Growing demand for oil by the trucking freight industry is expected to add 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere by 2050, roughly the same as emissions from coal used in electricity generation and industry, the International Energy Agency said Monday.

The IEA said improving the efficiency of road-freight services is “critical to reducing the growth in oil demand, carbon emissions and air pollution in the next decades.” The agency said that the trucking industry was an overlooked sector of the economy regarding its growing threat to critical, planet-threatening pollution.

The Paris-based IEA’s latest report, “The Future of Trucks: Implications for energy and the environment,” said trucks are a “major contributor to the growth in transport-fuel consumption, as well as rising carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions.”

On the other hand, trucks get “far less attention and policy focus” than passenger cars, the agency said. The agency noted that four countries have energy-efficiency standards for heavy vehicles. In contrast, 40 nations have adequate policies in place for passenger cars.

Meanwhile, the trucking industry is on a fast growth trajectory. Since 2000, oil demand related to big trucks rose faster than passenger cars, aviation, industry, and petrochemical feedstocks, contributing 40 percent to global oil growth, a figure similar to cars.

“Today, trucks account for almost a fifth of global oil demand or around 17 million barrels per day, equivalent to the combined oil production of the United States and Canada,” the agency said.

“For far too long there has been a lack of policy focus on truck fuel efficiency. Given they are now the dominant driver of global oil demand, the issue can no longer be ignored if we are to meet our energy and environmental objectives” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s
Executive Director.

The agency called for three areas for improvements: More efficient operations, trucks, and fuel. First, the industry should first improve logistics and systems operations, making use of global positioning and other tools to cut back on redundancies, the report says.

The IEA then called for a focus on the trucks themselves, with the industry striving for “aerodynamic retrofits to reduce drag as well as low-rolling-resistance tires.” Suggestions included technology-aided reductions in idling time and a move to lightweight materials to
improve efficiency.

Finally, the agency called for the use of alternative fuels, including natural gas, biofuels, electricity and even hydrogen that would drastically cut back on carbon pollutants.