Editor choice

Editor’s Pick: How Walmart Transportation is Working to Reduce Emissions Today and in the Future

We at Logistics Viewpoints have written about how companies are looking to reduce carbon emissions, especially when it comes to transportation. More and more global companies are committing to making their supply chains and operations net zero or carbon neutral. The following Editor’s Choice article comes from Fernando Cortes, Senior Vice President, Transportation at Walmart, and discusses how Walmart is working to reduce emissions through its transportation practices and operations.

As the largest retailer in the world, with a world-class transportation network, we have the ability to make a significant difference when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why, in 2020, we set a goal to achieve zero emissions across Walmart’s global operations by 2040.

This includes our last mile delivery fleet, an area that is ideally positioned for innovative solutions. You’ve seen us be among the first to use 100% electric self-driving cars and class 3 trucks, electric delivery vans and even drones. But there is another fleet we are committed to transforming, one that will have an even bigger impact on achieving our zero emissions goal: our Class 8 transport fleet.

We know transforming our transportation fleet isn’t as easy as flipping a switch, but that doesn’t mean we sit idle. Today, I’m excited to share more about our zero-emission transportation strategy and announce a series of collaborations and pilot projects. Many of these initiatives are the first of their kind for Walmart and will be critical in moving us forward toward an emissions-free future, while being instructive for the entire transportation industry.

A meaningful approach

Walmart operates one of the largest and safest fleets in the United States, with 12,000 drivers, 10,000 tractors and 80,000 trailers traveling 1.1 billion miles each year. With a fleet of this size, it accounted for approximately 24% of our scope 1 emissions in 2020.

To have a meaningful impact, we take a meaningful approach by evaluating various attributes of three different fuel types – renewable natural gas, hydrogen and electricity. We test solutions not only for our on-road (OTR) trucks, but also for refrigerated trailers (also called refrigerated) and construction trucks (which move trailers in lots). Here’s how we layer the solutions to determine the best recipe for building a regenerative Walmart in action.

Natural gas

As we move away from diesel and towards a low-emission fleet, we plan to deploy and evaluate vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). Natural gas engines have a range comparable to diesel engines of around 700 miles – making them a great potential choice for our sleeper cabs – and can produce tangible emissions benefits that compound when they are powered by renewable natural gas (RNG) or RNG-related fuel.

Renewable natural gas is produced by capturing biomethane from decaying matter and processing it to generate fuel. Uncaptured biomethane has up to 25 times the ability to trap heat in the atmosphere compared to CO2, but by capturing it from sources such as dairy manure or food waste, studies suggest that renewable natural gas can avoid more emissions than it generates.

Over the road: Beginning early next year, we will be the first haulage company to receive Cummins’ new 15-litre natural gas engine and will be adding them to some of our trucks. This all-new engine is expected to deliver the same power and torque as a 15-litre diesel engine, but with significantly lower emissions, lighter weight and an overall lower cost per kilometer than its diesel counterpart. And to maximize the potential emissions benefits of using this technology, we have entered into agreements with Chevron to supply Walmart trucks with CNG tied to renewable natural gas.

With so many major industry players working together to find a solution, we are optimistic that we can generate significant growth in the market with critical lessons to be learned from this pilot project.


Although the use of hydrogen is still in its infancy, we are delighted to be among the first to adopt it in our fleet. In fact, we already transport liquid hydrogen to power many of our forklifts in our grocery distribution centers.

The advantage of hydrogen is that compared to the electric battery, it has a higher range of around 400 miles, takes much less time to refuel and weighs less, allowing us to carry more freight. The wrong side? Right now, that’s expensive, and we know our customers rely on us to keep prices low.

Construction trucks: In a few months, we will be the first company in the United States to test the capacities and performance of the very first 2 of Capacityn/a generation hydrogen fuel cell yard truck. The truck is manufactured by Capacity in Longview, Texas, and has a range of expected benefits, including up to 10 hours of run time on a single refueling, faster refueling time and less dependence on the electric charging. Plus, we can use the same infrastructure as our hydrogen forklifts while producing little or no emissions.

In fact, it’s because of these benefits that we see hydrogen as an option for our long-haul tractors – we’ll have more to share on that soon.


Finally, as electric vehicles become more commonplace, we explored their place in Walmart’s fleet. Given the current weight and range capabilities of battery electric trucks, they are an attractive solution for yard operations, lighter hauls and daily deliveries of around 200 miles – all of which play an important role in our operations.

Construction trucks: We have used zero-emission electric construction trucks, similar to Autocar’s All-Electric Terminal Tractor (E-ACTT), in our fulfillment centers over the past year and have found that they deliver approximately one 50% reduction in emissions compared to diesel trucks, considering how electricity is created and delivered to power these units. Our goal is to continue working to couple these trucks with renewable energy such as wind, solar or hydro power, so that we can achieve a true 100% reduction in emissions.

Refrigerated trailers: We also have the option of supplying our refrigerated trailers with electrical energy. As the world’s largest grocer, we use 10,000 of these refrigerated trailers to safely distribute fresh and cold groceries to stores. Today they rely on diesel fuel to keep them cool, which contributes to our overall CO2 emissions.

To change that, we recently worked with Thermo King to transport products from Walmart first-ever battery-powered refrigerated trailer in the United States The trailer is designed to run on 100% electricity until the batteries are completely depleted. If the electricity runs out halfway, the refrigeration unit switches to diesel.

During the two-month trial, we traveled 18 routes carrying groceries between our distribution center in Shafter, Calif., and nearby stores. We are happy to share that throughout the duration of the pilot project, the trailer ran on electricity 83% of the time.

Over the road: Finally, we can’t talk about electricity without talking about the road, especially our daytime taxis. Later this summer, we aim to run a proof-of-concept battery-electric day cab with Freightliner’s eCascadia and Nikola’s Tre BEV from a distribution center in Fontana, CA. These daytime electric taxis will collect loads from suppliers and deliver them to a consolidation center in the region. Short-haul deliveries like these are a great use case for electric trucks, and we’re excited to be among the first to test them in our operations.

Advancing the industry

Becoming a zero-emissions company won’t be as simple as embracing electric alternatives. For some categories of vehicles, the solution might look like a hydrogen-powered construction truck moving an electric refrigerated trailer, which will ultimately be transported by a natural gas truck. We hope that by testing and learning, we can find the right recipe for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating a less impactful transport fleet, while continuing to provide the freshest food and produce to our clients.

And while many of these technologies are still in their infancy, through industry collaboration, support from decision makers, and active testing of alternative fuel types in our transportation fleet, we hope to make a difference not just for Walmart’s operations, but for the industry as a whole. Because we know that when we lead, others follow.

Looking to the future, I’m confident that when you see a Walmart truck driving down the highway, you’ll be able to physically see us in action, creating a better future for all of us – our children, our grandchildren, and our planet.

Fernando Cortes is Senior Vice President, Transportation at Walmart.