US: Digital freight networks can reduce truck emissions

(ACEEE blog, 22 Jan 2024) Reducing truck miles traveled is critical to decarbonizing the freight sector. Technology can help achieve this by efficiently consolidating shipments and assigning shipments to otherwise empty truck trips.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, medium- and heavy-duty trucks accounted for 23% of carbon emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, or 6.5% of all U.S. emissions, in 2021. Though emissions from these vehicles dropped in 2020, they grew to surpass 2019 levels in 2021 and have increased by 78% since 1990. Therefore, reducing emissions from the freight sector is a critical component of the nation’s transportation decarbonization strategy.

Truck electrification will be necessary to achieve the goal of an 80 to 100% reduction in transportation emissions by 2050, but electrifying every truck mile traveled will involve logistical and financial challenges that can be mitigated by reducing the total number of truck miles traveled every day. Reducing truck miles traveled, including electric truck miles, would also lower demand on the power grid.

Some truck trips are wasted or underutilized

Strategies to reduce truck miles traveled include reducing empty miles and increasing load factor. Empty miles occur when a truck is traveling empty, which happens when the truck is returning from a drop-off (known as an empty backhaul) or moving between a drop-off and a pick-up.

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ACEEE blog, 22 Jan 2024: US: Digital freight networks can reduce truck emissions