The concept of sustainability as it pertains to human activity has been around for some time. For instance, the United Nations’ 1987 Brundtland Report defines sustainability as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In the private sector, sustainability often refers to the adoption of practices, strategies and technologies to reduce the environmental impact of business operations.  

Depending on the business, such efforts could include the use of recycled or biodegradable packaging, water conservation programs and the use of renewable energy. For trucking companies and other organizations that rely on vehicles in the course of doing business, sustainability measures often include: 

  • Reducing carbon emissions 
  • Air pollution mitigation 
  • Improving energy efficiency 
  • Reducing waste 
  • Training drivers on best practices 


What Is Driving Sustainability in Trucking? 

The demand for more sustainability in the transportation industry is driven by several factors. 

One of the primary drivers is the growing awareness of the environmental impact of transportation activities. The transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with light duty trucks responsible for 58% of transportation sector emissions and medium- and heavy-duty trucks being responsible for 23%. As concerns about climate change and air quality increase, there is a greater emphasis on reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources. 

Sustainability is also driven by economic factors. As non-renewable energy sources become more expensive, the need for energy-efficient transportation increases. Fuel costs are a significant expense for transportation companies and adopting sustainable practices can help reduce operational costs and enhance long-term financial viability. 

Finally, consumer demand for sustainable products and services is increasing. People are becoming more conscious of their environmental footprint and are actively seeking greener transportation options. This shift in consumer preferences puts pressure on transportation companies to adopt sustainable practices and provide eco-friendly solutions. 


Climate Regulations 

Government climate goals – along with the regulations created to meet those goals – are also a powerful driver in the transportation industry’s push toward becoming more sustainable. In the United States, regulations that impact trucking can come from the federal government or state governments. 

Federal Net-Zero Emissions Goal 

In 2021, the White House published a long-term strategy document outlining a series of climate goals, including: 

  • Reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels in 2030 
  • Reaching 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 
  • Achieving a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 


The subsequent U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, which was released in 2023, aims to cut GHG emissions in both passenger and freight transportation. The blueprint calls for improving vehicle efficiency and transitioning to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including commercial trucks. 


California Advanced Clean Fleets 

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule in April 2023. The program aims to transition all commercial trucks and vans ZEVs by 2045. For drayage vehicles, the deadline to transition to ZEVs is 2035. In addition to drayage fleets, ACF regulations affect local, state and federal vehicles in California, as well as so-called “high priority” fleets, which CARB defines as fleets that “own, operate, or direct at least one vehicle in California, and that have either $50 million or more in gross annual revenues, or that own, operate, or have common ownership or control of a total of 50 or more vehicles.”  

While ACF will have a major impact on motor carriers within California – which ranks as one of the top three states for highest number of trucking businesses – the rules also have the potential to change the interstate trucking landscape. First, California is often a regulatory trendsetter; already, six states have said that they will implement California’s ACF rules: New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington and Vermont. Moreover, carriers from states that have not adopted ACF but that still have routes going through California will need to adapt to the state’s regulations. 


How Can Trucking Businesses Become More Sustainable Today? 

Long-term sustainability solutions for the trucking industry will include the implementation of electric vehicles and cleaner, more renewable fuel sources. In the short term, however, there are many things that carriers can do to reduce their environmental impact.  

And these efforts don’t have to be at odds with running a profitable transportation business. In fact, many technology-supported sustainability measures can also result in reduced costs and increased efficiency. 


Improve Driver Behavior 

A heavy-duty truck consumes nearly a gallon of fuel for every hour it sits idling. And a truck travelling at 75 mph uses 27% more fuel than one going 65 mph. Telematics provide actionable data that carriers can use to correct these types of driver behaviors. EROAD’s Idle Report displays average idle time by vehicle, date, time and location, making it easy to pinpoint excessive idling and its causes. EROAD’s Over Speed Dashboard helps carriers monitor speeding events and trends, helping them reduce costs through fuel savings while improving safety. 


Reduce Miles Traveled 

Reducing vehicle miles traveled is among the Energy Department’s Core Principles of Sustainable Fleet Management. Transportation businesses can use telematics to reduce miles traveled – including wasted deadhead miles – and cut fuel usage by identifying the most efficient, truck-friendly routes. Improved routing can also cut down on time spent idling on congested roads and highways. The result: reduced fuel costs and less emissions. 


Improve Vehicle Maintenance 

Well-maintained engines typically use less fuel. On the other hand, neglected engines may burn more fuel and experience poorer performance, which could lead to increased emissions – not to mention the need for costly major repairs down the line. Telematics helps carriers manage preventative maintenance, alerting them to fault codes early and facilitating easy pre- and post-trip inspections, lowering costs and supporting sustainability. 



Click here to learn how EROAD’s fleet management solutions can help you build a more sustainable fleet. 

What Is Driving Sustainability in the Trucking Industry?

by | Aug 29, 2023 |

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