Driver/vehicle operator          

Finding ways to cover long distances in as little time as possible is a longstanding challenge. As civilisations have evolved, so have many transport-related professions. People employed in this area include:
  • carters and cab drivers, who drive vehicles pulled by animals;
  • captains, helmspersons and pilots, who navigate ships;
  • engine drivers and train operators, who drive railway trains or underground trains;
  • drivers of motorised road vehicles;
  • operators of trams, buses and trolleybuses in public transport systems;
  • pilots of aircraft and helicopters; and
  • cyclists, rickshaw pullers and drivers of vehicles propelled by muscle power. 

Vehicles that use different types of fuel (solid and liquid fuels, electricity, nuclear fuel etc.) have a significant environmental impact. Today, drivers of motorised road vehicles have the biggest impact on the state of the environment and human health. The extent of this impact depends on the type of vehicle, its level of maintenance, and the owner's driving style.
The transport sector affects the quality of air, water, soil and landscapes.

Air quality
  • The combustion of petroleum products causes emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter.
  • Emissions of NOx and VOCs contribute to the formation of tropospheric (or ground-level) ozone (a pollutant and a constituent of smog).
  • Exposure to emissions from fuel additives, such as lead and VOCs, causes respiratory problems.
  • Generating the electric power needed to operate electric trains, trams and trolleybuses results in emissions of pollutants.
  • Diesel-powered vehicles emit high levels of NOx and particulate matter.
  • Aircraft exhaust emissions contain NOx and CO2, which contribute to the formation of tropospheric ozone (smog) and acid rain.

Water quality
  • Urban runoff from roads, parking lots and airports contains oils, salts and solvents that pollute surface water and groundwater.
  • Emissions of NOx and SO2 react with water and cause acidification.
  • The construction of roads, railways and airports can alter hydrological systems.
  • The discharging of ballast water from ships pollutes seas and rivers.
  • Accidental and operational spills during the transportation of goods and materials are major sources of water pollution.
  • Anti-fouling paints contribute to water pollution.
  • There is a risk of accidents during the transportation of hazardous substances.
  • Oil spills and leakages contribute to water pollution.

Soil quality
  • Road construction results in the fragmentation or loss of land.
  • Accidents during the transportation of hazardous substances result in soil contamination, endangering human health.
  • Abandoned vehicles, waste oils, batteries and old tyres are all harmful to the environment.
  • The construction of airports puts pressure on land resources.

Nature and landscape quality
  • The extraction of road-building materials and road construction causes landscape degradation.
  • Road and railway infrastructure results in the fragmentation of habitats and obstructs wildlife migration routes.
  • Obsolete and abandoned transportation infrastructure contributes to landscape degradation.
  • The construction of shipping berths and canals has an impact on the landscape.
As a driver, there are several things you can do to reduce negative environmental impacts:
  • Avoid driving alone: try to share journeys with family members or colleagues whenever possible.
  • Choose a car with low fuel consumption. Nowadays there are many fuel-efficient cars on the market that consume as little as 3 litres per 100 kilometres.
  • Choose a car with an alternative engine type. The new generation of hybrid cars is a promising option. These combine a petrol engine and an electric motor in order to maximise fuel efficiency and drastically reduce emissions. Energy-saving features include automatic engine shutdown when the vehicle is stopped, and regenerative braking systems that convert kinetic energy into electricity to charge the battery. One of the biggest advantages of these cars is that they do not require the construction of new refuelling infrastructure.
  • Choose a car that runs on an alternative, cleaner type of fuel (natural gas, ethanol or hydrogen, for example). Buses running on compressed natural gas are being developed to replace the ageing, highly polluting diesel-powered vehicles in use in many Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Always keep your vehicle well maintained. Tyres should be properly inflated for maximum efficiency, helping to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Fine-tuning can result in as much as a 5 percent reduction in fuel consumption. 

Alternatively, you can look for opportunities to avoid driving altogether: 
  • If you are travelling only a short distance, walk instead.
  • Try going by bicycle. On city roads, cars and bicycles move at about the same average speed. If there is a separate bike path, a cyclist can often complete a trip of less than 10 kilometres faster than a car driver.
  • You can reduce CO2 emissions by 350 kilograms per year by using public transport instead of a car for short trips. Emissions of many other harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases will also decrease.