Ports reveal unprecedented surge in harmful emissions; officials blame COVID-19 logjam
Updated | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new report on emissions from the country’s transportation sector. The total emissions from freight movements have jumped 30% since 2005, with a particularly steep increase during the last decade, according to the agency. This increase is due entirely to trucking in the U.S., according to the DOT, with a big drop during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report found that transportation emissions were up 30% in 2015 because of increases at the ports and trucking fleets. It is the first time in decades that both ports and trucking have reported increases in emissions.
Federal officials say they’re making progress, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put a big dent in their ability to move freight on the nation’s highways.
For years, trucking and ports have had different business models and have worked to minimize truck-driver exposure to COVID-19, which the DOT says has made them vulnerable to an explosion in emissions.
The DOT says it has also made progress reducing harmful emissions from trucking by instituting new programs since the pandemic escalated in the fall; it says it is making progress but that further reductions have become more challenging due to the restrictions on public movement and the shutdowns in many states.
Here’s what it means.
A “new normal” of trucking and emissions
The federal agencies haven’t seen emissions like this since 2000, when the trucking industry was in its early stages of growth.
This was before the first truck was built in the U.S.; before trucking became a $250 billion industry, it was mainly a small- and medium-sized business mostly dependent on local trucking operations.
Port emissions skyrocketed from 2005 to 2015, according to the DOT. During that time, ports had more trucks on the roads and were operating as many as they could.
The DOT report says it was a time of a “golden age of trucking” and a “new normal” of port emissions.