Prateek Chourdia and Maria Stamas of the Rocky Mountain Institute contributed an article to Treehugger that advocates “Transformational Trucking.” While the phrase has nice alliteration and originates from the highly regarded mountain lair of Amory Lovins, the authors seem a bit too invested in the same old ICE paradigm.
This blog repeatedly has argued for a different transformation, i.e., supplant over the road hauling with electric rail freight. This argument does have limitations, thus the transformation suggested by the RMI authors is worthy of note, to include:
- Increasing the aerodynamics of new trucks and trailers.
- Increasing the use of tires with low rolling resistance to reduce fuel consumption
- Decreasing the weight of new trucks and trailers to increase the miles traveled per unit of fuel
- Associating efficiency and productivity gains with monetary value, thus prompting uniform industry incentives for driver training, load and route optimization, and so on.
- Increasing freight hauled per trip by mandating aggressive and internationally competitive fuel economy, length, and weight standards
- Accelerating the adoption of efficient technologies by developing supportive policies and funding mechanisms
Still Chourdia and Stamas do the nation and world a disservice by omitting mention of rail freight as a best practice to reduce GHG emissions. In the introduction of the article, their observation of industry conditions would seem to a strong argument for cleaner, more economical rail freight. Indeed, their suggestions are as applicable to and improve the systems from rail hub to point of delivery as they are to over the road trucking. Thus, while they may seem to befriend the trucking industry, ultimately a more radically honest approach will serve truckers better. By synergistic technologies, not only can shippers reduce their environmental impact significantly, they also could maintain or increase profits. Such transformation could reduce the increasing costs of food and goods for the rest of us. Combining these critical steps thus could help to reduce an inflationary spiral.
The volatility of fuel costs and the reeling economy have taken their toll on the long-haul, heavy-duty trucking industry, though their tribulations have received less attention than those of the auto sector.
More than 2500 owner operator trucking companies–self-employed commercial truck drivers or small businesses–went bankrupt in 2008. And in late February 2009, Transport Topics reported that Class 8 tractor sales hit a 17-year low in sales.
Heavy-duty, long-haul trucks’ smokestacks emit 6 percent of the United States’ carbon dioxide per year, so with carbon regulations becoming all but certain in the next year or two, some serious changes will have to be made. It’s safe to say the industry is at a critical juncture.