Trucking is the fastest-growing source of global demand for fossil fuels, outpacing passenger vehicles, aviation, rail, and marine transport as well as industry, the International Energy Agency concludes in a new report.
“Trucks rely almost exclusively on oil-based fuels,” the agency notes in The Future of Trucks: Implications for Energy and the Environment. “They are the second-largest source of global oil demand, following passenger cars, and at a similar level as the entire industry sector.”
Truck fuels—mainly diesel—account for 40% of the growth in global oil demand since 2000, the report finds. “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.” The sector “also accounts for a third of all transport-related carbon emissions and a fifth of NOx emissions, a key air pollutant.”
Those emissions are growing largely unchecked, the IEA warns. “Only four countries have energy efficiency standards for heavy trucks, compared with about 40 countries with passenger vehicle standards.”
By 2050, if trends continue, road freight emissions could add as much additional greenhouse gas to the atmosphere as coal-fired power plants “and the entire industry sector, combined.”
The IEA is urging truckers to make improvements in in three areas: better logistics to reduce the number and length of trips, energy efficiency improvements to existing trucks to reduce drag and cut idling, and adoption of natural gas, biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen as alternative fuels. Such measures, the agency asserts, “could reduce energy use in road freight by 50% and emissions by 75% by 2050.”
“For far too long, there has been a lack of policy focus on truck fuel efficiency,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Given [trucks] 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.”
The international energy monitoring agency’s warning—and its prescriptions—largely echo at world scale a similar alarm delivered to Canadians late last year, and updated last month, by the Alberta-based Pembina Institute. Pembina recommended tactics like off-peak deliveries, data sharing among freight forwarders, and incentives for low-emission vehicles, to curb what it projected to “become the largest energy-consuming segment of transportation globally by 2030.”