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What Freight Technologies Are Pushing For Sustainability?



With so much tech progress afoot, supply chain discussions often focus on technologies that enable automation to improve efficiencies and boost the bottom line. However, concerns about climate change are leading to a growing urgency to address the impact of supply chain dynamics on the environment—which is why freight technologies that can support sustainability efforts are increasingly important.


Since moving freight globally requires multiple transportation modes, we decided to take a look at some of the sustainability technologies being used and/or developed to carry goods by land, air, and sea.



Moving Freight Over Land


When it comes to land-based movements of freight, both trucking and rail have some exciting technologies either in the works or in development that might make a big difference in terms of sustainability efforts.


Sustainability Technologies for Trucking


The current U.S. administration is so committed to sustainable transportation technologies that in March, it issued New Notices of Intent for Sustainable Transportation Technologies Funding Opportunities. The three Notices of Intent (NOI) are described on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) website as:

  • SuperTruck 3: “…This NOI aims to take advantage of the significant opportunities for the entire freight and truck transportation system to achieve higher efficiency and electrification (battery, hydrogen fuel cell, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell range extenders).

  • Low Greenhouse Gas Vehicle Technologies Research, Development, and Deployment: “…This NOI will invite innovative solutions for on- and off-road vehicles to support the reduction of emissions and increased efficiencies in the transportation sector. To achieve this, areas that could be explored include community-level electric vehicle (EV) demonstrations, EV infrastructure and charging, and advanced engines and fuels that reduce emissions.”

  • Bioenergy Technologies Office Scale-Up and Conversion: “This NOI anticipates supporting high-impact technology research, development, and demonstration to bolster the body of scientific and engineering knowledge needed to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower cost.”

In the following Fireside Chat from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Secretary Jennifer Granholm discusses the SuperTruck 3 and Low Greenhouse Gas funding opportunities.


She’s joined by colleagues from the DOE and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), as well as Executive Director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) Mike Roeth, and truck drivers Joel Morrow of Ploger Transportation and Clark Reed of Nussbaum Transportation—who both share their real-world experiences with new trucking technologies.


If you have a spare 42 minutes, you’ll hear about some great innovations being integrated into the trucking world.



There are many types of technologies currently in use that help to improve efficiencies in trucking—which either directly or indirectly support sustainability efforts. On its website, NACFE offers an overview of 85 of these freight technologies, grouping them in eight categories. Since there are so many technologies included, we’re highlighting just a few in each category here. Please visit the technology section of the NACFE website for additional tech options.

  • Chassis—including liftable 6x2 axles; two-speed/modulating cooling fans; and hybrid electric powered axles.

  • Operational practices—including best practices and technologies like two-truck platooning; software management programs that reduce empty miles and optimize routes; and in-cab driver behavior notifications technology.

  • Powertrain—including automated manual transmissions; direct drive transmissions; and predictive cruise control.

  • Tires and rolling resistance—including automatic tire inflation systems (ATIS); low rolling resistance (LRR) dual tires; and tire pressure monitoring systems (TMPS).

  • Tractor aerodynamics—including aerodynamic mirrors and camera systems; and tractor gap devices.

  • Trailer aerodynamics—including trailer fairings and vortex generators.

  • Trailer general—including solar panels and powered axles to support regenerative braking.


Sustainability Technologies for Moving Freight by Rail


In its recent Freight Railroads & Climate Change Report, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) highlights how the industry is effectively reducing emissions through the use of technologies that include:

  • Fuel-efficient locomotives: “Acquiring and retrofitting thousands of new, more fuel-efficient locomotives that emit fewer criteria pollutants and GHGs over the past decade.”

  • Fuel management systems: “Developing and installing computer systems that calculate the most fuel-efficient speed for a train over a given route, determine the most efficient spacing and timing of trains on a railroad’s system and monitor locomotives to ensure peak performance and efficiency.”

  • Zero-emission cranes: “Increasing use of zero-emission cranes to transfer containers between ships, trucks, and trains at ports and rail facilities.”

  • Anti-idling tech: “Installing idling reduction technologies, such as stop-start systems that shut down a locomotive when it is not in use and restart it as needed.”

The AAR also notes that some companies are working toward battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell locomotives.



Sustainability Technologies for Moving Freight by Air


When it comes to moving freight through the air, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) cites emerging aircraft technology and sustainable aviation fuels as providing the greatest contribution to emissions reduction within aviation.


Describing new technologies as either “evolutionary” or “revolutionary,” the IATA predicts that evolutionary technologies will potentially be available sometime between 2020-2035 and include:

  • Advanced turbofan engines

  • Natural/hybrid laminar flow

  • New engine core concepts

However, the IATA says revolutionary technologies will potentially be available sometime between 2035-2050 and include:

  • Open rotor engines

  • Blended wing body aircraft

  • Truss-braced/strut-braced wing

  • Hybrid-electric aircraft

  • Fully electric aircraft


The IATA Technology Roadmap for Environmental Improvement provides a more detailed look at various technologies and expected timelines.



Sustainability Technologies for Moving Freight by Sea


The global nature of shipping can create some challenging dynamics when it comes to sustainability, since so many entities are involved. A major focus over the past few years has been IMO 2020—which is the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) new sulfur regulations that went into effect January 1, 2020.


According to the IMO, this new regulation reduces the global upper limit on the sulfur content of ships’ fuel oil from 3.50% to 0.50%: “The reduced limit is mandatory for all ships operating outside certain designated Emission Control Areas where the limit is already 0.10%.”


Options for complying with the regulation include:

  • Using low-sulfur fuel

  • Using liquefied natural gas (LNG)

  • Installing scrubbers


Since these fuel alternatives are pricey, scrubbers are fairly popular—but the increased use of them is creating additional concerns about environmental impacts, since the wastewater they generate is often dumped into the sea.


As far as carbon emissions, a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Decarbonizing Maritime Transport: Pathways to Zero-Carbon Shipping by 2035, says the following measures could be considered those which “enable the largest carbon emission reductions and are generally considered the major technological measures to increase energy efficiency of ships.”


They include:

  • Light materials

  • Slender design

  • Propulsion improvement devices

  • Bulbous bow

  • Air lubrication and hull surface

  • Heat recovery


How CLN Worldwide is Embracing Sustainability


At CLN Worldwide, we have a strong commitment to sustainability, leveraging our proprietary dashboard to streamline your supply chain while minimizing your carbon footprint.


We also believe that your business's lack of supply chain optimization could lead to stagnant growth and a decline in potential profits. We understand that supply chains and logistics management can be a complex and daunting task to undertake. That's why we developed fluid strategies and customized services that removes the nuanced guess work and solves your logistics clogs.

Here's how it works. You schedule a call with us, we will analyze the current market you're navigating, and then create an effective supply chain strategy that we will then integrate and execute together.

Call us today, so you can stop wasting your time with regulatory delays and start trusting the efficiency of your supply chain to scale your business.


CLN Worldwide www.clnusa.com customerservice@clnusa.com 704-756-6425

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