Back to top



The Concept S truck by MAN reduces fuel consumption by 25 percent compared to conventional 40-ton trucks. The integrated truck/trailer combination is aerodynamically designed to reduce drag. It also prevents cyclists from being dragged under the wheels. The front windshield greatly increases driver visibility and safety.

The impact of trucks on greenhouse gas emissions is oversized. Comprising just over 4 percent of vehicles in the United States and 9 percent of total mileage, they consume more than 25 percent of fuel—50 billion gallons of diesel each year. Worldwide, road freight is responsible for about 6 percent of all emissions, and growing.

There are two tracks for increasing fuel efficiency: (1) building it into the design of new trucks and (2) driving it up in rigs already on the road.

New models are sporting:

  • better engines and aerodynamics,
  • lighter weights,
  • less rolling resistance for tires,
  • hybridization, and
  • automatic engine shutdown. 

Based on 2010 U.S. prices, investing in these modernizations for a new truck can cost around $30,000, but save almost that much in fuel costs per year.

Because tractor-trailers remain on the road for many years, addressing the efficiency of existing fleets is critical. An array of measures can trim energy waste and increase fuel performance, such as anti-idling devices, upgrades that improve aerodynamics and reduce rolling resistance, and automatic cruise-control devices. Added up, they can make a significant dent in fuel use and costs.


“The greenest gallon”: Anderson, Ray C. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

domestic freight tonnage: Davis, Stacy C., Susan W. Diegel, and Robert G. Boundy. Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 35. Oak Ridge National Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy, 2016.

United States…[use] of diesel: ATA. “American Trucking Trends.” Arlington: American Trucking Association, 2011.

percent of vehicles…mileage…[and] fuel: The White House. Improving the Fuel Efficiency of American Trucks. Washington, D.C.: The White House, 2014; Davies, Alex. “Making Trucks More Efficient Isn’t Actually Hard to Do.” WIRED. June 24, 2015.

road freight…emissions: Ribeiro, Suzana Kahn, and Shigeki Kobyashi. “Transport and Its Infrastructure.” In Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

[growth] outpacing…personal transportation: Eom, J., L. Schipper, and L. Thompson. “We Keep on Truckin’: Trends in Freight Energy Use and Carbon Emissions in 11 IEA Countries.” Energy Policy 45 (2012): 327–341.

modernizations…cost around $30,000: National Academy of Sciences. “Technologies and Approaches to Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles.” Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2010.

Payback…one to two years: Lee, Tessa Margaret, and Matthew Stanley Cullinen, eds. Road Transport: Unlocking Fuel-Saving Technologies in Trucking and Fleets. New York: The Carbon War Room Research and Intelligence Group, 2012.

Tractor-trailers…average [lifespan]: Lee and Cullinen, Road Transport.

reducing fuel use…yearly savings: Lee, Tessa, ed. Confidence Report: Idle-Reduction Solutions. New York: Carbon War Room and North American Council for Freight Efficiency, 2014.

view all book references


p. 153

Correction: Diesel trucks were first introduced in the 1930s, hit their stride in the 1950s, and now move roughly half of land freight.

view all errata

Research Inquiry Form

Want more information on Project Drawdown’s research methodology and models? Complete this form to contact the Drawdown Research team.

Which Drawdown solution sector most interests you? * (choose one)
Do you have a copy of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming? *
What would you like to know about Drawdown’s research methodology and models? * Please note that, due to time and resource constraints, we may not be able to provide extensive information or data.
Other questions, comments, or suggestions:
Back to top

Join Us

We would like to stay in touch with you. Please sign up for updates to discover ways you can participate in the work of Drawdown.


Click to expand
Please send me more information about ways that I can participate as: (check all that apply)