From Diesel to Electric: The Transition to Sustainable Trucking

Sustainable Trucking

Two seemingly opposing forces are at work today in the trucking and transportation industry. On one side, the demand for trucking services is at an all-time high; the need to move goods from the point of origin to the point of consumption isn’t going anywhere. On the other side is the push for zero emissions. Since more trucking means more emissions, industry leaders have to pull out all their creative and innovative stops to make the opposite happen: lower emissions from a higher level of trucking activity.

Sustainability is the answer to this conundrum. New laws and regulations mandating lower – and even zero – emissions are just around the corner. Sustainability isn’t a pipe dream for the future; it’s a genuine business need for the here and now. Here are a few ways trucking is transitioning to a more sustainable footprint.

Electric Vehicles

While modern, advanced diesel engines have reduced harmful emissions significantly, electric vehicles are seen as the answer to getting emissions to zero. But deploying an all-electric fleet of trucks has many challenges, including the following:

Transportation Side

There are three major difficulties when it comes to building an electric fleet:

  1. Low availability. Electric semis are not readily available, and not many makers have jumped on board yet.
  2. High costs. Electric trucks are expensive at the moment.
  3. Driving range concerns. Very real concerns exist about how far EVs can go between charges.

Infrastructure Side

In addition to vehicle worries, fleet managers find infrastructure issues equally vexing.

  1. The grid. It’s likely that the current electric grid, especially in small communities, cannot handle the high demand for electric trucks.
  2. Charging stations. Charging stations capable of handling electric trucks at any volume aren’t available along trucking routes.

At the end of the day, you can have as many electric trucks as you want, but if you can’t recharge them, there’s no point.

Challenges aside, many fleets across the country are experimenting with EVs. Managers are learning what they can about driving rages, maintenance requirements, charging needs and times, the impact of the weight of batteries, and many other nuances of operating electric trucks. In addition, makers like Volvo and Mack are investing heavily into EV technology, so fleet managers can expect to see better EV options in the near future. And here’s the thing: drivers love electric trucks. They are quiet, spacious, and smooth to drive.

Amid all the questions about electric vehicle technology, it’s nevertheless clear that EV trucks are a tempting alternative to traditional diesel.

Alternative Fuels

Electricity isn’t the only alternative to diesel being tried. Other alternative fuel options include hydrogen-electric and renewable gas vehicles. AFVs emit roughly 4,100 pounds of CO2 compared to 11,400 pounds emitted by comparable diesel trucks, a difference that makes a compelling case for making the switch. But AFVs are very expensive. Even with the high cost of diesel fuel, it’s difficult for most fleets to justify the investment. Companies that know it’s a financially smart idea to buy used trucks will struggle to adopt these new technologies until proven, used models become available in the market.


Switching out trucks is not the only way to reduce emissions. In the quest for sustainability, many fleet managers are investing in telematic technology to make measurable improvements. Telematic software uses GPS, sensors, and other advanced tools to track info such as fuel consumption, truck location, and idle time. This info allows companies to do the following:

  • Track vehicles in real-time
  • Optimize routes
  • Reduce or eliminate empty miles
  • Identify patterns
  • Reduce emissions and improve efficiency and sustainability

You can’t manage or improve what you can’t measure; telematics provide the measurements that drive improvement.


It might be hard to believe, but drag on a truck traveling at highway speeds contributes about 50% to overall fuel economy. That number represents a significant opportunity; there’s a lot of room here for improvement. Multiple points on a truck create drag; the front of the truck, the gap between the tractor and trailer, and the height are just a few examples. The smoother air can flow around these points, the lower the drag will be and the higher the fuel efficiency will be.

Mind the Gap

One of the leading offenders in creating drag is the gap, which can by itself produce a quarter of the total drag on the vehicle. Any gap above 18 inches creates drag; covering the gap can reduce fuel costs by up to 6%, which, on thousands of dollars of fuel, is a lot of money.


Another technique for managing drag is platooning. Platooning trucks drive in a convoy of 2-3 vehicles. The leading vehicle sets the pace, and the follower vehicles are linked behind using connective technology and automated driving support systems. All vehicles have human drivers who are fully responsible for operating the vehicle. Platooning on long stretches of highway provides the following benefits:

  • Lower fuel consumption because the trucks drive close together and move at a consistent speed with less braking and accelerating.
  • Reduced CO2 emissions, sometimes up to 10%.
  • Improved safety
  • Optimized use of roads helps move goods faster and reduces traffic jams.

Driver Training and Incentives

Drivers that are trained and incentivized to drive efficiently have a major impact on sustainability. Better drivers result in lower emissions. The fuel economy between good and not-so-good drivers can be as much as 25%, making a compelling case for the ROI of training and incentivizing drivers to improve their driving efficiency.

No Silver Bullet

There are ways for trucking companies to reduce emissions and move towards more sustainable practices. What’s also clear is that there is no silver bullet; every organization needs to decide what approach is best for them. Arrow Truck Sales is here to help you get the vehicles you need today to move your fleet in a better, more eco-friendly direction. Search our inventory today for outstanding trucks with excellent fuel economy and the advanced features you need to make your fleet more efficient and modern.