Freight Sustainability Strategies: How to Get the Most From Every Truck Move

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.

Source: Homayoun Taherian, Cnergistics, LLC

Source: Homayoun Taherian, Cnergistics, LLC

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. Read more

How to Use EDF's Green Freight Diagnostic Tool

There are many ways to reduce freight-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But which strategies make the most sense for you?

EDF’s Green Freight Handbook provides a framework to help you answer this question based on what initiatives will achieve the greatest environmental benefit in the least amount of time. The key is our Green Freight Diagnostic Tool.

Here’s how it works.  We focus on EDF’s five key principles for greener freight:

  1. Get the most out of every move
  2. Choose the most carbon-efficient mode
  3. Collaborate
  4. Redesign your logistics network
  5. Demand cleaner equipment and practices

For each key area of potential, we list a series of simple questions designed to help you determine which strategies are the low-effort, high-return opportunities. You’ll need some data in order to answer the questions, but it’s a pretty easy exercise to start moving down the path toward a cleaner, lower-cost freight program.

Here’s a small sample from just one of the green freight diagnostic sections, "Get the most out of every move." As you can see, it explains the opportunity and allows you to measure the potential impact at a high level.

QuestionOpportunityPotential Benefit
Can your customers be flexible about arrival dates to enable freight consolidation?With a transportation management system or TMS, companies can identify opportunities to hold orders for consolidation. Where feasible, and with the right incentives, companies can then send one larger shipment to customers instead of sending two smaller ones.Reduction of product shipping volume by up to 30 percent.
Have you recently analyzed opportunities for balancing high density and low density products?If no, explore how you might be able to better balance weight and cube constraints. Options include matching internal freight or co-loading with a company with a similar need and transportation lanes.20-30 percent net reduction in process and resource costs.
Can you side load your pallets 90 degrees when loading them on the truck?Explore the feasibility of side loading pallets to enable the loading of more cargo per truck. This will be feasible only for fleets that cube out, but do not weigh-out. This approach will require changes to pallet construction and loading.8-15 percent increase in truck productivity.

That’s just a small sampling.  Each of the five sections provides a comprehensive diagnostic assessment tool. Download the Green Freight Handbook to access the tool.

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Walmart, General Mills and Anheuser-Busch Make Greening Freight a Priority

green freightSpring is high season for corporate responsibility reports, with some of the world’s most recognizable brands — including Kellogg’s, Walmart, Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Adidas, General Mills, H&M, Lowes, CVS and Hershey’s — releasing their latest updates. While each company has its own unique sustainability challenges and priorities, every one of them has a global supply chain that requires an extensive logistics network to move goods from manufacturing facilities to end customers.

What reading these reports told me is that greening freight operations is becoming a key priority for these companies, with three trends in particular standing out to me:

1. Tracking logistics emissions is a standard practice. Seven out of the ten recently released reports included data on fuel use or greenhouse gas emissions associated with freight transportation. Several companies were tracking only emissions from outbound freight transportation, presumably because of a lack of visibility into inbound moves. Adidas, one of the three that did not include information on emissions or fuel use from freight movement, did include a detailed breakdown of moves by transport modes and emissions from distribution centers and other facilities.

2. Setting performance goals is a well-accepted practice. Four of the ten companies have performance-based goals to improve environmental impact associated with freight transportation. For example:

  • Walmart is seeking to double its fleet efficiency compared to 2005, and is currently 87% of the way to meeting this impressive goal.
  • General Mills has a goal to reduce fuel use for its outbound moves by 35% compared to its 2005 consumption. The company has made considerable progress too, reducing fuel use by 22% compared to 2005.
  • Anheuser-Busch set a goal in 2014 to reduce greenhouse gases from its global logistics operations by 15% per hectoliter sold. Its goal has a broad scope too, including inbound and outbound transportation as well as warehousing.

3. Seeking to shape external factors is a leadership practice. Much of the impact of moving freight is beyond the operational control of these companies. They have limited influence on the availability of low-impact fuels, the efficiency of freight equipment or the capacity of intermodal systems. In addition to focusing on the factors freight shippers can control, leading companies are trying to shape the overall system to provide more low-impact choices. Read more

Better Fuel Efficiency for Heavy Duty Trucks — A Target Worth Setting

"Kenworth truck" by Lisa M. Macias, U.S. Air Force via Wikipedia

"Kenworth truck" by Lisa M. Macias, U.S. Air Force via Wikipedia

A pair of critical analyses were just released that, together, make clear the need for a strong second generation heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standard.

