Concept commercial transport truck.
Technical Summary

Efficient Trucks

Project Drawdown defines the efficient trucks solution as: the increased use of fuel reduction technologies and approaches for trucking. This solution replaces conventional trucking technologies and approaches.

Heavy trucks use about 50 percent of all freight industry energy, and light trucks another 20 percent; trucks are, therefore, responsible for a majority of emissions in the freight industry. Growth in emissions continues despite the use of more efficient vehicles. Carbon emissions from trucking and other commercial operations are predicted to grow even more rapidly than those from personal transportation.

A number of design and technology measures are readily available to increase a truck’s fuel efficiency, including: low-rolling resistance tires, more efficient engines, devices to reduce idling and aerodynamic drag, and predictive cruise control. These can significantly improve fuel economy, and in many countries such measures have to some degree been implemented. This work examines the potential emissions and financial impact of a high adoption of a package of these technologies instead of continued use of conventional trucks.


Total Addressable Market[1]

The total addressable market for efficient trucks is defined as the total trucking freight demand to 2050. This analysis compares the rapid adoption of efficient trucking technology to the use of conventional trucks globally. An "efficient truck" is defined as one with a package of efficiency technologies[2] providing around 40 percent efficiency improvement compared to conventional vehicles. Current adoption[3] of these technologies in the trucking industry is estimated at 10 percent globally, driven in part by fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cleaner trucking in some countries.

Adoption Scenarios[4]

Impacts of increased adoption of efficient trucks from 2020-2050 were generated based on two growth scenarios, which were assessed in comparison to a Reference Scenario where the solution’s market share was fixed at the current levels.

  • Scenario 1: Based on an estimated 50 percent share of the market by 2050, a linear annual growth was used to determine adoption from the base year (Ogburn and Ramroth, 2007).
  • Scenario 2: Using estimates of when truck fuel efficiency legislation may become mandatory for 16 regions identified by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT, 2012), it is assumed that all new trucks sold thereafter are 40 percent efficient.

Emissions Model

Emissions only included fuel emissions, with diesel emissions factors calculated from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines.

Financial Model

The cost of upgrading to an efficient truck is estimated at US$50,000[5] which was assumed the same as the difference in cost between an efficient truck and a conventional truck.[6] Operating costs were inclusive only of fuel costs for the conventional truck, derived from 8 sources including the IEA and ICCT.


The Scenario 1 results in emissions reductions of 4.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases at a cost of US$486 billion, and a lifetime operations cost savings of US$3.5 trillion for the period 2020-2050. The Scenario 2 results in 9.7 gigatons of emissions.


Our results show that the long-haul heavy-truck industry could expect to see a considerable return on investment through the adoption of typical fuel efficiency technologies. The relatively short payback periods of many fuel efficiency measures, combined with most trucks being commercially deployed on the road for well over a decade, ensure that fuel efficiency provides greenhouse gas reductions and cost savings for the party paying for fuel. In addition, fuel efficiency helps reduce toxic ambient air pollutions such as sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide and particulate matter, which contribute to poor air quality in many urbanized areas. For these and other reasons, we expect that adoption could be very high for these technologies. Although the global road freight sector is diverse, with variations in regulations, fuel costs, road quality, and truck models from region to region, solutions may be customized by country and truck operator.

Adoption of this solution does, however, have a few barriers:

  • Fragmented markets and limited access to capital: In many countries, the trucking industry has a large number of owner-operators (each with fewer than five trucks), and multiple stakeholders involved in trucking transactions. This could reduce the ratio of benefits to costs if borrowing/investment costs are higher due to the small size of the operation.
  • Split benefits: With many truck-trailer combinations, the trailer has a different owner than the truck, creating a question of who pays for the upgrades and who reaps the benefits of fuel savings.
  • Lack of information, education, trust, and momentum in many countries.

The adoption of such fuel-saving clean technologies for commercial truck fleets offers clear potential to achieve significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, while generating considerable operational lifecycle cost savings for the road freight sector. However, there is a critical need for policy guidance to help small operators realize the financial benefits of long-term investment in these technologies.


[1] For more on the Total Addressable Market for the Transport Sector, click the Sector Summary: Transport link below.

[2] The package of efficiency technologies was identified as a typical set, including: aerodynamics improvements, transmissions upgrades, low-resistance tires, light-weighting, management systems, and ICT systems.

[3] Current adoption is defined as the amount of functional demand supplied by the solution in 2018. This study uses 2014 as the base year.

[4] For more on Project Drawdown’s three growth scenarios, click the Scenarios link below. For information on Transport Sector-specific scenarios, click the Sector Summary: Transport link.

[5] All monetary values are presented in US2014$.

[6] Derived from 5 sources, including the US National Academy of Science, the Carbon War Room, and the UN Centre for Regional Development.