Highway Jottings-5

5 min readMay 23, 2024


I must admit failure. Yes, failure with capital “F.”

In the past fortnight, I have positioned myself on National Highway 48 (linking Gurugram with Jaipur) daily to spot smoke-spewing lorries/trucks.

Heavy commercial vehicles, and even midsize and smallest payload freight carriers. All under my radar.

My latest karmabhoomi is the stretch between Gurugram and Daruhera in Haryana (approximately 40km). I regularly crisscross this NH, which is one of the busiest carriageways. I bus down short distances, boarding mofussil ones to alight wherever I want to hang out and monitor tailpipe fumes from passing vehicles. From different locations.

The reason is not too far to seek. No tailpipe smoke. The CNG-fueled trucks (at times, I noticed four tanks under the loading bay/belly). Two up front and two in the rear for midsize (10 chakka gaddis). Larger ones — rigid or tractor-trailer modes run (BS4/BS6) on less-polluting diesel or blended fuel (biodiesel). Not to be forgotten are the advancements or improvements in the better engineering of trucks.

EV trucks on the NH48 stretch under observation are highly visible. EV translates into zero smoke. Right?

My cup of joy in this fight against climate change by the freight logistics vertical is not overflowing or brimming. Though it is not an empty cup. That’s what I mean. Why this worry?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says only four countries (Canada, the United States, China, and Japan) have structured fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks. Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, believes there has been a lack of policy focus on truck fuel efficiency for too long. Given that trucks 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.

Heavy trucks account for 40 per cent of the total growth in oil demand, burning about 17 million barrels per day (mb/d), or about one-fifth of total global demand. 2040 road freight is estimated to consume 5 MBD of demand growth. Controlling Global Greenhouse emissions will be difficult if the focus on road freight emissions remains shallow.

Oil demand has flattened out in the passenger vehicle segment in the US and Europe. Alternate fuel — hydrogen, biodiesel, renewable diesel, or EV — has not made a big dent in trucking. Therefore, the emissions issue remains high.

According to energy experts, China and India are expected to witness higher oil consumption growth — roughly 90 per cent of the additional barrels.

The scale of the challenge posed by Scope 3 emissions, particularly from transportation, is significant and undeniable. Freight logistics, in particular, contributes a substantial portion to carbon emissions.

To put this into perspective, India alone transports approximately 4.6 billion tonnes of freight annually, generating a transport demand of 2.2 trillion tonne-kilometres (tonne-km) at INR 9.5 lakh crore. This data, provided by Niti Aayog, the government think tank, underscores the issue’s magnitude.

This surge in demand, driven by urbanization, population growth, the rise of e-commerce, and increasing income levels, presents a promising future for the freight logistics industry. Niti Aayog projects that this rapid growth could propel road freight movement to 9.6 trillion tonne-km by 2050. The number of trucks on Indian roads is expected to surge from 4 million in 2022 to 17 million trucks by 2050, indicating a significant expansion in the industry.

Polluting fossil fuel moves these trucks. If the International Energy Agency (IEA) is believed, India’s diesel demand will rise from 1.8 million barrels per day (MBD) in 2023 to 2.3 MBD in 2040 — an increase of 4.5% annually. Diesel-consuming trucks play an essential role in Indian manufacturing and commerce, and they are set to grow rapidly, states the IEA in its India Oil Market Outlook.

IEA recommends a multi-pronged approach to restrain oil demand growth. The operative word is: “restrain.” Truck route optimization in the form of higher payloads and less empty miles is one such suggestion. Hardware improvements through aerodynamic retrofit to reduce drag, lighter materials (aluminium, etc instead of steel for body building), better drivertrain and engine transmissions can reduce fuel consumption.

The IEA urges governments to make progress on restraining demand growth. It cites three possible areas for improvement. The first area is logistics and operations, which means using GPS to “optimize truck routing,” improve supply chain efficiencies so that trucks are carrying heavier loads and making fewer empty trips. Zero Emission trucks and hybrids are other avenues to tame oil consumption.

India imported crude oil worth $132.40 billion in 2023–24 compared to $157.50 billion spent in the preceding year. The country imported 232.7 million tonnes (MT) of crude oil in 2022–23.

India’s average cost of various types of crude oil imports, called the Indian basket, in 2023–24 was $82.58 a barrel, $10.57 a barrel less than $93.15 per barrel in the preceding fiscal year, according to provisional data. The composition of the Indian basket represents an average of Oman and Dubai for sour grades, and Brent for sweet grade.





An avid watcher & practitioner in the world of communication