Truck Emissions 101: Strategies to Combat Climate Change on the Road

Pamela Nebiu Pamela Nebiu April 04, 2023
Truck Emissions 101: Strategies to Combat Climate Change on the Road
The path to a sustainable future faces some detours, including all those miles drivers must travel to keep the global economy humming. Transportation makes up 27 percent of all greenhouse gases (GHG) in the United States, and truck emissions are responsible for 80 percent of the global rise in GHGs over the past 50 years. Some companies have embraced the push for sustainability, while others have been slower to attempt to lower their carbon footprint. Also, the boom in e-commerce means more miles must be traveled to get customers their shipments as expediently as possible. Hey, no one said this would be easy.
But there are solutions to lower CO2 and combat climate change. Customers and shareholders are encouraging logistics professionals to strive for sustainability, and many stakeholders are curious about how to decrease trucking’s carbon footprint. With Earth Day approaching, let’s examine the source of trucking emissions and how shippers and drivers can lower their carbon footprint.
What are Trucking Emissions?
A cleaner future in the logistics industry must include cutting trucking emissions dramatically. These pollutants, released from the exhaust systems of trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles, include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds. These emissions may stay in the atmosphere for weeks in some cases and years in others. Or they may even stay there for centuries. Improvements to vehicles and route efficiency have been made, but GHG emissions and driven miles continue to rise.
Scope 3 is the most significant emissions from a transportation company. Scope 3 means emissions not produced directly by the company (Scope 1) or its assets (Scope 2) but instead from those, it is indirectly responsible for up and down the supply chain. These GHGs average three-quarters of a company’s emissions but sometimes reach nearly 100%. And they are increasing faster than Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Scope 3 emissions include business travel, waste disposal, employee commuting, transportation of raw materials, deliveries, refrigerants, and operations of facilities such as warehouses or distribution centers.
As Scope 3 Emissions Increase, Regulators Clamp Down on Trucking Emissions
Regulators are now paying close attention to transportation networks’ effect on the environment. The EPA finalized new standards that hope to lower truck emissions by 90% compared to current levels by 2031. By the end of 2023, the EPA expects to start enforcing new rules under the “Clean Trucks Plan” to lower smog, soot, and other pollutants for heavy-duty vehicles moving freight. The Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022 also encourages a decrease in emissions by offering $40,000 toward purchasing an electric heavy-duty truck.
Still, making a significant dent in their carbon footprint may not be feasible — yet — for all companies. Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the regulations might be too much, too soon. “If small business truckers can’t afford the new, compliant trucks, they’re going to stay with older, less efficient trucks or leave the industry entirely,” he said.
3 Strategies for Shippers to Reduce Trucking Emissions
In this quickly-changing landscape, the infrastructure must be in place for all partners to share common goals to make supply chains greener. The award-winning Edge Logistics is pushing toward sustainability by measuring its carbon footprint via benchmarking performance and reporting results to improve efficiency. Its Capacity platform allows for collaboration that reduces empty miles and carbon emissions for carriers. Here are more methods that companies may use to decrease the number of emissions from trucks:
Regular Maintenance
Frequent maintenance helps reduce emissions by ensuring engines and exhaust systems work correctly. Companies can do the following to make sure their heavy-duty vehicles are functioning at optimal levels:
  • Perform regular tune-ups for all systems
  • Inspect and replace air filters as needed
  • Use the correct motor oil for each vehicle
  • Replace worn spark plugs
  • Watch for any fluid or air leaks
  • Monitor for any potential transmission problems or worn-out brakes
  • Make sure catalytic converters are functioning properly
  • Measure if tires are properly inflated and aligned
Real-time visibility helps reduce sudden surprises that often result in needless additional time behind the wheel for drivers. With technology such as GPS, companies can optimize routes, helping them avoid heavy traffic and make fewer stops while spending less time idling. Up-to-date information along the route allows drivers to make decisions when sudden disruptions arise, helping them save time, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce semi-truck emissions. Better visibility also helps companies strategize to explore plans to optimize delivery schedules and help drivers find carrier capacity in lanes that decrease those useless, empty miles. Constant tracking also enables companies to monitor which logistics partners share their same green initiatives.
Alternative Fuel and the Electric Revolution
Electric vehicles and other non-diesel alternatives will be essential to eco-friendly sustainability measures in the transportation industry. A fleet of EV trucks would use renewable energy to reduce emissions and eliminate fuel costs. The operating cost of an EV is usually less than a traditional engine, but companies will have to make a significant investment to switch over. Alternative fuels are another possibility, as shrinking the need for petroleum will be paramount. Other fueling options include hydrogen, natural gas, ethanol, methanol, solar fuel, and biodiesel, offering a much smaller carbon footprint than traditional fossil fuels.
The Future of Trucking Emissions in the Transportation Industry
Logistics companies must work to battle global warming moving forward. The responsibility to move shipments worldwide is significant, as is implementing eco-friendly practices. Strides have been made, but more work is needed to reduce truck emissions. It will take collaboration between parties to find solutions to accomplish this feat. Working with third-party logistics teams to address these concerns will be essential to help share some of the load in adapting environmentally friendly ways. A strong 3PL has the expertise and resources to assist with route optimization, carrier selection, and load consolidation that can improve efficiencies. They also may be able to help utilize alternative fuels and other low-emission technology while providing data analytics tools that can measure carbon footprint. Before choosing a 3PL to work with, ensuring their eco-friendly goals match yours and that they are investing in sustainability measures is vital.
Go Green by Partnering With Edge Logistics
It would be great if it were possible to snap a finger and have all truck emissions disappear. But with all those miles driven to keep supply chains running, it will take teamwork to reach sustainability. To move towards a greener future, Edge Logistics is leading the way in measuring its carbon footprint and taking steps to protect the planet. Learn more from Edge on how to get started on solving your supply chain needs and work with a sustainability-minded partner.

About the Author

Pamela Nebiu

Pamela Nebiu

Pamela is the Senior Marketing Manager at Edge Logistics. She has a Bachelors of Arts from DePaul University in Public Relations and Advertising with a minor in Photography. Pamela is responsible for overseeing advertising, marketing, press, and social media related to Edge.