Monday, July 3, 2017

IEA Report Calls for Improved Efficiency and International Standards in Road Haulage

Freight Trucks Using Increasing Amounts of World Oil Supply
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that improving the efficiency of road freight transport is critical to reducing the growth in oil demand, carbon emissions and air pollution over the coming decades. According to The Future of Trucks: Implications for energy and the environment road haulage trucks are a major contributor to the growth in transport fuel consumption, as well as being responsible for rising carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions.

The IEA state that though road haulage uses an increasing amount of total fuel use, the sector gets far less attention and policy focus than passenger vehicles, with only four countries having energy-efficiency standards for heavy trucks, compared with about 40 countries with such standards applicable to passenger-vehicles.

The report illustrates that the growth in oil demand from trucks has outpaced all other sectors – including passenger cars, aviation, industry and petrochemical feedstocks – since 2000, and contributed 40% to global oil demand growth, a similar contribution as that of cars. Today, trucks account for almost a fifth of global oil demand, or around 17 million barrels per day, equivalent to the combined oil production of the United States and Canada. It also accounts for about half of global diesel use, a third of all transport-related carbon emissions and a fifth of NOx emissions, a key air pollutant.

The IEA acknowledge that trucks are a key enabler of global economic activity and play an essential role in delivering goods or commodities across every point of the economic value chain but, if no action is taken, oil demand from road freight is projected to grow by 5 million barrels per day by 2050, or around 40% of the projected increase in global oil demand in that period. This growth is expected to lead to a significant increase in carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 900 million tonnes through 2050, or about the same level of emissions growth as from coal use in the power and the entire industry sectors combined.

In an effort to address this rise in demand and emissions, the IEA describes what it considers a more sustainable policy pathway for truck transport that could reduce energy use in road freight by 50% and emissions by 75% by 2050. Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, said:

“For far too long there has been a lack of policy focus on truck fuel efficiency. Given they are now the dominant driver of global oil demand, the issue can no longer be ignored if we are to meet our energy and environmental objectives. Our study highlights the gains that are possible from tighter truck fuel efficiency standards and sets out other cost-effective steps to modernise freight transport.”

The IEA highlights three major areas of improvement. First, the trucking sector can improve logistics and systems operations in order to be more efficient. This includes near-term opportunities like using Global Positioning System to optimise truck routing, as well as real-time feedback devices that monitor the on-road fuel economy of trucks.

Greater improvements on that front will require increased cooperation, as well as the exchange of data, information and assets across the entire supply chain. This can help increase the volume or weight of cargo hauled to improve the load on each trip, but also reduce the number of trips during which trucks are running empty, such as travel taken without any load at all after having delivered the goods.

Second, the IEA report finds that energy-efficiency improvements for the existing fleet should include aerodynamic retrofits to reduce drag as well as low-rolling resistance tires. New trucks can use additional technologies that cut idling, use lightweight materials and take advantage of improvements to truck engines, transmissions and drivetrains. Achieving stronger cuts in fuel use, carbon dioxide and pollutant emissions requires the use of hybrids and zero emission trucks.

Finally, using alternative fuels such as natural gas, biofuels, electricity and hydrogen can diversify fuel supply away from oil and also help reduce carbon emissions, especially if produced from low-carbon sources.

Of course none of this will come as news to those employed in the sector, with all these measures already under scrutiny in many locations. All of the measures the IEA mentions are already being implemented by a variety of companies or countries, but the salient point the IEA argues is that it is time for global standards to be agreed in order to tackle this issue as soon as possible in a unilateral and cohesive manner.