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How drivers can contribute to a cleaner tomorrow

Drivers can help to reduce carbon emissions from their trucks.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, released a new master plan regarding the future of the company. Tesla, which has so far released three all-electric consumer vehicles and unveiled a new model in March, highlighted where Musk sees the company venturing next.

The outline, dubbed by Musk as Master Plan, Part Deux, is essentially an updated version of the company's overlying goal. At first, it stated how Tesla would purposely design and release expensive electric cars to ensure the operation could be successful and show consumers electric cars are a viable alternative to their gas-operated counterparts.

But now that Tesla is firmly an established player in the automaker, Musk wants to continue the company's expansion, and one of those areas likely involves heavy duty transportation.

Electric trucks the future?

In his blog post, Musk stated that heavy-duty trucks are an area where electric vehicles are needed. Early prototype semitrailers are already under development and may be unveiled as early as 2017.

He wrote how the electric semitrailer will increase safety and reduce cargo transportation costs. There's also no doubt that a semitrailer designed by Tesla will likely come with the latest and greatest in new gadgets and amenities to ensure drivers are comfortable on the road.

However, if Tesla's consumer vehicles are a basis to go off of, electric semitrailers are likely years away from actually being built, tested and put into production.

With future technology still some time away, today's drivers can do their part to complete their deliveries in an environmentally friendly way.

Best habits

In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled proposed rules to reduce the carbon emissions from large trucks. The EPA designed the rules for all aspects of the transportation industry. However, truck manufacturers, shippers, carriers and fleet managers are worried these proposed regulations might add to operating costs because of the need to upgrade and purchase new equipment, such as engines.

While the rule is currently being finalized after public comments are taken into consideration, the American Trucking Associations has developed best practices to reduce fuel consumption by nearly 86 billion gallons of fuel while also reducing the carbon footprint of semitrailers.

"Fuel consumption will be reduced by 86 billion gallons."

From highly efficient particulate filters to new and effective management styles, carbon emissions can be lowered until new technology potentially enters the market.

Over the next 10 years, the ATA estimates fuel consumption will be reduced by 86 billion gallons. Carbon emissions are projected to decline by 900 million tons as well.

But better engines and ultra-low sulfur diesel oil are not the only methods to help increase the environmental efficiency of transportation.

Truckers also have to do their part.

How drivers can help

Everyone has different tendencies when behind the wheel, but truckers are more cautious, and understandably so, considering the large vehicles they're operating. For instance, one of the best ways drivers can help reduce their fuel consumption is to avoid aggressive driving.

By avoiding unnecessary accelerating and braking, gas won't be wasted. Good driving habits also relate to observing the speed limits. Drivers will notice how various speed limits for passenger vehicles and trucks exist. Some states have the same limits for both types of vehicles, such as Arizona and Texas.

But other states, like California, have different limits. Truckers have to abide by the 55 mph limit for semitrailers. When going over the limit, vehicles are actually using more fuel, not to mention state police might pull a driver over if he or she is over the speed limit by a noticeable amount.

Drivers will also have to take a proactive approach when it comes to maintaining their truck. Tires should always be inflated to the correct levels. According to Arrow Trucks, for every 1 psi drop in a tire, mileage is decreased by about 0.3 percent, which then leads to having to stop for fuel more often.

"Drivers should try to avoid idling their truck."

When stopping for fuel, tanks should not be overfilled because the extra weight will weigh a semitrailer down. The lighter a truck, which is already filled with cargo, the more fuel efficient it will become.

Finally, drivers should try to avoid idling their truck. For every hour that a truck is left on, one gallon of gas is burnt. Running inside a gas station to grab a snack is alright, but if drivers will be away from their truck for longer than five minutes, it's best they turn the engine off.

The transportation industry will be affected by advanced technology, such as electric vehicles, in the near future. But those trucks may not make an impact for many years. Until then, fleets and drivers need to utilize other methods that have contributed to lowering fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

From ensuring tires are properly inflated, gas tanks aren't overfilled and abiding by the speed limit, drivers can do their part to ensure trucking continues its path toward becoming environmentally efficient.