Society is beginning to better understand the effects it has on the environment, and as a result, many industries have begun to reexamine existing policies with a focus on sustainability. The trucking industry is no exception, as a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. As companies strategize on how best to reduce their negative impact on the planet, advancements in technology and best practices are changing the way trucking companies do business.
Smart, conscientious companies are embracing this change, and exploring ways to improve environmental sustainability while still maintaining reasonable profit margins. But what does environmental sustainability actually mean, and what is sustainable transport?
This article will look at the state of sustainability trends within the industry, and discuss ways in which businesses can take action by optimizing practices and decreasing negative environmental impact both now and in the future.
As mentioned above, the trucking and transportation industry has historically been responsible for a large portion of global carbon emissions. Internationally, global road freight accounted for around 7% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019. Additionally, according to a study conducted by the European Environment Agency (EEA), CO2 emissions from heavy goods vehicles operating in the 27 EU member countries increased by 5.5% from 2000 to 2019. In the last few years, this percentage has continued to increase even further due to growing transport volumes.
In addition to CO2 emissions, trucks also emit other pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and other particulate matter. These pollutants have a tremendous effect on air quality, especially in urban areas and along major transportation routes.
The industry also has huge effects on the environment in other key ways. It is one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels, and a major source of noise pollution. It also requires expansion of road infrastructure for its continued operation, which destroys natural habitats through land consumption.
All of the above factors combined mean that trucking companies have a greater responsibility to look for new ways to improve sustainability practices. Next we’ll explore some of the methods these businesses can employ to help reduce environmental impact.
Because the trucking industry has such an outsized impact on the environment, it has frequently been at the center of discussions about improving sustainability. The term “sustainable transport” has been used to describe a system of looking at current business practices industry wide with the goal of minimizing pollution, waste, and consumption. The term describes efforts taken to evaluate and improve upon not just environmental standards, but also social and economic ones as well.
Sustainable transport companies are driving the industry into the future by taking measures such as switching their fleet vehicles to alternative fuels, optimizing route efficiency through fleet management software, and collaborating with shippers and carriers to create smarter supply chains.
Aside from environmental issues, sustainable transport also examines the social and economic problems within the trucking industry, and looks for solutions to these problems. The terms ESG (environmental social governance), and CSR (corporate social responsibility) have gained popularity as calls for sustainability have increased among the commercial transportation industry. Successful businesses understand that these practices can not only improve profitability, but also help usher in positive change.
But what methods are being employed by green trucking companies to increase their sustainability?
As discussed, great efforts are currently being made to mitigate the negative environmental and social impacts of the trucking industry. The goal of these efforts is to find better, greener, and more efficient methods of conducting business while still meeting consumer demand.
The most important of these might be the switch from traditional fossil fuels to alternative fuels and electric vehicles. Fossil fuels are not only one of the main causes of declining air quality worldwide, but refinement of these fuels also creates massive waste and pollution for both soil and water. By investing in alternative fuel vehicles for fleets, environmentally-friendly trucking companies are taking steps to improve sustainability.
Another step being taken is to optimize route planning through the use of telematics data and fleet management software. By analyzing data and planning more efficient routes for fleet vehicles, trucking companies are able to reduce time spent idling in traffic and hauling empty trailers. Additionally, looking at data from each driver can help promote eco-friendly driving practices by emphasizing smooth acceleration and deceleration. The result of the data gathered by this software helps significantly reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
A third way in which trucking companies are working to improve sustainability is by maintaining and upgrading existing equipment. Regular vehicle maintenance, including tire inflation, engine tune-ups, and emissions system inspections, is vital for achieving optimal fuel efficiency and emission control. Furthermore, retrofitting older vehicles with diesel particulate filters and selective catalytic reduction systems can also help reduce emissions.
Future sustainability within the trucking industry holds significant potential for transformative changes. Electric trucks with greater towing capacity and battery life are currently in development by many vehicle manufacturers, and alternative fuel vehicles are becoming better and better with each new iteration. Hydrogen fuel cell technology also shows promise as a solution for environmentally sustainable transport. The adoption of these fuel sources by a majority of freight haulers would help improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions immensely.
Some other aspects which are expected to shape the future of sustainability include autonomous vehicles (which can improve optimization efforts and fuel efficient driving techniques), sustainable infrastructure such as electric vehicle and hydrogen fuel cell recharging stations, and the use of sustainable materials and recycling in vehicle manufacturing.
Another important and overlooked factor when looking at the future of sustainability is regulatory support. Governments continue to implement stricter emission standards, and provide incentives for the adoption of electric and low-emissions vehicles. They also play a huge role in creating the sustainable infrastructure mentioned in the previous paragraph. In these ways, government regulations are helping drive the trucking industry toward a brighter future.
If you want to know how Eurowag can help your company improve sustainability and prepare to meet the challenges of the future, contact us today to learn more.