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Trucks are a central part of the New Zealand economy, with over 91 per cent of all freight transported by road (Interestingly, Australia only transports 30 per cent of domestic freight by road). Yet all this distance means that trucks are using a whole lot of fuel. Road vehicle emissions were up 80 percent from 1990 and made up 37 percent of all CO2 emissions in 2015.

We can’t make our landscape smaller, but we can all work smarter to reduce emissions and ensure our vital industries are less harmful to the planet. Following World Environment Day and it’s plea to Beat Air Pollution, here are some of the ways the industry is helping trucks be more eco-friendly.

The green fleet of the future

Over the last few years manufacturers have been hard at work developing environmentally friendly alternatives to fuel trucks. The hope is that as businesses begin to replace older trucks, there will be plenty of eco-friendly options on the market to choose from. Scania just announced its new line of trucks powered by natural gas, a fuel that emits fewer harmful pollutants than standard fuel. Hydrogen fuel is also making waves as an alternate power source, with Toyota debuting its first hydrogen-powered semi-truck in 2017. When processed by the engine, hydrogen fuel’s only by-product is water, making it an extremely viable option for the industry to reduce carbon emissions.

Even though some of these technologies may seem far off for New Zealand, with international manufacturers turning towards different models, we will need to adapt to where the rest of the world are going.

Go electric

The move to electric has been adopted by the passenger vehicle market and discussed in the transport and logistics industry for many years. Hyundai recently showed off its first electric double decker bus. The bus has a range of 300km and takes 72 minutes to fully recharge. It runs on an independent suspension system in the first driving axle for a more comfortable ride, and a 240kW wheel motor axle combined with a motor in the second axle that minimises electricity loss.

Companies that have started converting their fleets to electric include Waste Management, Westpac, Mercury Energy and Alsco, a Teletrac Navman customer. Alsco will undertake the first intercity heavy electric vehicle trial in New Zealand. The company is investing in an electric vehicle freighter as part of an EV feasibility trial for its long-haul commercial fleet. The freighter will run daily on the Rotorua/Tauranga and Rotorua/Taupo routes – approximately 286km a day! Alsco will make some changes to manage the new technology, allowing an hour’s charging at each depot and altered driver hours. The trial will run from July 2019 - July 2020.

Interestingly, for some large vehicle uses, electric systems have a natural advantage. Tom Nickels of Waste Management New Zealand said that: “The stop-start nature of a waste collection truck, where the driver stops to pick up and empty a bin up to 1200 times per day, is actually a perfect use-case for electric rather than diesel power. Each time the truck stops, the braking creates regenerative energy that is transferred to boost the battery reserves.” He also noted that, “If we were to convert our entire fleet of 800 trucks, we would save 100,000 litres of diesel a day.”

However, there is still a lot of work to be done before the industry can become completely electric. Electric trucks require the right infrastructure to support the uptake, and charging stations need to be in place throughout New Zealand and have enough electricity for trucks to power up without causing black outs to nearby areas.

Building better habits

For those still a few years out from upgrading their fleet, there are still steps that can be taken to lower environmental impact. The Australian Trucking Association’s environmental best practice guide gives practical and well evidenced advice on reducing your company’s environmental footprint.

Another way is to stay on top of vehicle maintenance using technology. This is not only best practice, but also helps to reduce excess fuel usage. Investing in telematics allows you to track and monitor the internals of a vehicle to ensure it’s always fit for use. Fuel use, tyre rotation, idle time and fluid levels are monitored, and reminders are sent to management when a check-up is due.

Fleet tracking software also checks that vehicles are used efficiently and that drivers aren’t expending fuel unnecessarily. Speeding, sharp cornering, harsh braking and other bad driving habits are unsafe but they also contribute to unnecessary fuel burn. Telematics tracks and alerts drivers whenever these behaviours occur, allowing them to correct themselves and be more aware of their habits in future.

There are challenging times ahead for transport when it comes to minimising its environmental impacts. But with the help of technology and an awareness that change is needed, the industry is headed for a greener, cleaner and brighter future.

Billy Georgopoulos is a Senior Marketing Executive at Teletrac Navman.

Billy is part of the Australian marketing team. Billy is based out of Melbourne and brings years of digital and content marketing experience along with his background in advertising and development. With a passion for design and illustration, Billy brings unique and creative ways to drive Teletrac Navman and it’s thought-knowledge in the industry.