road-freight

Global efforts needed to reduce trucks’ environmental footprint

Road freight vehicles such as vans and long-haul trucks are major and essential drivers of the global economy, yet the environmental and economic impacts of the sector are little understood.

Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), noted that his agency’s new report on road freight transport is an important first step towards understanding and fixing the complex issues in this area.

Dr Birol launched the report, ‘The Future of Trucks – Implications for Energy and the Environment’ at a Friends of Europe high-level conference on 3 July in Brussels.

He said that as the second-largest source of all global oil demand, trucks consume half of the diesel produced in the world and the sector is the fastest-growing in terms of oil demands. In terms of emissions, road freight transport – approximately 60 million trucks worldwide – is responsible for 35% of all transport-related CO2 emissions worldwide, compared to 40% of transport-related emissions from one billion cars. Compared to two other emissions-heavy industries – aviation and coal use in power production and industry – the growth of truck emissions is set to be higher than both by 2050.

The road freight sector has a particularly damaging effect in cities, stressed Maroš Sefčovič, European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union, noting that air pollution and congestion from trucks has become a logistical nightmare in cities around the globe.

Policy efforts to curb truck emissions are not widespread around the globe, Birol noted. While 40 countries have mandatory fuel standards for cars, only four – the United States, Canada, Japan, and China – have fuel efficiency standards for trucks.

“The IEA vision for modernising trucks requires a near-term focus on introducing vehicle efficiency standards, improving logistics and research and development into for alternative fuels,” he said.

Differentiated taxes and improved logistics through better of data and technology are also essential, as is political, scientific and business support for the development of fuel alternatives and the necessary infrastructure.

“The most important part of finding solutions to this issue is leadership,” noted Sophie Punte, Founder and Executive Director of the Smart Freight Center. “Business leaders in particular need to step up and have companies measure, report on, and verify emissions.”

Investments in alternative fuels and fuel efficiency will be counted in the tens of billions of euros and stretch over years, stressed John Cooper, Director General at FuelsEurope. “In order to make a business case for alternative fuels we need a consistent policy vision for the long-term, unaffected by the fluctuations of normal political cycles,” he said.

In Europe right now, Sefčovič said, there is a real revolution in progress towards a systemic improvement in road freight systems. Using data, RFID tags, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances, supply chain management is becoming more efficient, with knock-on effects for fuel efficiency.

“Addressing problems in the road freight sector is challenging but possible,” he said. “What is missing is a sense of urgency. There is no single solution but a combination of practical, technological, policy, and business-related responses will work to ensure the future of this very important sector.”

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