The impact of climate change on road freight transport

Climate change, with its far-reaching effects on the environment, economy and society, does not bypass the road freight transport sector either. This industry, essential to the global economy, faces multiple challenges in the face of extreme weather events and imperatives to reduce carbon emissions. In this article, we explore five ways climate change is impacting the road freight industry, highlighting the impact of legislative changes, the implications for costs and fuel types, and the optimization technologies being developed to meet these challenges.

Legislative changes and their economic implications

In an attempt to combat climate change, governments around the world are adopting increasingly strict legislation on greenhouse gas emissions, which directly affects the transport industry, one of the most polluting sectors. Emission limit regulations for trucks and the mandatory phase-in of low- or zero-emission vehicles have a significant impact on operational costs. The introduction of carbon taxes and subsidies for green vehicles is changing the economic landscape, making green technologies not only an environmental necessity, but also a smart financial investment.

Fuel cost and type

As legislation favors the transition to alternative power sources, such as electricity, hydrogen or biofuels, their price and accessibility become critical factors for road freight operators. Although the initial cost of electric or hydrogen vehicles is much higher, the tax breaks, subsidies and long-term savings generated by lower fuel costs and simpler maintenance provide a tangible economic advantage. In addition, fluctuating fossil fuel prices, exacerbated by geopolitical uncertainties, make alternative fuels even more attractive.

However, we are still far from the possibility of replacing fossil fuel truck fleets with electric vehicles, due to their high costs, lack of infrastructure and still low autonomy. For this reason, electric trucks are not yet a viable alternative. Beyond the high acquisition costs and the lack of previously mentioned elements, the market does not operate with good enough margins to absorb and amortize such investments at the moment.

Optimization and efficiency technologies

Responding to the challenges of climate change and related legislation, the transportation industry is developing and adopting increasingly better technologies to optimize operations. Intelligent fleet management systems, which use real-time data to optimize routes and reduce fuel consumption, are increasingly present. In addition, the use of practices such as platooning, which allows trucks to travel short distances apart to reduce air resistance and increase fuel efficiency, can provide major improvements where applicable (1).

Adaptation to extreme weather phenomena

Climate change means an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, from severe storms to heat waves and floods, affecting the reliability and efficiency of road freight transport. Companies are forced to adapt their logistics practices, anticipating and managing the risks associated with these phenomena. Investments in advanced weather technologies and robust risk management systems are becoming essential to ensure business continuity.

Innovations for a sustainable future

Faced with the challenges of climate change, the freight industry is not only adapting, but also innovating, seeking long-term sustainable solutions. From electric and hydrogen trucks to the use of artificial intelligence or internet of things (IoT) technologies to optimize routes, load and reduce emissions, the sector is transforming. Innovations in construction materials, which reduce vehicle weight and thus fuel consumption, are also being developed.

The impact of climate change on road freight transport is particularly complex, involving both significant challenges and opportunities for innovation and adaptation. By adopting green technologies, optimizing operations and adapting to new legislative and environmental realities, the industry can not only survive, but thrive in a sustainable future. In this dynamic context, flexibility and innovation will be the key to success if used properly at the right time.

S. Sivanandham, M.S. Gajanand, Platooning for sustainable freight transportation: an adoptable pra

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