Every product Americans purchase — from apparel to washing machines — must travel from a production facility to a distribution center, ultimately landing on store shelves. These goods represent a major portion of the U.S. economy — retail sales topped $7 billion last year — but they are also inextricably tied to the transportation sector, which is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

In fact, the types of trucks used to move retail and other goods — medium- and heavy-duty — generate an outsized share of transportation sector emissions, accounting for 23% of emissions but only 10% of vehicles on the road. These trucks typically have poor fuel efficiency; Class 8 trucks — the standard long haul tractor trailers — average a mere 5.3 miles per gallon.

Decisions that retail and trucking companies make today will have a significant impact on current and future U.S. emissions. In the second edition of its Corporate Transportation Tracker, DGA examined the decarbonization goals of 150 top U.S. retailers and — for the first time — 100 top trucking companies, as well as specific steps these companies have taken to reduce their transportation-specific emissions.

Relying on corporate sustainability reports and other public information, DGA’s Tracker finds many retailers are taking steps to mitigate their transportation-related emissions, but full decarbonization is still a long way off.

In some respects, the retail and trucking industries’ carbon footprints are linked: While some retailers operate their own fleets, others rely on third-party trucking companies to transport their goods. Retailers are increasingly looking to partner with trucking companies that demonstrate they are monitoring emissions and establishing plans to tackle them. But most trucking companies are still in the initial stages of addressing their emissions. Few have set concrete targets for emissions reductions — though more than a dozen have adopted their first electric track, signaling growing industry awareness of the need to act.

In the coming years, both retail and trucking companies will need to accelerate their adoption of electric vehicles or other zero-carbon fuels to address their industries’ sizable carbon footprints. Below are four key insights from the second edition of DGA’s Tracker.

Nearly Half of Retailers, But Only a Fraction of Trucking Companies, Have Set Emissions Reduction Targets

Seventy out of 150 retailers have established Scope 1 and 2 emissions reduction targets, and 41 have set Scope 3 reduction targets. Between 2022 and 2023, nine retailers established their first Scopes 1 and 2 reduction goal:

  • Advance Auto Parts
  • AVB BrandSource
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Burlington
  • Foot Locker
  • Health Mart Systems
  • Crew Group
  • Office Depot
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts

Another five companies — Target, American Eagle, Aldo Group, Carter’s Inc., and New Balance — adopted a more ambitious emissions reduction goal in 2023 after making significant progress on their previous goals.

Trucking companies, meanwhile, are further behind in tackling their carbon footprints. Out of the 100 companies DGA surveyed, only eight companies have set a target to reduce their Scope 1 or 2 emissions, and only six have set a target to reduce Scope 3 emissions. For trucking companies, transportation emissions are central to their climate footprints. A dozen companies in the Tracker have set emissions reduction goals specific to transportation, though they vary in measurement, deadline, and ambition. For instance, FedEx — the second largest U.S. trucking company by revenue — aims to eliminate tailpipe emissions from its parcel pickup and deliver fleet by 2040. XPO Logistics — the third largest trucking company — set a goal to average at least 7.5 miles per gallon across its managed transportation services by the end of 2023.

Growing Interest in Electric Trucks — But Obstacles Remain

Multiple retailers and trucking companies have started to deploy electric vehicles in their fleets. Fourteen retailers explicitly reference using some quantity of electric vehicles — whether Class 8 semis, yard trucks, or last mile delivery vans — in their fleet:

  • Ahold Delhaize
  • Albertson’s
  • Amazon
  • AVB BrandSource
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Hy Vee
  • Ikea
  • Lidl
  • Ross
  • Sherwin-Williams
  • Staples
  • Walmart
  • Wegmans Food Market

Amazon has more than 2,600 Rivian electric delivery vans in its U.S. fleet. While this retailing behemoth is in a league of its own when it comes to total EVs, other companies are making important strides. Walmart ordered 1,100 Ford E-Transit vans in 2022 and incorporated its first all-electric Class 8 truck into its fleet in 2023. The grocery chain Albertson’s has two battery-electric trucks in fleet. An additional thirteen companies are taking steps to procure in electric vehicles, including pilot projects.

In this arena, trucking companies are on a similar footing as retailers with fifteen trucking companies deploying electric vehicles —from Class 8 trucks to last mile delivery vans — in their fleets:

  • Duie Pyle Inc.
  • ABF Freight Systems
  • Dependable Supply Chains
  • FedEx Corp.
  • GLS-US
  • IMC Companies
  • J. B. Hunt Transport
  • Knight-Swift Transport
  • NFI
  • Purolator
  • Ruan
  • Ryder Supply Chain Solutions
  • Schneider
  • UPS Inc.
  • Werner Enterprises

GLS-US, for example, is using electric vans for its last mile delivery fleet, and NFI has procured 30 Class 8 electric eCascadias and 30 Volvo VNR electric trucks. An additional seven companies are taking steps to adopt electric vehicles, including pilot programs and initial investments.

In their corporate reports, some of these trucking companies identified roadblocks to fleet electrification. Purolator and Landstar Systems both cited lack of charging infrastructure as the main hindrance to electrification. “The extensive nationwide charging/fueling infrastructure and maintenance network that would be necessary to support such operations does not exist,” Landstar wrote in its most recent report.

Retailers Have a Unique Opportunity to Support Passenger EV Expansion

Retailers are uniquely positioned not only to decarbonize commercial transportation but to accelerate passenger EV adoption, too. The Tracker shows that 36 major retailers, up from 29 in 2022, have installed customer charging stations. Starbucks, for example, is installing 60 fast chargers at its stores off the highways that connect Seattle and Denver, helping to electrify this passage.

Meanwhile, 19 retailers offer EV charging specifically for their employees at corporate headquarters.

Non-EV Actions Focus on Fuel Efficiency

While the trucking industry is a long way from fully embracing electrification and other zero emission technologies, many of the companies DGA surveyed are taking other actions to improve fuel efficiency across their fleets. Upgrading vehicles with aerodynamic side skirts or low-rolling resistance tires and setting speed restrictions to improve fuel economy are becoming standard industry practices.

In the Tracker, 23 trucking companies reported steps they are taking to improve fuel efficiency. For example, Estes Express Lines uses synthetic lubricants to decrease friction and reduce oil consumption and has installed efficient driving monitors and fuel economy monitors

Retailers are also pursuing both fuel and operational efficiency in their own fleets—for example, using route optimization software and backhaul programs to reduce empty miles.

While retail and trucking companies are making an effort to reduce transportation-related emissions, they must accelerate adoption of electric and other zero-emission vehicles to meet the internationally recognized climate goal of a net-zero economy by 2050. Policies that support the deployment of charging infrastructure and the development and adoption of electric heavy-duty trucks are crucial to meeting this climate gaol.

Click here to view the full Tracker.