The Impact of Trucking on the Environment
Pretty much everyone is now aware of the fact that greenhouse gas emissions in automotive exhaust are responsible for holes in the ozone layer and the global warming that is melting polar ice caps and wreaking havoc on weather patterns. As a result, many people are now purchasing alternative fuel, hybrid, or electric vehicles in a bid to reduce emissions and the damage to the environment. And while individual citizens should certainly do their part to curb pollution, it is really the shipping industry that needs to make a change. Each day thousands of trucks are loaded up with items and sent out on roadways around the globe, spewing harmful emissions along the way.If you’re wondering just exactly what is being released into the atmosphere from these vehicles and how it affects our planet, here’s a breakdown.
Let’s start with carbon monoxide. You may have a sensor in your home to detect high levels of this gas, because it can be fatal to humans. It restricts breathing and can damage the heart and nervous system. It also leads to the formation of ozone (the bad kind, not to be confused with the Earth’s protective ozone layer). Then there is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Hydrocarbons (like methane) come next, and many are considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing). They settle into the soil and get into our crops, and methane in particular contributes to ozone formation.
Next we have nitrogen oxides, which can not only cause respiratory damage, but also contribute to ozone formation and create high acidity in soil and water. Then there is soot, which mainly comes from diesel engines. While the environmental impact of this byproduct of exhaust has a limited impact on the environment, it is particularly harmful to humans as it is a known carcinogen. And finally we come to ozone. This toxic gas damages everything it comes in contact with, from people (respiratory irritation and inflammation) to crops (leaf and root deterioration), to the atmosphere (potent greenhouse gas).
And the amount of pollution emitted by the trucking industry is astronomical. Although it mainly affects the atmosphere by absorbing radiation (which raises the temperature), some gas emissions can actually settle into the soil and the water supply to cause even further damage to the environment and the food crops that people need to survive. Of course, it won’t matter much if you can’t breathe.
The point is, changes to the shipping industry need to be made, and the sooner the better. Of course, since most of us aren’t running out to get a commercial license or dump truck financing you might not think you have any say on the matter. But you can make your voice heard. Start shopping at stores that support local farmers and craftspeople (and eschew freight shipping). Or look for companies that are adopting green standards, like biodiesel fleets (surprisingly, there are a couple out there). Like any industry that wants to remain in business, trucking companies will only change when it becomes profitable or when they are forced to. So use your consumer dollars and write to your congressional representatives to make your voice heard.
This guest post was written by Carol Montrose who is a freelance writer and part time student at California State University Northridge. In her free times she reads, runs, and works with an animal rescue in Los Angeles.
Trucking ….. as the green future unfolds.