The impact of trucks on greenhouse gas emissions is oversized. Comprising just over 4 percent of vehicles in the United States and 9 percent of total mileage, they consume more than 25 percent of fuel—50 billion gallons of diesel each year. Worldwide, road freight is responsible for about 6 percent of all emissions, and growing.
Project Drawdown defines the trucks solution as: the increased use of fuel reduction technologies and approaches for trucking. This solution replaces conventional trucking technologies and approaches.
Heavy trucks use about 50 percent of all freight industry energy, and light trucks another 20 percent; trucks are, therefore, responsible for a majority of emissions in the freight industry. Growth in emissions continues despite the use of more efficient vehicles and despite reduced freight demand from the 2008 financial crisis. Carbon emissions from trucking and other commercial operations are predicted to grow even more rapidly than those from personal transportation.
Ways of increasing fuel efficiency
There are two tracks for increasing fuel efficiency: (1) building it into the design of new trucks and (2) driving it up in rigs already on the road.
New models are sporting:
- better engines and aerodynamics,
- lighter weights,
- less rolling resistance for tires,
- hybridization, and
- automatic engine shutdown.
Based on 2010 U.S. prices, investing in these modernizations for a new truck can cost around $30,000, but save almost that much in fuel costs per year.
If adoption of fuel-saving technologies grows from 2 percent to 85 percent of trucks by 2050, this solution can deliver 6.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions. An investment of $544 billion to implement could save $2.8 trillion on fuel costs over thirty years.
Because tractor-trailers remain on the road for many years, addressing the efficiency of existing fleets is critical. An array of measures can trim energy waste and increase fuel performance, such as anti-idling devices, upgrades that improve aerodynamics and reduce rolling resistance, and automatic cruise-control devices. Added up, they can make a significant dent in fuel use and costs.
Adoption of this solution does, however, have a few barriers:
- Fragmented markets and limited access to capital: In many countries, the trucking industry has a large number of owner-operators (each with fewer than five trucks), and multiple stakeholders involved in trucking transactions. This could reduce the ratio of benefits to costs if borrowing/investment costs are higher due to the small size of the operation.
- Split benefits: With many truck-trailer combinations, the trailer has a different owner than the truck, creating a question of who pays for the upgrades and who reaps the benefits of fuel savings.
- Lack of information, education, trust, and momentum in many countries.
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