Maritime and rail has offered a formal strategy for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector that prioritises maritime and rail over trucking.
The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonisation, released on 10 January by the Biden administration, is billed as a “first-of-its-kind” plan to cut GHG emissions in both passenger and freight transportation, building on funding incentives included in the 2021 infrastructure package and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.
The blueprint lays out three main strategies for attaining its goal: increasing user convenience, improving vehicle efficiency, and transitioning to clean fuels and vehicles.
“While the first two strategies will contribute to reducing GHG emissions and produce significant co-benefits, transitioning to clean options is expected to drive the majority of emissions reductions,” the plan writes.
But in detailing the vehicle efficiency strategy, the blueprint points out that trucks and vans are the largest contributor to freight emissions.
“Heavy road freight vehicles in particular can be difficult to decarbonise,” the plan states.
“This energy and emissions intensive paradigm is a significant reason why transportation has become the largest GHG emissions source in the United States.
“For freight, maritime and rail offers the cleanest options, followed by trucks and aviation, which results in the highest emissions. Industry can prioritise shifting parts of shipment journeys away from trucks to rail and water shipping when feasible.”
The blueprint acknowledges, however, that emerging vehicle technologies and fuels will reduce emissions for many of these travel modes over time and will require an ongoing evaluation of mode-specific emissions and energy efficiency.
The strategy also calls for continuing to improve and optimise transportation systems within each mode to reduce energy use and emissions.
Such services that increase vehicle routing and load factors “will improve efficiency while reducing fuel costs,” the strategy notes.
“In addition, new technologies can help improve multimodal freight transport and logistics and enable the use of shared transport assets and services, and more effectively respond to changes or unexpected delays using real-time data.”
Emissions reductions will also come with improvements to supply chain management that reduce freight miles, such as ensuring vehicles travel with full loads as often as possible, cutting “deadhead” miles, and optimising routes, according to the administration.
“For example, just-in-time queuing at ports can enable ships to optimise their speed, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Advanced computing and data analytics (e.g. sensors, big data analytics, blockchain) have the potential to improve supply chains by optimising truck routing and freight logistics.”
This comes as part of the US administration’s greater effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.