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What is the carbon footprint of a truck?

AskWaves describes ways to lower transportation emissions

Transportation is responsible for 34% of all carbon dioxide emissions. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases a person or entity creates through daily activities.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. 

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere to keep the planet warm, but too much can lead to global warming. These gases can take thousands of years to leave the atmosphere, making it vital to manage our individual carbon footprint.

According to the EPA, carbon dioxide makes up 81% of greenhouse gases. It comes from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil. In 2018, the agency found 34% of carbon dioxide emissions come from transportation, including highway and passenger vehicles, air travel, marine transportation, and rail.

How to calculate your truck’s carbon footprint

Commercial Fleet, a U.K.-based trucking consulting group, has created a calculator to help determine a truck’s carbon footprint.

The tool calculates carbon dioxide emissions based on fuel consumption. Using total mileage, average miles per gallon and fuel type, you can calculate your emissions instantly.

FreightWaves recently found that the average trucker drives about 120,000 miles per year (400 miles per day, six days a week, 50 weeks per year) and averages about 6.5 miles per gallon of diesel.

With this information, Commercial Fleet’s calculator found the average truck’s carbon footprint to be 201,834 kilograms or 223 tons of carbon dioxide.

According to The Nature Conservancy, the average yearly carbon footprint of a person in the United States is 16 tons. This means the average truck impacts our atmosphere each year as much as 14 people.

SmartWay program

In 2004, the EPA created a voluntary program, SmartWay, to help measure and reduce the freight transportation carbon footprint. The agency has found that 23% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from transportation come from heavy- and medium-duty trucks. 

SmartWay has found three ways truckers can shrink their carbon footprint:

— Switching to alternative fuels or alternative energy sources.

— Improving fuel efficiency through advanced technologies and vehicle design.

— Improving operating practices like reducing idling time or optimizing routing.

The EPA has determined SmartWay is improving air quality. This improvement could diminish as freight transportation continues to rise, however.

Chart: EPA

According to SmartWay, experts believe by 2050, passenger vehicle emissions will be surpassed by global freight transport emissions, making it more important that truck drivers understand their contribution to greenhouse gases and how they can reduce their impact.

One Comment

  1. NIckSJ

    “According to the EPA, carbon dioxide makes up 81% of greenhouse gases.”

    That’s a ridiculous statement. Water vapor accounts for over 90% of the total greenhouse gas effect, while CO2 in total accounts for under 5%. Of that, humans cause something like 3% of total CO2 emissions. That’s why no conceivable human CO2 emissions reduction will have any significant effect on global temperatures.

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Grace Sharkey

Grace is an entrepreneur and former supply chain executive who has held positions in sales, operations, and consulting. She is passionate about the future of the industry and how technology can improve the experience for all supply chain members. She believes supply chain is the one industry that affects every human directly, and is looking forward to creating content that mirrors that sentiment. If you have a story to share, please contact me at [email protected]