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US Trucking Industry Launches Program to Reduce Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions

Reductions in CO2 emissions achievable by lowering the speed limit to 65 mph. Click to enlarge.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) launched a program of six initiatives to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Fully implemented, they can reduce fuel consumption by 86 billion gallons and CO2 emissions by 900 million tons for all medium-and heavy-duty trucks over the next 10 years, according to ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

The six key recommendations to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 are displayed on a new website,, and include:

  • Setting governors on new trucks to limit speeds to no more than 68 mph and reduce the national speed limit to 65 mph for all vehicles. A truck traveling at 75 mph consumes 27% more fuel than one going at 65 mph, according to the ATA. Bringing speed limits down to 65 mph would save 2.8 billion gallons of diesel fuel for trucks in a decade and reduce CO2 emissions by 31.5 million tons—equal to a year’s CO2 generated by 9 million Americans, or the total population of the State of Connecticut. Automobile consumption of gasoline would drop by 8.7 billion gallons, with an accompanying drop in CO2 emissions of 84.7 million tons.

  • Reduce engine idling. The ATA recommends pursuing a federal solution that reduces non-discretionary idling—i.e., idling when stuck in traffic—through highway infrastructure improvements and reduces discretionary idling through incentives for new technology.

    These types of idling annually consume an estimated 1.1 billion gallons of diesel fuel. Options currently available to fleets to minimize discretionary idling have the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 61.1 million tons over the next ten years—the equivalent of 16 million Americans not driving for a year.
  • Increase fuel efficiency by encouraging participation in the US EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership Program.

  • Chartcongestionreductiontable
    Top truck congestion bottlenecks. Click to enlarge.
    Reduce congestion by improving highways, if necessary by raising the fuels tax. The ATA has recommended a 20-year program, focused initially on fixing critical bottlenecks. Longer-range ideas include creating truck-only corridors which would permit carriers to further increase the use of more productive vehicles. If congestion in all 437 urban areas were eliminated, the reduction in truck CO2 emissions would be 45.2 million tons over ten years—equal to the annual output of a population the size of the State of Colorado.
  • Use more productive truck combinations. Permitting truck combinations to be more productive will help reduce the number of trucks needed on the road. Research shows that increased volumes of freight can be moved with less fuel and fewer emissions by using a smaller number of large trucks rather than a larger number of small trucks. A reduction of 294.7 million tons of CO2 could be achieved with these changes.

  • Support national fuel economy standards for trucks. The American Trucking Associations supports setting technologically feasible national fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that reduce fuel consumption if they do not compromise the performance of the vehicles.

Schneider National, Inc., the US’ largest truckload carrier, announced its plans to operate the most energy-efficient fleet in the industry at the news conference unveiling the ATA strategies.

Schneider will expand its fuel conservation efforts starting immediately when it voluntarily slows down its fleet to 60 mph. The effort will reduce the fleet’s consumption of diesel fuel by more than 3.75 million gallons per year and reduce truck CO2 emissions by 83.25 million pounds per year—the equivalent of taking 7,259 cars off the nation’s highways.

Chris Lofgren, president and CEO of Schneider National, challenged carriers large and small, drivers and the motoring public to do their parts to conserve and protect the nation’s valuable natural resources.

We encourage others in our industry to do more. Examine your operations closely. What more can you do? What more can the industry do? Let’s roll up our sleeves, carriers and drivers together, and set an example that other companies, drivers and the motoring public will be inspired to follow. I encourage everyone to look into their operations and meet the voluntary environmental challenges by committing to the EPA’s SmartWay program.

—Chris Lofgren



One can only wonder what the option of decreasing the amount of tonnage shipped over long distances vie trucks and instead moving it by rail might bring in fuel reduction costs. Of course that's hardly a solution that the ATA is likely to mention....
I could also point out that little of this (except perhaps the somewhat self serving highway improvements they recommend) need the government to approve. Truckers could themselves stop running their vehicles on idle or insist on more efficient vehicles in their purchasing decisions, they simply need to stop buying the most fuel inefficient trucks. I assume most fleet carriers will already be considering this option as the vehicles hit their amortization points simply as a matter of good business practice. And as for reducing average speeds, simply let up on that pedal under your right foot, no government action required. Oh and last time I checked the National speed limit maximum WAS 65mph, some local and state jurisdiction may go higher, but USDOT already recommends and attempts to require no more then 65mph.
Sorry if I sound a bit cynical, but there seems to be a hidden agenda here, which I read as, build us truck only lanes so we can get those massive multi-trailer rigs going everywhere, of course at the end of the truck only interstate they then would be all over the local roads for the end parts of their deliveries, and still just as much a menace, goes unsaid.


