China Green Freight Assessment: Enabling a cleaner and more efficient freight system in China

This briefing aims to develop an in-depth understanding of China’s road freight system and evaluate the potential benefits of promoting green freight programs in China. In addition, the assessment is intended to serve as a reference for government agencies developing policies to promote transport efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and mitigate the environmental impacts from freight trucks. Key findings in this assessment are:

• Freight transported by road accounts for 80% of the total freight market. Most carriers in the road freight market are private individual operators. However, with the development of high-speed railways, the market share of rail freight will increase rapidly, particularly for coal and large goods.

• Over-load and over-limit operations are quite common in the Chinese road freight industry. Since the 2016 implementation of “9.21” regulations, long-haul freight vehicles now generally operate at standard-load but over-limiting remains a problem. However, over-loading is still very common among urban delivery vehicles.

• Straight trucks represent the most common body type used for road freight in China, however, the population of tractor-trailers is increasing rapidly.

• The market shares of alternative fuel and pure electric heavy-duty trucks are increasing rapidly, particularly in the urban delivery market. Also, the market penetration of pure electric vehicles is increasing sharply due to government policies.

• The driving speed of freight vehicles in China is relatively low due to traffic congestion. The average speed of mainline freight vehicles is about 60km/h and the speed of urban delivery vehicles averages 30–40km/h.

• The selection of fuel-saving technologies depends primarily on vehicle size. Most vehicles under 4.5 tonnes employ electric driving systems due to government policy. For most vehicles greater than 12 tonnes, fuel-saving technologies include alternative fuels, light-weighting, and those that reduce aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance.

A cleaner and more efficient freight system should rely on strategies to optimize freight activity, shift freight to the cleanest and most energy efficient modes, and improve the environmental and energy performance of vehicles and fuels. To encourage system efficiency, policies should be implemented to promote the further adoption of “drop and hook” operations, such as the development of electronic freight matching platforms to link shippers, truck brokers, and carriers. China should also develop a long-range logistics plan to evaluate future trade flows and identify high-density freight corridors where rail investments are needed. Finally, regulations such as more stringent fuel efficiency standards can drive the introduction of the most cost-effective truck technologies for the new fleet, while a well-implemented green freight program such as the China Green Freight Initiative, can encourage the introduction of aftermarket technologies.

The ICCT contracted the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) to conduct the full report upon which this briefing is based.