly reduce the amount of fuel a vehicle needs. Lower consumption can reduce operational costs and carbon emissions.
Other effective maintenance practices can also help minimize fuel consumption and risks like downtime. Oil changes and other repairs that keep engines as efficient as possible can improve fuel economy and keep carbon emissions low.
Businesses are also beginning to invest in new telematics strategies that provide them with additional maintenance data. Remote monitoring solutions with IoT devices give companies a real-time snapshot of their entire truck fleet’s health.
Virtual dashboards can collect and display data like fleet-wide tire pressure, maintenance needs and fuel consumption, allowing managers to pinpoint potential problems.
Over time, these monitoring solutions can also lay the foundation for predictive maintenance strategies. They use a combination of real-time maintenance data from telematics systems and artificial intelligence to predict when a truck will need work. These algorithms can often significantly improve vehicle performance, increase life span and reduce the risk of unexpected downtime.
These benefits can help companies reduce operating costs while minimizing their carbon footprint.
New Technology Can Create a Sustainable Trucking Industry
The trucking industry has long struggled with carbon emissions and pollution. Trucks that burn fossil fuels, like diesel, naturally produce a large amount of greenhouse gas. This takes a huge toll on the environment. Trucking companies would be wise to adopt sustainable practices as more consumers and corporations look to green practices.
New technology and best practices can enable the sector to become more sustainable. Combined with new monitoring or maintenance platforms, AFVs and EVs may allow a business to almost eliminate its carbon footprint. Even simple changes to business processes that help maximize the number of FTLs can have a major impact on emissions. Employing these tactics paves the way for a more sustainable trucking industry.
Emily Newton is an industrial journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers how technology is changing the industry.