Instead of 'deliver faster' there could be policy of 'order earlier' or perhaps no part loads. From what I've seen speed governors on trucks are easily inactivated. Trucks designated as speed limited seem to routinely travel 30 or 40% faster. Maybe the public should snitch on those drivers back to the trucking firm.


This is very good news for ElectroEnergy(EEEI)who has the best anti-idling system:Gen-A-Sys.


"Use more productive truck combinations."

Reading further, this is code for "Make all states accept heavier loads and double or triple trailers."

H3LL NO! If you have ever seen a double trailer in any sort of wind, then you probably were considering the purchase of diapers for all members of your family. I can barely stand the safety margin of the existing specs of single trailer loads now.

Just give large trucks a ridiculously low speed limit and tax the crud out of empty space in any load. that's gonna happen....

Robert Lord

I recently read that truck energy use can be reduced by 10 to 15% with the addition of "wheel skirts" that reduce turbulence under the truck. Are there after market sources that do this.

Robert Lord

I recently read that truck energy use can be reduced by 10 to 15% with the addition of "wheel skirts" that reduce turbulence under the truck. Are there after market sources that do this.

Harvey D

Will these valuable changes in behavior ever be inacted?

With only six common sense measures, the trucking industry could reduce fuel consumption equivalent to almost 3 times the ethanol production program.

If another four to six known energy consumption measures were added, the effects could be almost doubled and the corn-grain ethanol program could be halted while reducing oil imports significantly.

Would that be considered to be anti-American to consume less and pollute less?

Why do we have to continuously look for ways to carry on as ususal and to consume more and more energy, year after year.

Californians, the USA leaders, still consume almost 3 times as much energy per GDP as the Japanese do. We still have a very long way to go.

Glad to see that the trucking industry realizes that it could do something to change the status quo.



You are right to use the keyword "WAS" because there is no longer a federally mandated speed limit (unless you consider speed limits on federal land?).

With one of the measures mentioned, reduced highway speeds, I see this will meet opposition just as prohibition of alcohol or gun control does...I wonder how concerned people really are about fuel use when they barrel down the highway at 70-75mph (in a 60mph zone) and it doesn't matter if they are in a prius or a SUV it still uses more energy and they could have saved the same amount of time if they left the house 5 minutes earlier (assuming a 20-25 mile one way commute with sustained 75mph vs 60mph; anything less and their time savings is even less).

People hate the high prices, not the high consumption otherwise they would drive slower of their own accord.


We could help by providing rest areas with plugs for their cab AC so they can get some sleep. They would pay for the power, but it would eliminate idling or APUs.

Truckers and truck companies will put on the streamlining covers and do what they can. Technology will provide what it can and maybe we will get more effective rail in the west.


Chicago is on the bottleneck list five times for a total of almost 6 million wasted truck hours and Im sure a corresponding amount of wasted auto hours. Four of the five sites mentioned would be affected by building the 16-mile "missing link" in Chicago & Cook countys interstate system. This would complete I-90 and desiamese it from I-94 and would connect the "Skyway" to the "Strangler". A trip that at present is almost 22 miles. It could be built over (or under) existing rail ROW and industrial areas for minimal neighborhood impact. Theres a map on my website.

No matter how efficient vehicles are made, wasting away in traffic jams(due to poor/no planning) is no way to go thru life.


"Longer-range ideas include creating truck-only corridors which would permit carriers to further increase the use of more productive vehicles."

These are already in place. They're called TRAINS!

fred schumacher

I know it's easy to be cynical, but with diesel at $4.50 per gallon, the trucking industry is serious. Fuel costs now exceed labor costs, meaning there is an advantage, now, to slowing down. Independent operators, especially, have been squeezed since they don't have the negotiating power to get adequate fuel surcharges and are eating their losses.

In the long term, more freight will have to switch to electrified rail, since the availability of energy dense portable fuels will be severely reduced in the future. Moving automobiles away from petroleum fuel is a trivial problem compared to doing that with commercial transport, especially ship and truck transport. Battery powered electric is not an option, since the weight and size of the batteries would eliminate cargo space and load capacity. Autos engines are operated very lightly loaded most of the time, whereas, diesel engines providing tractive power for commercial use are heavily loaded. It's a massive difference.

We will continue to need trucks for distributive transport. Rail is limited by its linearity. Trucks are isotropic. In the long term, trucks will need to be completely redesigned from a morphological standpoint to reduce frontal area, improve aerodynamics, switch to locomotive style diesel-electric operation, and incorporate energy recovery systems.


When a truck slows down it saves some fuel, which saves a bit of money. But it also lowers the driver's productivity, and thus reduces income. As I understand it many drivers are paid by the mile.

When you tell someone they have to work for less, for the good of the rest, they usually don't accept it. We've been squeezing doctors to lower health care costs. That only goes so far. Now we're talking about penalizing truck drivers for high fuel costs.

Trucks should obey speed limits because it's safer. Whoever is paying for the fuel should decide if they want to go slower than the posted limits.

