Anyone keeping an ear to the ground in trucking knows that working toward net-zero carbon emissions has been decades in the making — and extends beyond the obvious elimination of diesel smokestacks. Increased emissions regulations have led to mileage improvements, while fleets with generous budgets are pursuing advancements in electric vehicles, alternative fuels, autonomous trucks, and aerodynamics.
But moving freight in the U.S. is a fragmented endeavor, so forward-thinking shippers understand the necessity of including small independent operators and small fleets in this transition. In this week's segment of Net Zero Carbon on FreightWaves NOW, Danny Gomez, managing director of financial and emerging markets, and Tyler Cole, director of carbon intelligence at FreightWaves, shared results from Convoy's August Sustainability in Trucking Snapshot Report, featuring interviews with nearly 600 small to medium-size carriers with 50 or fewer trucks.
"What they found in that survey was that it's very stratified in terms of who cares about sustainability," said Cole. "If you've been driving your own truck for less than five to 10 years, you are more likely to cite awareness of climate change as an issue and a need to adjust your operations accordingly. If you're a small fleet operator on the West Coast and you've been in business three years, your entire operation has known nothing but wildfires in the summer. What we really have to do is just adapt to what's changing. We don't have the solutions today that are cost-effective to go net zero. So in the meantime, what we've got to do is an all-hands-on-deck approach to try and optimize what we can and adapt in this environment."
Providing visibility for efficient utilization is a clear low-hanging fruit solution. Convoy, a digital freight network that already achieves net-zero carbon, is working to save 3 million pounds of carbon emissions by the end of 2021 — all from tackling empty miles.
"It's about finding ways to be more efficient that provide better economics for the industry as a whole, and at the same time reduce emissions," said Gomez. "Convoy has done something really smart with their reduce-empty-miles campaign, which is they're focusing on the thing that matters to the carrier, which then also matters to the shipper and has the benefit of also checking the sustainability box."
As far as what the next one to five years hold for the industry, Cole said that EV growth will sustain its momentum in light- to medium-duty trucks and will begin to catch on for the heavy-duty trucks in regional hubs. The Midwest and East Coast will latch on to more regulatory efforts to incentivize net-zero-carbon efforts.
"We'll see carbon capture become a big piece of this story, whether that's onsite at a shipper or whether carriers come out with some unique tailpipe emissions-capturing solutions," said Cole. "It's a potential boon for fleets. If you can capture that and sell it, it's a revenue generator. Anytime we can bring in more money for doing something greener, we're going to see that solution scale faster."
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