As weather patterns across the United States become more erratic, scientists are cautioning against the effects of climate change. As a result, the transportation industry is seeking to find new ways to keep supply chain management as environmentally friendly as possible. How will changes in technology contribute to this goal, and what sort of regulatory changes can we expect to see in the future?
Environmental groups and trucking companies are already advising drivers to take easy operational measures to reduce carbon footprints on the road. Here are a few ways drivers can impact the environment for the better.
- Take the pedal off the metal. Reducing speed even by five miles an hour can make a big difference in emissions. As an added bonus, slower speeds for trucks can be safer for everyone on the road. Debate is already swirling about lowering the speed limit to 65 for trucks on major highways.
- Practice fuel-saving behavior. Simple acts like progressive shifting and longer stops and starts can save anywhere from 5-10% on fuel economy.
- Rethink cabin comfort. Trucking companies should encourage employees who live in their cabins during long hauls to utilize truck stop electrification technology whenever available instead of relying on their diesel engine for heating and cooling.
- Simple equipment changes. Aerodynamic panels are becoming more common on tractor trailers, and companies can install them on their trucks to help improve fuel efficiency.
In response to reports about the threats of climate change, regulatory bodies have begun thinking about guidelines for the trucking industry. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed what they refer to as Phase II in fuel economy regulations, set to take effect in 2018. The regulations in Phase II are referred to as performance-based standards, meaning companies can rely on any combination of technology they choose to meet the new emissions regulations.
While the EPA has given the trucking industry until 2021 to fully comply with the new set of standards, the state of California has already begun its green overhaul of the industry. In July, California governor Jerry Brown declared by executive order that state agencies should begin the process of improving California’s freight system.
According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the freight system accounts for 45% of smog-forming pollution in the Golden State. But how can scientists fight the problem?
“We have to go to zero tailpipe emissions,” remarked Mark Z. Jacobsen, professor of environmental and civil engineering at Stanford. “There’s really no other solution.”
The state acknowledges that it will take time to introduce that kind of widespread freight technology. In the meantime, it envisions that diesel engines will continue to be the main source of power through 2030, but with increasingly rigorous emissions provisions.
With these regulations on the horizon, we can expect marked changes in the way long-haul freight vehicles operate in the coming years. With a few operational changes and some investment in green technology, the trucking industry is poised to do its part in reducing overall emissions.