It’s no secret that better trailer utilization reduces the number of required freight runs. Fewer trucks on the road means lower freight costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – an excellent freight sustainability strategy.
Despite the obvious benefits, recent research from Cnergistics has determined that 15 to 25 percent of the trailers on U.S. roads are empty. For the non-empty miles, these trailers are 36 percent under-utilized. Capturing just half of this underutilized capacity would cut emissions from freight trucks by 100 million tons per year – about 20 percent of all U.S. freight emissions – and reduce expenditures on diesel fuel by more than $30 billion a year.
If you’re serious about pursuing freight sustainability strategies, load optimization is a good place to start.
Following are just a few examples of load optimization strategies in action. More can be found in EDF’s Green Freight Handbook – a practical guide for developing freight sustainability strategies for business.
- Kraft Foods realized that, because of the variety of products either cubing out trailers (reaching the volume limit far short of the weight capacity) or weighing out trailers (the reverse), its refrigerated outbound shipments were averaging only 82 percent of weight capacity. To address the problem, Kraft used a software tool to convert demand into orders optimized to maximize truck usage without damaging products. As a result, Kraft cut 6.2 million truck miles and reduced truck-load costs by 4 percent.
- Walmart was able to increase the number of pallets shipped in a truck from 26 to 30 simply by side-loading pallets. This is one of many steps the retailer has taken to achieve its goal of doubling the efficiency of its transportation operations.
- Stonyfield Farms developed new policies related to lead-time and minimum order size to ensure that its shipping containers were full. As part of its approach, the company worked with its clients to help them decrease the use of dunnage (inexpensive or waste material used to protect cargo during transportation), allowing the company to maximize the available space per trailer.
When it comes to freight sustainability strategies, load optimization is relatively simple, since most of the factors that need to change in order to improve it are within your control. To make a fast, measurable impact on greenhouse gas emissions, send your freight out in fewer, fuller loads.