- Freight shipments are responsible for about a quarter of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. Heavy duty trucks are the biggest villains, accounting for 77.8 percent of freight transportation's total. Running mostly on diesel fuel, they are also major emitters of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which are linked to a wide range of human health problems.
Dear EarthTalk: Freight companies like FedEx, UPS and all those 18 wheelers on the highways probably generate a lot of pollution and global warming. Is anything being done to address this? —Michael Brown, Washington, DC
Freight companies operating in the U.S. and beyond do generate significant amounts of pollution. While transportation technologies and fuels have gotten more efficient in recent years, freight demands have grown considerably over the past two decades. Today, in the U.S. alone, for example, freight is responsible for about a quarter of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Most freight trucks, locomotives and ships run on diesel engines, which are major sources of emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and carbon dioxide (CO2). Repeated exposure to nitrogen oxide-based smog and particulate matter has been linked to a wide range of human health problems, and we all know what CO2 emissions are doing to the planet’s atmosphere and ecosystems in terms of global warming.
According to a 2005 analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHA), heavy duty trucks are the biggest villains, accounting for 77.8 percent of total U.S. freight greenhouse gas emissions. Boat, train and airplane freight contribute10.8, 8.7 and 2.8 percent respectively.