Can transport be ecological?

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At first glance it seems that transport and ecology can't go hand in hand. In 2015, trucks cruising the roads of the European Union emitted 366 million tons of carbon dioxide. What's more, it's the only sector of the EU economy which hasn't noted a perceivable drop in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. Yet, when we take a closer look at the situation, it will turn op that positive changes occur here overnight and people connected with transport do their best not to harm our planet.

Research carried out in 2014 shows that transport is responsible for approx. 21% of CO2 emissions in the European Union. However, the complete picture can be seen only after splitting the statistics into cars and vans which emit 15% of carbon dioxide and trucks which account for 6% of this pollutant in the atmosphere. The aforementioned statistics, which present the steady level of greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the 1990s, are also a bit confusing since they don't show a huge increase in transport volumes, which has been noted since that time. So when we take a close look at CO2 emissions per ton-kilometre for instance, it will turn out that already in 2012 they were over five times lower than in 1990!



This leap was possible not only due to the fact that, as a society, we are increasingly conscious of the importance of the natural environment, but also because for some time now in the transport sector ecology and economy have been intertwined.  Today it pays off for companies to be ecological because it translates into pure financial performance.

How? Firstly by reducing empty runs.  Naturally a truck can cover one route two times filled only in half. However, consolidating loads into one transport allows for limiting CO2 emissions and cutting down costs (two runs mean two drivers, two vehicles, and much more fuel consumed).

Ecology in transport, however, is not just about optimising operations but about how they are approached. Paying attention to details, which could be overlooked by many if it wasn't for their economic aspect . This is the case with eco-driving for example. More and more transport companies are training their drivers in simple behaviours which lead to lower fuel consumption and consequently lower emissions of carbon dioxide.


Also European legislation is aiming at developing economic incentives for ecological operations. Road tolls for trucks compliant with higher EURO standards (the European emission standard) are significantly lower than those for lower class vehicles. So even if the latter are cheaper, thanks to savings on road tolls and lower fuel consumption, many companies decide to purchase the most modern and thus most ecological fleet.

That is not all, however. On May 31, 2017, the European Commission published a document entitled "Europe on the Move". One of its premises is developing first ever emission standards for trucks (so far they have been defined only for cars and vans).

The new solutions will also promote trucks classified as "clean and efficient".  One may therefore expect the growing importance of vehicles powered by gas (CNG or LNG), hydrogen, or electricity. Their spread however, depends mostly on the level of technological progress - if it's possible to combine ecological and economic benefits, it may soon turn out that diesel-powered trucks will vanish.


Giving up this energy source is still the future for the European transport. According to the data of the European Commission, almost 94% of energy consumed in 2014 was obtained from oil. So for now there seems to be no technical possibilities to change this situation.

Yet as soon as they emerge, one can be sure that the transport sector in the European Union will take advantage of them in no time.  After all 88.2% of oil is imported from outside the EU. Giving it up means not just environmental protection but also savings and greater independence.  Even if one of those factors could turn out to be insufficient to persuade people to change, their combination ensures engagement of all players of the European transport sector.




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