Truck shipping

What is the impact of freight and shipping on the environment?

In light of the IPCC’s damning report on the impact of policies on climate change, many of us are forced to rethink how we can operate more sustainably.

With that in mind, we’ve reflected on the emissions of some industries, what those industries are doing to improve their sustainability, and what more they need to do to actively tackle climate change.

So, for this article, we looked at the impact of the freight and shipping industries on the environment.

Emissions from freight trucks

According to statistics from Our World in Data, the transportation industry is responsible for around one-fifth of the world’s CO2.2, road trips representing three quarters of industry emissions.

Of the three quarters that come from road trips, passenger vehicles contribute 45.1% and 29.4% come from trucks transporting goods.

Since the entire transport sector accounts for 21% of total emissions and trucks transporting goods account for 29.4% of transport industry emissions, trucks transporting goods are responsible for about 6% of the total emissions. total CO emissions2 emissions.

We spoke with Pol Sweeney, VP Sales & Country Manager at Descartes Systems, a logistics technology platform designed to optimize the logistics industry, what could be done to reduce industry emissions.

He commented: “2% of road traffic in the EU are trucks, but these represent 22% of CO2 emissions. So whatever you can do to reduce truck activity, the benefit will be increased tenfold in terms of reduced emissions.

“The main solution would be to have fewer trucks and use electric vehicles, but you could also make your trucks travel less miles and be more efficient at delivery. In other words, get a higher return on the kilometers driven.

“It all comes down to the fact that you are using efficient routing optimization for your fleet. Do you take into account the road and rail networks and the traffic structure? Can you avoid rush hour, school pickups and roadworks?

“It can reduce the time trucks spend on the road and increase the density of deliveries and stops they make, which can create 15-20% more efficient trips, which we have typically seen for our customers. “

“If you can cut truck travel times by 10%, that’s the equivalent of taking a car off the road. “

The environmental cost of reducing the HGV deficit in the UK

In the UK there is currently a shortage of truck drivers of around 100,000, which has led to empty shelves across the country. The government has proposed various initiatives to address this deficit, but a major downside if these initiatives are successful is the cost to the environment.

One of the temporary regulations exercised by the government increases the number of legally permitted driving hours, which means trucks on the road longer.

Hypothetically, if the UK government succeeds in eradicating the driver deficit completely, there will be 100,000 more heavy goods vehicles on the road.

And since they plan to eradicate heavy-duty diesel use by 2040, almost 20 years from now any new heavy-duty truck on the road will almost certainly also be of the polluting variety. Therefore, which means a significant increase in emissions from the sector.

“Solving the driver shortage requires a multi-faceted solution,” Pol continued. “Finding a group of short-term drivers and encouraging them to come to the UK can be a solution, but if you have a scarce resource, make sure you use that resource to the fullest.

“Don’t send your drivers to drive an hour longer than necessary because you could turn a 9 hour day into a 10 hour day, which means you increase the number of driving hours required by 10 hours. %. “

“If you can optimize the routes that these drivers are sent on, you will get 10, 15, 20% reduction in driver hour requirements. This would reduce the driver deficit from, say, 50,000 to 45,000. “

Emissions in the shipping industry

According to a 2019 Financial Times report, the shipping industry is responsible for two to three percent of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is roughly the same amount of total CO2 emissions for which Germany, Korea, Iran and Canada are responsible.

In January 2020, the International Maritime Organization introduced regulations that lowered the maximum allowable amount of sulfur exhaust from ships from 3.5% to 0.5%. With 174 Member States, including the UK, these regulations have the potential to significantly reduce emissions from the sector.

We spoke to Jacob Armstrong, responsible for sustainable shipping at Transport Environment, a Brussels-based NGO campaigning for greener transport in Europe and beyond to find out if these measures have been effective:

“Not much has come out regarding the changes due to air pollution deaths due to these changes. But it’s hard to make a comparison because 2020 has been such a special year, for reasons that probably don’t need to be spelled out.

“There are also minor applicability issues, but since ships are prohibited from carrying high sulfur fuel, emissions are significantly lower.”

In July 2021, the European Commission also adopted a series of legislative proposals on how it plans to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, which included a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by ‘by 2030.

These proposals include the revision of several parts of EU climate legislation, such as the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), the effort-sharing regulation, the legislation on transport and land use, which means that new regulations on emissions from the shipping industry are expected to be imminent.

“Regarding the proposals made by the EU in July, there are three interesting proposals concerning the shipping industry,” Jacob continued.

“First, shipping currently doesn’t pay anything for its emissions, and it pays very little tax, so it has very little incentive to improve. However, the EU has a carbon emissions trading system, and the shipping industry is going to be involved.

“This is good news because it means the industry will finally pay something and shipping fuels will increase, which will bridge the gap between very cheap, heavily dirty fuels and cleaner fuels.”

“Natural gas is another thing that the shipping companies that talk about going greener say they are doing. In shipping, natural gas is often referred to as an alternative fuel and low carbon fuel, but natural gas is basically methane and we’ve all read the reports about it.

“So you need governance to say, let’s stop greenwashing, we need to do the right solutions and we need the right investment in the right places. “

“The EU has proposed that ETS regulations apply to most ships entering Europe. One proposal was that half of emissions from ships entering Europe fall under the responsibility of the EU and that outgoing ships fall under the responsibility of the country whose ships leave Europe.

“The idea behind this port state control law is the hope of creating global shipping regulations and now the United States, China and other countries must follow suit.

“But if we do this in the EU, countries often follow suit.”

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