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The trucking industry is the lifeblood that keeps communities around the world humming along, but it does come at a price for the environment. According to a recent EPA study, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions are from the transportation industry, with trucks making up around 23% of that. This is largely due to the fact that more than 90% of trucks run on some form of petroleum-based fuel, with the world’s largest fleets being major contributors. This also does not take into account the other types of pollutants and waste that trucks generate on a regular basis.
Thankfully, major trucking companies have begun to recognize their vehicles' effects on the environment and made significant measures—including investing in electric and hybrid energy sources—to mitigate their carbon footprint. But small fleet owners and even owner-operators can also take small but impactful measures to make their rigs produce fewer pollutants without compromising performance.
Plan your routes
Arguably the most practical way to make your trucks eco-friendly is by optimizing your routes. The longer it takes for the truck to go from point A to point B, the more gas it uses up, harming the environment and your wallet in the process. Plus, there’s also traffic that you need to consider. Getting stuck in the middle of the rush hour with the engine idling can also burn through fuel rather quickly.
Optimizing your route doesn’t need fancy equipment or extensive training; all you need is a map or GPS and plan the trip the night before. Ideally, you should choose a route that offers a short path and minimal traffic. If traveling through high-traffic areas is inevitable, consider leaving earlier or later than the usual rush hour traffic times. Ideally, the truck should be rolling at a steady speed through most of if not the entire route. Mobile GPS apps like Waze in particular are helpful in these situations as they can provide drivers with real-time data on traffic and road hazards, especially when driving in unfamiliar territory.
Maintain your truck regularly
While it’s unavoidable for trucks to generate a large amount of greenhouse gases, proper and regular maintenance can minimize its effect. Keeping the air intake, fuel delivery, engine, and exhaust components in top shape can go a long way in keeping a truck’s fuel consumption at optimum levels. Even simple procedures such as maintaining correct tire pressure or swapping to a new air filter can increase fuel efficiency by as high as 10%. And that’s not taking into consideration the other benefits provided by a strict maintenance schedule.
Truckers like to pile on the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate because of the supposed headaches it brings, but it does come with the benefit of being more eco-friendly. ELD logs hours digitally, so there’s no need for drivers to write down their driving hours on a logbook. So you can just imagine the amount of paper, ink, and other resources that can be saved regularly by going electronic.
Even if the ELD mandate does not cover you, you can still log in your hours on the road through the phone or on a laptop. There are also time management and tracker apps that you can use to make it easier to organize your schedule. Of course, transitioning to paperless does require some getting used to, but you will save money on paper products and help the environment at the same time.
Invest in telematics
More and more fleets are adopting telematics to conduct real-time vehicle diagnostics for more efficient vehicle maintenance, but it has also led to significant improvements in emissions control and overall sustainability. Aside from increased fuel efficiency provided by a well-maintained truck, the various monitoring sensors and equipment used in telematics can also allow transport and logistics companies to take more control over the emissions of their vehicles. A problem in the engine, fuel, or exhaust systems, for example, can immediately be detected and addressed in its early stages before it causes more harm both to the truck and to the environment.
Aside from vehicle performance, telematics can also be used to encourage proper driving habits. Current telematics systems are capable of detecting various types of driving behavior and enable companies to see if drivers are making inefficient decisions, such as excessive engine idling or hard braking. Managers can then take steps to discourage such behaviors and implement best practices to help drivers improve.
Reward “efficient” drivers
While telematics can be used to catch and fix wasteful driving practices, it can also be harnessed to encourage efficient drivers. Rewards tend to be more effective in teaching drivers proper driving habits than reprimands, especially when they feel they impact the fleet’s sustainability and environmental goals.
It is up to fleet managers to identify their drivers’ good and bad driving practices and take the necessary steps to educate and encourage them of sustainable behavior. Only when everyone in the team is on board will the entire fleet effectively reduce its collective carbon footprint.
Ultimately, the best solution to making the trucking industry more environmentally friendly is the switch to electric and other renewable energy sources. But while both technology and the industry are still catching up, there are still plenty of ways for drivers and owners alike to make their trucks greener.