It’s an unfortunate reality that when most people talk about reducing their carbon footprint, one of the biggest factors they see as an issue is that of the transportation of goods and materials by truck. And of course, it’s true that commercial trucks contribute to the problem — according to the EPA, medium- and heavy-duty trucks produce over half a billion tons of carbon pollution each year in the U.S. It’s also true, however, that this mammoth-sounding number is only six percent of the total amount of carbon pollution created in the U.S. annually, with electricity, industry, and passenger car emissions being much more significant players.

But half a billion tons is still half a billion tons, and every step we can take as an industry to reduce that amount is a step in the right direction. Great strides have already been made, as the American Trucking Associations’ initiative to reduce industry fuel consumption by 86 billion gallons by 2025 has renewed the industry’s focus on the steps that can be taken to boost truck efficiency — and save on fuel costs at the same time.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) outlined three areas where both long-haul and last-mile fleets can concentrate their efforts: driving practices, vehicle practices, and public sector practices.

Sustainable driving practices include reducing the time spent idling, optimizing driving speed for the most efficient fuel consumption, and holding driver training sessions and using incentives to promote sustainable driver behavior.

Vehicle practices that can contribute to fuel efficiency include enhancing vehicle aerodynamics, implementing truck technology, and using cargo management systems.

And, public sector initiatives include pushing for regulations, standards, and incentives; mitigating congestion; and performing more research and testing.

There are a multitude of ways for fleets to address each of these areas, ranging from the simple addition of trailer skirts or the use of cruise control, to the utilization of DPFs with catalyst coating or the optimization of supply chains.    

But, much of the innovation happening in the trucking industry right now revolves around this very issue of reducing fuel consumption and increasing efficiency. Here are just a few of the ways fleets can harness new technology to work toward sustainability in each area.

Driving Practices

Driver behavior determines a great deal when it comes to fuel usage, but it can be hard to ensure compliance with sustainability guidelines — and even to know how your drivers are currently performing in that regard — without some objective way of tracking behavior. Fortunately, there are telematics solutions that can help you keep tabs on what’s going on with each of your drivers, from idling time to speed control and beyond — which can help you put together a training program and check for improvements.    

Vehicle Practices

New technology is also making it possible for fleet managers to optimize their vehicles’ fuel efficiency at an entirely new level. While tactics such as adding side fairings and trailer tails definitely do have an impact on aerodynamics, today fleets are also connecting via technology to team up with nearby trucks for platooning purposes to reduce wind resistance, and even working toward making platooning standard, by allowing one driver to remotely control several driverless trucks behind him.

Another solution is a result of the exploding sharing economy — load sharing allows fleet managers to ensure that their drivers are never running empty, by matching available loads to nearby empty trucks.  By maximizing every mile, less fuel is wasted — and fewer emissions are produced.

Public Sector Practices

While there’s not much that fleet managers can do about traffic congestion itself, there are plenty of solutions available for avoiding it as much as possible. Route planning software helps save fuel by reducing miles driven and finding the most efficient routes possible.   

So, although sustainability may not be the first word that comes to mind when most people think of the trucking industry, maybe it should be. The progress we are making in our industry serves as a stellar example to others of just how much can be accomplished when an entire industry works together toward a single goal that will benefit our businesses and our environment at the same time.