The Good Haul: 21st century freight innovations

Major investments and coordination among interest groups will modernize the system and satisfy the needs of the 21st Century. EDF’s report, The Good Haul [PDF], highlights proven freight transportation programs, technologies, and methods at work around the world that are less polluting.

If used on a broad scale in the U.S., these approaches will help the freight system meet the demands of the U.S. economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and other environmental impacts.

Evidence of Clean Freight Solutions

    • In Chicago, the CREATE program aims to reduce congestion and improve air quality by streamlining four major rail lines. Chicago handles 30% of rail freight revenue and expects to see an 89% increase in rail traffic over the next 30 years. The program will result in $1.12 billion in health care savings from improved air quality and will generate economic activity valued at more than $525 million. The program expects to create 2,700 annual jobs.

    • In Southern California, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach launched the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006, which cleans up all areas of port activity: ships, trucks, cargo handling equipment, locomotives—even tug boats. The plan has already taken 2,000 dirty diesel trucks off the road and has created more than 3,000 jobs at the Port of LA, alone.

    • In Seattle, BNSF Railway installed four electric wide-span, rail-mounted gantry cranes at the Seattle International Gateway (SIG) intermodal facility. The cranes’ wide footprints allow them to span three tracks, stack containers and load and unload both trucks and railcars. The cranes produce zero onsite emissions and have increased throughput by 30% at the facility.

    • In the East, the Port of Virginia’s Green Goat hybrid yard switcher, a rail locomotive that moves short distances within a rail yard, provides fuel savings between 40-60% and is predicted to reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions between 80-90% annually.

    • Along the Gulf, SeaBridge freight, a coastal shipping service between Port Manatee, Florida and Brownsville, Texas avoids an average of 1,386 miles of congested highways. Compared to trucking, one SeaBridge barge has the capacity to remove 400,000 truck highway miles on a single one-way voyage.

    • Internationally, Germany has instituted Toll Collect, a distance-based GPS truck tolling system, with a category for engine emissions. This has encouraged a shift to cleaner engines. The cleanest Euro V truck engines have increased from <1% in 2005 to 51% in 2008, and since 2007, Toll Collect has seen revenues of 3.4 billion euros.

  • On the horizon, Norfolk Southern is testing a battery-powered locomotive which would produce zero onsite emissions with costs comparable to diesel-powered locomotives.