How the Trucking Industry is Tackling Sustainability

As more and more companies institute sustainability initiatives, see what the goals are for the trucking industry.

Forty-five years ago, on April 22, 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthier environment during the world’s first Earth Day. Since that time, an effort that seemed to be supported mostly by young students and the “flower power” culture has blossomed into a worldwide effort by people, governments, and businesses to take action to create a sustainable planet.

The trucking industry is no exception. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has a sustainability program committed to reducing the consumption of fuel by 86 billion gallons over the next ten years, resulting in reduced CO2 emissions from all vehicles of nearly a billion tons. New engines, new products, new fuels, and new procedures are all contributing to help achieve this goal. That’s a worthy goal.

To answer the question, “Why do we need more efficient trucks, anyway?FleetOwner posted an editorial back in March of this year. According to the author of the piece, transportation contributes around 27% of greenhouse gasses and commercial trucks account for close to ¼ of that amount, which effectively translates into more than half-a-billion tons of carbon pollution per year in the U.S. The article goes on to detail some of the current technology making improvements and contributing to sustainability initiatives. Utilizing this technology effectively could mean that “tractor-trailers could realistically reduce fuel consumption by 46% (against 2010 levels), bringing mpg as high as 10.7 mpg.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), part of the ATA Federation, offers an expansive and compelling list of sustainable practices that can significantly decrease fuel consumption, and thus, reduce CO2 emissions. These include driver practices and truck technology. Some examples they provide are:

Driver Practices:

  • Limit the amount of time spent idling.
  • Maintain a high, but not maximum, average speed.
  • Operate a high percent of the trip distance in top gear.
  • Utilize cruise control when possible.
  • Minimize the number of sudden decelerations and accelerations.

Truck Technology:

  • Better aerodynamics lead to fuel efficiency. This is a result of using some combination of roof and fuel tank fairings, gap reducers, and aerodynamic bumpers and mirrors on tractors; and side fairings and trailer tails on trailers.
  • Lowering rolling resistance is made possible by equipping the vehicle and trailer with low rolling resistance tires (when appropriate) or wide-base tires.
  • New automated mechanical and automatic transmissions have been shown to improve fuel economy.
  • Improvement of diesel exhaust particulate matter (PM) control using a DPF with a catalyst coating.

And, of course, an increase in the use of alternative fuels, such as biodiesels, renewable diesels, CNG, and LNG, will lead to a decrease in harmful emissions.

So a one-day event that started more than 45 years ago has now turned into a 24/7/365 business initiative for companies and industries across the globe that is not only devoted to sustaining the planet, but also to its inhabitants – all of us.

See what your fleet can do to improve sustainability by checking out the full array of suggestions from the ATRI Sustainability Compendium.

Joe Puff

About Joe Puff

Joe Puff is the Vice President of Truck Technology and Maintenance for NationaLease. He has more than 35 years of experience in complex sales and fleet operations, including extensive experience in commercial vehicle maintenance. Joe is responsible for advising NationaLease members and the National Account team of new truck technology, industry trends, and maintenance best practices.

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