The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
Freight movement in the United States accounted for 31% of all transportation-sector greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in 2019, and its share of these emissions continues to grow. A new ACEEE working paper and accompanying series of topic briefs explore the potential to reduce freight GHG emissions using emerging technologies that are commercially available today. Our new resources focus on logistical improvements enabled by information and communications technology (ICT) but also discuss vehicle electrification, automation, and connectivity. Transportation-related ICT includes software that enables real-time tracking of vehicles, loads, freight demand, warehouse capacity, and other factors. When used effectively, these data can reduce the miles that empty trucks drive after making a delivery and thus optimize freight transport.
Our preliminary results show that, in the short and medium term, ICT-based operational improvements, such as shifting from truck to rail or optimizing truck loading, can provide the majority of potential GHG reductions. By 2035, annual GHG emissions for intercity and regional truck freight can be cut by 41%, or 76 million metric tons, from business-as-usual levels, with ICT-enabled reductions representing 55% of the total. By 2050, the ICT share of annual emissions reductions could fall to 30%, as the benefits of electrification will have grown dramatically.
Our research suggests that while vehicle technology improvements such as electrification and automation have great long-term potential for emissions reductions, applying ICT-enabled logistical improvements can achieve substantial emissions reductions in the next 10 to 15 years, a period in which establishing a rapid trajectory toward eliminating emissions will be essential. In the longer term, both vehicle- and system-based strategies will be necessary.
Learn more in the new ACEEE working paper, Achieving Freight Transport GHG Emissions Reductions Through Emerging Technologies, and three accompanying briefs in our smart freight series: Maximizing Truck Load Factor, Ports at the Forefront, and Data Exchange at https://bit.ly/Freight-Transport-Emissions
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), is a nonprofit research organization, that develops policies to reduce energy waste and combat climate change. Its independent analysis advances investments, programs, and behaviors that use energy more effectively and help build an equitable clean energy future.