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Cover Image: Road Transport: Unlocking Fuel-Saving Technologies in Trucking and Fleets

Road Transport: Unlocking Fuel-Saving Technologies in Trucking and Fleets

Executive Summary

The Carbon War Room is considering the potential for achieving growth-positive and gigaton-scale greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in the operation of ground freight trucks and other commercial vehicles. At present, the global trucking and commercial vehicle sector is incredibly diverse in terms of the vehicles being used, as well as the purposes for which they are used and the conditions under which they are used. There is an almost equally wide range of proven technologies currently on the market that can increase the fuel efficiency of these vehicles. Confronted with a lack of globally-applicable hard data, the Carbon War Room has assessed a slice of
the ground freight sector – long-haul Class 8 trucks operating in the United States – and a representative but narrow range of applicable efficiency technologies.

Notwithstanding our limited scope, our findings are substantial. If the tractor-trailer fleet of the United States alone were to adopt just seven efficiency technologies, the trucking sector would save 624 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2022. Though the sector’s diversity made the generation of more comprehensive figures difficult, the relative simplicity of the technologies in question allows us to confidently conclude that there is enormous potential for emissions reductions to be found in scaling the adoption of money-saving fuel efficiency technologies throughout the trucking and commercial vehicle sector worldwide.

Key Findings

  • The adoption of five physical technologies and two information and communication technologies (ICT)-based efficiency solutions by the Class 8 commercial vehicle fleet in the United States will prevent the emission of 624 million
    tons of CO2 by 2022 under predicted industry growth rates.
  • This suite of seven technologies represents average fuel savings of $26,400 per truck, with a payback period of just 18 months.
  • The US is a key location for such savings, as the operation of heavy-duty vehicles consumed 50 billion gallons of fuel in 2010.
  • Opportunities for fuel reductions fall into the two categories of physical technologies and ICT technologies; the adoption of a single physical technology could offer 3-15% emissions reductions and fuel savings over a ten-year timeframe.

Key Barriers

  • Access to capital and high upfront costs: though payback periods are short, truck owners struggle to finance these technologies upfront
  • Principal-agent problem: often the owner of the truck, who would pay for a technology upgrade, does not pay for the fuel costs of the truck and so would not see a benefit from investing in an upgrade – a split incentive that needs to be rectified
  • Information, education, trust and momentum: these four issues are interrelated and need to be addressed comprehensively by generating more and better data about the benefits of efficiency technologies and enhancing trust in them.
  • In the United States and Europe the current policy climate is favorable to the adoption of these technologies. However, continued policy progress would provide greater incentives for efficiency technologies.
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    Carbon War Room in association with Elsevier Biofuel TechSelect Go to the Carbon War Room website