Diesel truck pollution calls for solutions

By Jen Wozniak
November 13, 2008

Shannon Keough

Not only can the black smoke you see spewing out of trucks be an eye sore, but it releases all kinds of harmful emissions that affect the environment and your health.

In today’s world, there is emphasis on how cars are slowingly becoming more eco-friendly, but what about delivery trucks? Trucks are necessary for transporting goods but they are contributing to the damage that our eco-systems face.

“Transportation is a large contributor to air pollution and global warming, especially diesel trucks,” Carrie Nielsen, assistant professor of biology, said. Nielsen teaches ecology and environmental studies at Cabrini.

New, innovative technology has recently been developed by the Environmental Protection Agency fuel emissions lab that will allow delivery trucks to be powered by a hydraulic hybrid system.

UPS is the first company to order the new trucks, which will save fuel and cut carbon emissions.

So far, UPS has only ordered seven new trucks, which will be on the roads in 2009. They will perhaps buy more if the prices are more affordable, and other companies have also shown interest, according to CNN.

Nielsen explained that hydraulic hybrids work by using liquid under pressure.

Instead of storing energy as electricity, like other hybrids, they are storing it as pressure in tanks that are located inside the truck. When the truck needs to accelerate, it uses the stored pressure to move the wheels.

The hydraulic hybrids allow for the diesel engine to be shut off when the vehicle is stopped or decelerating. The EPA told CNN that the new trucks use 40 to 50 percent less fuel than other diesel trucks, reduce carbon emissions by one third and recover 70 percent of the energy normally wasted during breaking.

“It’s good for UPS trucks that stop and go all the time-it’s a great way to implement hydraulic technology. It’s also good for cities. That’s the best place to have a hybrid,” Nielsen said.

When trucks or cars are constantly stopping and going, that is when a lot of energy is wasted and pollutants are emitted. Transportation is a large contributor to four of the six most important air pollutants. They are carbon monoxide, particulate materials, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

Nielsen said that all four pollutants are hazardous and can lead to respiratory illness. For example, carbon monoxide causes oxygen deprivation, causing cardiovascular and coronary problems, increasing the risk of stroke, impairing learning ability, dexterity and sleep. This is just one example of how exposure to these kinds of pollutants can affect your health.

Transportation also involves the combustion of fossil fuels, which causes carbon dioxide, a major cause of global warming, to be emitted. Pollution from trucks affects everything from humans, animals, crops, forests, water and even buildings by contributing to acid rain. This is why the EPA is designing new technology.

Sarah Van Cleve, sophomore secondary education and chemistry major, works in the Cabrini mailroom and said that UPS comes to Cabrini every day, sometimes more.

“I’ve thought about pollution from trucks before,” Van Cleve said. “Trucks stop and go around campus to deliver packages. It’s wasteful.”

“I suspect hybrids will be more popular as gas becomes more expensive and people become more concerned with air pollution and global warming,” Nielsen said.

Hybrids are just one way people can cut back on air pollution, however. Students could cut back on air pollution from cars.

“People drive a lot to places they don’t need to,” Nicole Necci, senior elementary education major, said. “I see people who live on campus driving to the Dixon Center. Also, people who student-teach at the same school don’t carpool together but they could.”

Avoiding unnecessary driving and carpooling are two options students could take if they want to help the environment and reduce air pollution from transportation.

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Jen Wozniak

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