Stephen Brown

A few years ago I read in Popular Science of a simple fabric extension to the trailer which reduces turbulence and back suck and saves 1-2mpg. It was never implemented. Why not?


If a "trucking" company wanted to be really innovative, they'd realize they're not in the trucking business, but in the business of moving stuff from point a to point b at particular times.

And then they'd get seriously intermodal, fast. Probably that's making a resurgence, it's not an industry I really follow.

I hear the main freight rail lines in this country are near or at capacity -- I suspect the railroads are going to want land back soon that they've given to "rails to trails" programs. I'm conflicted about that...


"A truck traveling at 75 mph consumes 27% more fuel than one going at 65 mph, according to the ATA."
Isn't wind resistance related to speed by the 3rd power?


Unless my speedometer is way off I have seen no sign that anyone, let alone truckers, is slowing down. Of course most of the trucks I see on interstate 89 here in Vermont are Canadian so I guess this initiative wont apply to them.

Dan A

I always thought that long-haul trucking would be a good use of fuel cells. As battery electric is simply out of the question due to long distance travel, and hybrid tech would be ineffectual as the vast majority of those miles are on the highway, fuel cells are the only tech that comes to mind that can fufill the need for an efficent, non-hydrocarbon fuel for lonl-haul trucks. Also, as fuel cells run electric motors, they would presumeably have great low RPM torque, which is important for heavily weighted trucks and those going uphill.


I second you Dan A on that.

And on top of that in the next five to ten years I'm sure that the drivers will be eliminated from most new trucks and automated computerized driving will be the norm. And from this follows that the heavy axle loads of the trucks that destroy the roads can be eliminated too as several lighter trucks or trucktrains can do the jobs of those heavy road killers.

Harvey D


I heard the same comments about Mohawk drivers.
They claim that they don't need a driver's license to drive both sides of the border, regarless of what the courts decide.

I also noticed that most truck drivers break the speed limits in both countries. I didn't know that Canada had that many truck drivers. You probably live close to the Florida/Mexico Fruit & Vegetable Highways (I-81, I-87, I-89, I-95 etc)

Reducing and aggressively enforcing trucks speed limit to 60 mph would be very agreeable to many. That way, trucks would stay in the right lane and other (faster) vehicles could use the centre and left lanes.


Do you think that using a GPS system we could monitor the speed of trucks. Imagine a GPS device on each truck that would send a report to a centralized monitoring system each time the trucker break the speed limit. Cool


Yea TH, we could spend billons on monitoring and regulating...or we could spend $Bs on reducing or eliminating "congestion bottlenecks"(see above) or perfecting our low-speed rail system. Laying concrete and steel seems so much more...worthwhile??


Not a big deal, but the population of Connecticut is 3.5M not 9M.

@DS, it has to due with the efficiency of the engine at different RPMs as well, so this number is different for different vehicles.

@treehugger, GPS isn't very good at determining speed on vehicles because they move faster than it can update. However, the vehicles' on-board data system has real-time speed, throttle position, and other numbers that indicate driver behavior. There was a post somewhere the other day about using this to adapt cars to make them safer. It could also enforce laws (cars too) and set your insurance premium for how you drive, not how you demographic drives.


Every single truck rest stop on US highways should have curbside electrical outlets for truckers to tap into for their accessory power. The benefits will likely far outweigh the small costs for the installations or the electricity. Idling at these truck stops should be made illegal (although now, due to the cost, I'm sure many truckers are no longer idling or using alternate power units).


About the airtabs on the backs of trailers - They're great, and work as advertised - BUT - 90% of the trucks on the road are loaded a loading docks, usually in between two other trucks. There's just nowhere to put the giant airtab in a situation like that, which happens just about every other day in an over the road truck.

@Damon - Most large fleets, including Schneider, have equipped their tractors with a communications unit hooked to the tractor ECM. It will report to the carrier how fast the tractor is going. Most carriers allow several miles an hour over the governed speed so that the trucks can be allowed to roll down hills. Governed speeds aren't limits, they're just the limit that the engine shuts off at.

@PaulF - Check out IdleAire - The problem with them is that they sometimes require tractors parked in an electrical hookup spot to pay for using it, even when the driver doesn't need to. This also adds up rather quickly at $1.85 per hour (with all discounts), and the cost for using this usually comes out of the DRIVERS pocket, not the customer, and not the company that owns the truck. The other problem is that each electrical spot uses up 1.5 regular spots - and there's already not enough parking spaces to park all the trucks on the road. Thats why you see them parking on on/off ramps all the time. A better solution is something like the Webesto diesel-fired heater - uses 1/10 of a gallon per hour when its running on high, and cycles on and off so it really uses much less. There is also a solution called "bluecool" from the same company that is being developed to fight the summer heat.

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