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Over-the-road decarbonization strategies — Net-Zero Carbon

Sustainable trucking solutions can boost bottom line, expert says

(Photo: FreightWaves)

On this episode of Net-Zero Carbon, Ken Johnson, CEO of Leonard’s Express, joins Tyler Cole, director of carbon intelligence at FreightWaves, to discuss opportunities for fleets to reduce emissions. 

Through piloting new and emerging technologies, Leonard’s Express seeks to improve profitability with better fuel efficiency. Customers and employees are clamoring for change in an industry that is often perceived as playing catch-up when it comes to innovation, Cole said. 

“One of the things that does concern me is the state-by-state approach to it. As a national operator, we certainly would rather see a lot of these initiatives from the federal government,” Johnson said. 

He said the Environmental Protection Agency has issued some emissions regulations, but there are states being more aggressive.

“There’s a strong feeling that the industry and the providers to the industry need to take the lead on this, and we’re starting to see that, especially with some of the alternatives to diesel,” Johnson said.

Leonard’s sustainability committee analyzes over-the-road decarbonization solutions that can improve profitability at the same time.

Solutions to reduce emissions in trucking today

Johnson said it’s difficult for drivers to find parking, let alone parking that has electric access to plug in refrigerated trailers. Leonard’s is looking into solar panels for trailer roofs and electricity-generating axles to reduce emissions.

Leonard’s has implemented the SPIER exhaust reaction system — which can reduce fuel consumption by 10% to 30% and reduce emissions — on 10 of its trucks. 

Watch: Revolutionizing diesel combustion with the SPIER system — Net-Zero Carbon

This is a very simple way, mechanically, to reduce emissions, Johnson said. He said the industry needs efficiency improvements and bridge fuels to be able to keep moving freight as the technology for future fuels is developed.

Small and large companies’ sustainability progress compared

Larger companies often have the resources to take risks on new technologies. But some larger companies are waiting to make changes, and some smaller companies are more at the forefront of technology. 

Johnson said smaller companies are interested in the technologies that have potential to reduce operating costs.

For larger companies that don’t have employees looking into emissions-reduction technologies, delaying action is “probably going to haunt them in the long run,” he said. It’s harder to adapt to emissions regulations and other changes in the market if companies aren’t looking into all of the options.

Cole and Johnson said that certain grants and other incentives may be more difficult for smaller operators to take advantage of, but there are entities working to make the process easier.

Johnson said that making positive business decisions for industry image and contributing to sustainable decisions for future generations and young professionals entering the workforce drive his interest in reducing emissions.

View all of FreightWaves’ Net-Zero Carbon episodes and sustainability stories.

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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.