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  • Writer's pictureARI Media

5 trucking sustainability trends for 2021

According to an International Transport Forum (ITF) report, freight accounts for 7% of total global CO2 emissions, with trucking being the largest contributor. As the world faces more effects of climate change every day, the trucking industry is driving toward a greener, more efficient future.

Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs)

The deployment of AFVs — including electric, hydrogen-electric and renewable natural gas (RNG) — is on the rise. The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) said electric vehicles in the U.S. emit approximately 4,091 pounds each of CO2 equivalent annually, compared to the approximately 11,435 pounds of CO2 equivalent that gas vehicles emit.

Almost every manufacturer is taking orders for electric trucks, with PACCAR planning to deliver on orders in 2021. Daimler and Volvo also have test vehicles on roadways. Tesla has a new 150 electric Semi order from Pride Group Enterprises in Canada. The Western States Hydrogen Alliance (WSHA) is helping hydrogen-electric technology progress faster through collaboration.

During the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME virtual conference last week, Hyliion CEO and founder Thomas Healy, spoke about RNG-powered electric trucks. Healy stated that RNG can be net carbon-negative depending on the source and other variables. Watch the video to see how the entire process works.

Full truckloads (FTLs) and reducing empty miles

In 2017, empty miles accounted for about 17% (~74.2 million metric tons) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. Ensuring that truckloads are full and reducing empty miles are some of the simplest ways to reduce GHG emissions. Empty miles and less-than-truckloads (LTLs) both result in wasted time, money and emissions.

Flock Freight is introducing “shared truckloads” as a way to combine two or more LTLs. When shared cargo reaches FTL status, it drastically reduces emissions and costs for customers.

According to this Freight Economics article, there hasn’t been much progress in empty mile reductions since the 1970s until recently. Convoy’s Automated Reloads program, which connects drivers with loads, and new technology are helping reduce empty miles as we approach 2021.

Automation and autonomy

In a FreightWaves LIVE @HOME interview with Plus COO and co-founder Shawn Kerrigan, Kerrigan discussed how Plus is using autonomous technology and applying it to the commercial freight market. 

He said there is “tremendous potential in this space to improve safety, reduce costs, reduce CO2 emissions and just drive overall economic efficiency.”

Daimler is combining its manufacturing expertise with Waymo’s software expertise in the race to a fully automated truck. Daimler is also partnering with Luminar Technologies to create a level 4 autonomous truck using Luminar’s LiDAR sensing and perception software. Einride is working hard to get its autonomous electric T-Pod truck ready to roll out. The T-Pod has no cab but is expected to have remote operators accessible to take control if conditions call for it.

Optimal vehicle design and driving practices

The increased use of automation helps drivers and truck manufacturers find more efficient speeds, acceleration rates, etc. using IoT sensors.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has research about optimal vehicle practices regarding proper tire pressure and aerodynamic trailer tails and side fairings. ATRI has also found some specific driving practices that maximize fuel efficiency, and therefore, reduce emissions. Maintaining a consistent, not maximum, speed minimizing idle time and choosing optimal routes are just a few of their suggestions. 

During one study, they found that drivers who participated in a classroom and on-road training reduced their fuel consumption by about 27%.

New regulations

The Trump administration has rolled back several environmental programs and regulations including fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. President-elect Joe Biden has mentioned several plans to combat climate change. A recent FreightWaves article goes into what potential fuel efficiency regulations, autonomous vehicle safety and tax credits for electric vehicles we could see under Biden’s presidency. 

California has been busy with new regulations this year, from trying to eliminate reefer emissions to making new mandates for electric truck sales. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a ban on the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars starting in 2035. The executive order will also require most medium- and heavy-duty trucks to be zero-emission by 2045.

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