Trucks, Trucks Everywhere...Chances are that most of the things around you spent a good amount of time inside a truck on their way to the store where you bought them. It's possible to reduce the overall number of trucks on the road by buying more local things and shipping more things by trains (which are more efficient), but it's impossible for every region of the world to do everything as well as everywhere else (Ricardo's law of comparative advantage), if only because of the wrong type of climate, lack of skilled labor, infrastructure issues, demographic pressures, etc. There will always be something you want that is best made somewhere far away and thus needs to be transported to you. And while trains are great and should be used a lot more, they don't go all the way to stores, so the last few miles will probably have to be left to trucks.
So that's our starting point. How can we improve things from there?
Air Drag is Such a DragOne low-hanging fruit that hasn't been picked nearly enough by truck makers is aerodynamic improvements. Mercedes-Benz has just unveiled two new models - a trailer, picture on top of this post, and a rigid truck shown below - that show how this can be done.
"[t]he new Mercedes-Benz Aerodynamics trailer, a long-haul tractor unit can save approximately 2000 litres of diesel annually, thereby saving its operator nearly 3000 euros in expenses. At the same time, the environment is spared more than five tonnes of CO2 emissions each year."
This is achieved with a 18% reduction in air resistance. If such an improvement was spread to the millions of trailers around the world, the amount of fuel saved would add up to something quite significant. And the beauty of aerodynamic tweaks is that they can be combined with pretty much all other fuel-saving technologies.
"The second vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz Aerodynamics truck, is a rigid truck for long-distance haulage and short-radius distribution operations. It saves between 300 and 600 litres of diesel annually and up to 1.5 tonnes of CO2."
This is done by improving aerodynamics by approximately 12%.
An added benefit - a very important one - is that trucks with side-guards also save lives, as Lloyd explained here.