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Economic and environmental impacts of empty miles vs. electrification

Convoy’s director of economic development says, ‘It’s a both/and situation’

When comparing the economic and environmental benefits of reducing empty miles in a transportation network versus waiting for electrification and alternative fuel vehicles to penetrate the market, Aaron Terrazas, the director of economic development at Convoy, discovered the huge immediate impact of route optimization on carbon emissions

“Given the state of technology and deployment, its impact is much larger today,” he said. “Of course, that begins to erode over time. Reducing empty miles will have a bigger impact on reducing carbon footprint compared to electrification and alternative fuels until 2034. These are both important on different horizons. It’s a both/and situation.”

Terrazas said that the industry’s conversation around empty miles began as an economic concern in the 1970s during the oil crisis as rising fuel prices exacerbated the pain of costly deadhead miles ⁠— particularly for owner-operators. 

“Given where fuel prices are right now, the typical owner-operator is paying something like $25,000 out of pocket for fuel to run empty,” said Terrazas. “Larger fleets have used technology to optimize their fleets for decades, and are able to get down to 10-15% empty miles. Typically, owner-operators right now without technology are doubling that percentage, and we think they can get closer to that big fleet efficiency.”

Efforts to reduce waste and increase efficiency will require collaboration among brokers and private fleets ⁠— another carrier group that operates with up to 40% empty miles.

Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.