Convoy survey: Trucking divided on sustainability, climate change

Reducing empty miles, increasing fuel efficiency still more important than EV adoption, survey indicates

A survey released Tuesday by Convoy found that U.S. trucking companies are very open to sustainable solutions that save money and reduce emissions, but there are still conflicting views on climate change and environmental regulations.

The digital freight network surveyed about 600 small and midsize trucking companies.

“Truck drivers, especially the nation’s owner-operators and smaller carriers, are a key part in helping the freight industry move to a more sustainable future of freight. Their decisions impact how sustainable trucking can be in the future,” Jennifer Wong, head of sustainability at Convoy, told FreightWaves.

Of carriers surveyed, 76% said fuel economy was very important in their purchasing decisions about new trucks. Increasing fuel economy and decreasing the number of empty miles are two  mutually beneficial solutions for the bottom line and the environment.

Nearly 63% of respondents said that reducing empty miles was very important, and only 7% said it was less important or not important.

“Truck drivers are seeing the impact of climate change, and reducing empty miles is still a top priority and largest opportunity to immediately reduce carbon emissions. Perceptions and attitudes toward improving the environment are starting to align with action,” Wong said.

Conflicting views on climate, emissions, regulations

Truck drivers, sometimes depending on experience levels, have very differing views toward climate change, according to survey results.

Responses to how much they believe climate change affects their communities:

  • 28% said it has a large impact.
  • 36% said it has some impact.
  • 36% said it has little to no impact.

Even though the majority said they believe climate change has some or a large impact, 65% of respondents did not feel pressure to reduce the emissions of their businesses.

Of those who said they are actively trying to reduce emissions, 24% said the reason was more awareness of the environmental impact of carbon emissions, and 19% said it was because of government regulations. Other top reasons for reducing emissions included: reducing operating costs (9%), personal motivation (9%), for their customers (3%) and brokers or the media (2%).

Wong said: “It’s not just a topic that younger generations or new drivers care about. Truck drivers from all backgrounds are interested in sharing how they think about and take action on sustainability.” But, the survey’s responses indicated that truckers with less experience generally cared about sustainability more and felt more pressure to reduce emissions than drivers with more experience. 

The largest split based on experience and age was on government regulations. The survey showed that, in general, the more experience a driver had, the less he or she believed stricter environmental laws and regulations were worth the cost.

“The survey results revealed that newer-to-trucking carriers and younger demographics were more inclined to feel pressure to reduce carbon emissions in their business, agree that stricter environmental regulation is worth the cost, and rate reducing empty miles as a very important priority for their business,” Wong said.

Barriers to EV purchases persist

Some lower-emissions and zero-emissions technologies come at a green premium. Although electric vehicles have a lower total cost of ownership in many applications, the initially higher capital investment still has many truck drivers wary. With 75% responding that they plan to purchase a new truck within three years, these barriers to buying EVs are important to address.

Nearly 56% of respondents said purchasing an EV would be “too expensive.” Distance limits (41%), lack of charging infrastructure (36%) and charging time (34%) were other notable barriers. 

Almost 25% of respondents listed maintenance as a barrier, although EVs are known for needing less frequent and less costly maintenance than conventional vehicles.

Though many emission-reduction strategies also save companies money, these survey results indicate that work still needs to be done to promote sustainable action among trucking companies, especially when it comes to EV adoption.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.