Trucking industry needs to acknowledge role in climate change

by Al Goodhall

We don’t talk a lot about climate change or climate science in our business, which is at odds with the fact the transportation industry is a massive consumer of fossil fuels. What we do talk a lot about is reducing our fuel costs and becoming increasingly more efficient and profitable.

We also talk a lot about how we can attract young people into the trucking industry and how difficult that is in this day and age. What we don’t talk a lot about is how climate change is the existential issue of our times to the same young people we are trying to attract.

Why would a young person today want to be part of an industry that is seen to be contributing to climate change without taking responsibility for it?

As an industry insider, I know that this is not the case. There are many trucking companies adopting technologies to reduce emissions and fuel costs out of a sense of social responsibility as much as out of a need to be fiscally responsible.

We also know that young people want to be the change they want to see in the world and that need to change is becoming increasingly urgent because the effects of climate change are going to impact their lives directly.

It’s time to stop thinking of attracting young people to our industry just to drive trucks. We need to be able to show that it’s possible to make a positive change in the world from the inside of a truck cab.

At times, we can be our own worst enemy. As we have adopted technology that is more fuel-efficient, we have also presented it as something that is superior in performance to that of an experienced driver.

It is not enough to say to us (drivers), “Come and sit in the midst of our fancy technology and see how wonderful it is – enjoy the ride.” We need to be able to interact with technology, to make it more than what it is, to be able to enhance our lives and the lives of others, to feel that we are making the world a better place through what we do every day.

All of that may sound idealistic, even utopian, but we all want to make something of ourselves and contribute to the world around us.

When it comes to the issues of climate change action and improved fuel efficiency, I believe the driver is the key. This is also where the solution to the driver shortage can be found.

For this to happen we need to first realize that driver training goes far beyond skills training and implementing rules and systems that govern individual actions.

Over the years I’ve learned that in order to enhance my performance, I need to have autonomy and be empowered with the responsibility to make decisions out here on the road. When treated with trust and respect, most of us respond with commitment and loyalty. That has been my experience. I have been fortunate in that respect.

Somehow we need to pull all of these things together. We need to take a leading role in reducing carbon emissions and sing that from the rooftops. We need to open up our industry to new blood by letting people know that they can be the change they want to see in the future, that their personal contributions in the trucking industry can have significant and immediate impacts. We need to treat people well. We need national training programs that are universally available to drivers and carriers that support the full trucking experience.

That’s not asking for much, is it? But it’s where we need to go. Settling for less at this point in time is not an option.

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  • It’s a difficult topic. We all have a role to play in climate change, however industries still heavily depend on legacy machines for long-haul trucking of shipping and resources. Hopefully, newer machines and tax incentives can lower cost of eco-friendly transport.