Don’t overlook freight-related emissions in your climate action plans
Day in and day out, trucks deliver all kinds of goods to offices, retail stores, warehouses, and homes. Their activity touches issues that are essential to the livability and economy of America’s communities, including clean air and the efficient movement of people, vehicles, and cargo.
Most municipal and regional climate initiatives focus on passenger cars and public transit. But a bigger emphasis on freight movement—which accounts for 50% of all oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions in the U.S. and 20% of all particulate matter (PM) emissions—could help governments meet their climate action plan goals and regions reach attainment of federal ozone standards more effectively.
Fortunately, no one has to figure out how to do it on their own.
The SmartWay Transport Partnership is a public-private initiative developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help freight shippers and truck fleets measure and manage their environmental performance. With more than 3,700 businesses in the program, these organizations use SmartWay data to make better decisions about air quality, fuel consumption, and the effectiveness of their sustainability initiatives.
If you are developing a climate action plan or need to comply with federal ozone standards, SmartWay offers several ideas that can help:
1) Include freight transportation in your climate action and criteria pollutant plans
Local and regional governments are in a prime position to encourage the efficient movement of goods while reducing emissions and increasing collaboration with private industry.
Since its introduction in 2004, SmartWay has helped its partners save 215.4 million barrels of oil—equivalent to eliminating annual electricity use in over 14 million homes—and avoid emitting 103 million tons of pollutants into the air. The program helps truck fleets and shippers assess a range of sustainable freight-transportation practices, including anti-idling technology; aerodynamic devices; cleaner-burning engines; fuel-efficient driving practices; intermodal freight strategies; and vehicle routing that reduces congestion.
Incorporating these initiatives and others into your climate strategy can make it more comprehensive and effective.
2) Identify local businesses that are committed to sustainable freight movement
SmartWay can help you identify truck fleets, rail carriers, and other businesses in your community that are committed to sustainable freight transportation.
SmartWay is a voluntary program, so networking and public recognition are important benefits for companies that participate. Your outreach and collaboration with SmartWay Partners are clear signals that your organization acknowledges and values their commitment to the environment and public health.
And if you do have freight to move, as most state and local governments do, encouraging the use of SmartWay Partner carriers can be both a procurement strategy and a part of your climate action and criteria pollutant plans.
3) Exchange ideas with like-minded policymakers
Organizations that do not ship or transport goods commercially can and do participate in SmartWay as SmartWay Affiliates.
Many local and regional government agencies belong to SmartWay, including the Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition; Clean Air Minnesota; the North Central Texas Council of Governments; Greater Lansing Area Clean Cities; and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association.
SmartWay Affiliates commit to educating their constituents about SmartWay and can use the program’s resources to bring credibility to their own research and policymaking. SmartWay is a clearinghouse of information, including webinars, technology bulletins, partner profiles, and case studies that can help you develop goals and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
SmartWay can serve as a model for how you work with market-based programs for other industries, like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is focused on reducing emissions from the electricity sector.
Freight transportation is a topic that few people outside the industry think about or understand. Yet with a stronger economy and the rise of e-commerce, where the delivery of goods goes straight to the customer’s door, it’s a good time to refine your approach to congestion, idling vehicles, and other environmental concerns.
Participation in SmartWay can help you demonstrate leadership in your community and elevate freight-related emissions as a priority.
Chris Klaus is a senior program manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. He manages the department’s Air Quality Planning and Operations activities.