Truck pollution can be contained

The upside of the lockdowns sparked by Covid-19 has been the dramatic clearing of the air as the level of pollutants from industry and transport dropped dramatically, setting a target we should aim to maintain when the pandemic is over.

In theory, this is possible and business analyst Dr Lee-Ann Terblanche believes it is achievable to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 46% by subscribing to four main pillars of operation to reduce carbon emissions from road freight transportation: moving freight from road to rail, introducing efficiencies in the logistical route or network, introducing operational and mechanical efficiencies and developing a culture of compliance with the industry’s self-regulation scheme, the Road Transport Management System (RTMS).


According to Eckart Zollner, Business Development Head at EDS Systems, road transport is a major source of air pollution that harms human health and the environment. Vehicles emit a range of pollutants including nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM).

In addition to vehicle emissions, household fuels, oil refineries, cement producers and coal mining are also significant contributors to air pollution. The World Health Organisation estimates air pollution results in 20  000 deaths a year in South Africa alone.

“Scary numbers” he says. “What’s even scarier is the fact we are considered the world’s 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and while the majority of our CO2 emissions result from our overreliance on coal, the road freight industry has a lot to answer for.”

By implementing a framework of decarbonisation, companies can visualise carbon footprint, monitor and manage the effectiveness of interventions and reduce their carbon emissions and save nearly R1,5-billion on carbon taxes in South Africa.

“However, in order to start reducing carbon emissions, logistics and freight companies first need to know what their output on Greenhouse Gas (GHS) emissions are in order to put a plan of action together. Yet this can be a difficult and complicated task.”

In case freight and logistics companies were tempted to disregard their environmental responsibilities, the South African government has implemented the Carbon Tax Act, which levies a charge on carbon-heavy businesses. This seeks to incentivise reluctant industries to implement measures that will reduce their carbon footprint in order to reduce their carbon tax liability.

Although the carbon tax filing and payment deadline has been extended for three months in an effort to stabilise the economy, the tax will still be enforced going forward. Non-compliance is an issue the South African Revenue Service will not take lightly.

“To reduce the administrative burden of calculating their tax liability and visualising their carbon footprint, transport industry players should be smart about their use of technology in achieving their objectives,” says Eckhart.

“Carbon tax analytics tools are indispensable in accurately assessing tax liability based on the organisation’s carbon footprint. These tools provide a detailed visualisation of emission sources. Using an analytics-driven calculator, businesses can upload their process or emissions data in order to obtain a clear overview of their carbon footprint, and an accurate assessment of their liability, taking into account offset discounts.”

With exorbitantly high emission levels equivalent to 16,8-million tonnes, research has shown this can be almost halved through the implementation of a decarbonisation plan. This is an opportunity for businesses to shake the business-as-usual mindset.

“Given the gravity of the climate crisis we are trying to avert, change is unavoidable and must be embraced instead. Not only will decarbonisation strategies improve the environmental efficiency of each business, it is also an opportunity to improve operational efficacy and to investigate outdated business practices.

“While this might be costly to achieve in the short term, the risk and cost of doing nothing is far higher. The benefits of environmental and operational efficiency will ultimately have a positive effect on profitability and business sustainability in the form of lowered costs and enhanced productivity, essentially achieving more with less.”

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