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No need to wait for Musk, truckers can reduce their carbon footprint now

Photo: Tennessee River Gorge also known as the little grand canyon, Elder Mountain, tn

Heavy-duty freight transportation in the U.S. accounts for approximately 6.5% of all greenhouse emissions emitted, so any discussion regarding the reduction of CO2 in the climate will inevitably include the freight industry. There are a lot of ideas on how governments and carriers will reduce their carbon impact over the next decade.

Whether we are talking about electric vehicles such as the Tesla Semi, the Nikola H2 truck, the Electric Cascadia, or a multitude of other models, it is apparent that everyone is focused on bringing new solutions to address the carbon footprint of the freight industry.

The problem will all of the electric semis is that they are not currently in the heavy-duty freight market and many question the claims made by the companies that are planning on producing them. The good news is that truckers can implement a carbon neutral strategy today, without having to wait for Elon Musk to power up the trucking sector.

The answer is in the trees, or specifically in planting trees.

According to North Carolina State University, a tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon per year. The EIA estimates that heavy-duty trucks emit 22.40 lbs. of CO2 per gallon of diesel burned. The average length of haul in the for-hire market runs around 450 miles, requiring 64 gallons of diesel. This equates to 1,442 lbs of CO2 emmissions per load.  

For-hire truckers average 217 loads per year, generating a total carbon footprint of 312,914 lbs of CO2 per truck.

To get to a 100% carbon offset a trucker would need to plant (or have planted) 6519 trees per year per truck. According to Treesisters, an organization that works with reforestation projects, planting a single tree can be as cheap as $.10. The total cost to a trucker would be $651.90 to be 100% carbon neutral. This is roughly equivalent to $.006/mile.

Another way to offset carbon is for a trucker to buy carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are exchange traded credits that are used to fund projects that encourage the development of carbon adsorption projects like planting trees in Brazilian rainforests. With each truck generating around 142 metric tons of CO2 of carbon gasses, a fully covered carbon offset would cost around $1420 through, or about 1.3 cents per mile. 

One of the advantages of doing it through a non-profit organization like Carbonfund is that donations are tax deductible.

Regardless of whether carriers take the initiative and develop offset strategies or wait for technology and/or government regulations, carbon neutrality goals will be a subject with increasing interest.