The first piece is the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) preliminary Annual Energy Outlook for 2015. I went right to the projection of fuel efficiency for new heavy trucks in 2020, which is 7.0 miles per gallon, and compared that to the projection for 2030, which is 7.2 miles per gallon. A three percent increase in efficiency for a decade is not too impressive.

As a result of this lack of projected progress on fuel efficiency and other factors, EIA expects that greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks will increase more than any other single end-use source by 2040 – an additional 120 million metric tons a year.

The other recent analysis is from The International Council on Clean Transportation, which released two papers on heavy truck fuel efficiency: one reviewing the potential of current and emerging efficiency technology, and the other examining the cost-effectiveness of these technologies.

Read more

Let There Be No Doubt: We Can Cut Truck Emissions & Fuel Use Today

The can-do spirit of American automotive engineers has been on full display over the past few weeks, as truck manufacturers unveil innovation after innovation to boost the efficiency of heavy trucks that move companies' freight cross-country.

It is crystal clear that we possess— today— the know-how to dramatically cut fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks. Moreover, we can do this while saving consumers hundreds of dollars annually and giving trucking companies the high-quality, affordable equipment they require.

DTNA Super Truck HighSome of the recently-announced advances include:

All of these fuel-saving solutions are available today thanks to the acumen of engineers at these leading manufacturers. The first round of well-designed federal fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards are also driving innovations like these to the market.

Even so, the strides we are making today should only be the beginning.

Read more

Green Freight Math: How to Calculate Emissions for a Truck Move

When setting and monitoring several of the key environmental performance metrics for freight, you’ll need to know how to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This may sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple.

Fuels contain carbon, which is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when burned. If you know how much fuel you’ve used, you can determine most of your current GHG emissions.

You can derive fuel volume by looking at how much freight you transport, the distance that freight travels, and the specific mode of transport used. Each mode will have its own emissions factor, since some modes are more efficient than others.

Here's a simple formula for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from a truck move:

GHG Calculation

The distance and weight and/or volume information needed to calculate greenhouse gas emissions is most likely already captured in your transportation management software. Information on mode-specific emissions factors are generated by several sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A list of emission factors is included on page 10 and 11 of EDF’s Green Freight Handbook. Read more

Consumer Goods Companies: Stand Up For Strong Truck Standards

ucs Figure_ES-1 4

(Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists)

Three billion gallons of fuel:  That is what consumer goods companies stand to save annually from strong heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

$11.5 million dollars: That is how much a large consumer goods company would save annually in 2030 from strong truck efficiency standards.

Consumer goods companies should be at the front of the pack calling for new, protective, and affordable fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for our largest trucks — which will not only protect our air quality and the climate overall, but save companies costs involved in moving freight. Read more

The Top Three Freight Sustainability Metrics

Do your freight transportation metrics include measures for sustainability?

With freight accounting for 16 percent of corporate greenhouse gas emissions, establishing green freight practices is becoming a greater priority for large shippers.

GF-Handbook-CoverTo learn more about how to establish freight sustainability metrics, check out Chapter 2 in EDF’s Green Freight Handbook – a practical guide to the strategies companies are using to reduce their freight operations’ impact on overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Establishing baseline metrics is the logical starting point for your green freight efforts. Freight sustainability metrics provide clarity, and keep transportation teams focused on the goal of achieving emissions reductions that are measurable, and therefore meaningful.

Your baseline will include both broad corporate freight sustainability metrics and more specific freight efficiency metrics.

At a corporate level, the three most popular metrics to gauge freight sustainability , are:

  1. Emissions per ton-mile – the average emissions associated with moving one ton of freight for one mile.
  2. Absolute freight emissions – the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by transporting freight.
  3. Total fuel consumption – the fuel used by direct freight operations and by third-partly logistics companies (3pl) and carriers in the transport of products.

Our Green Freight Handbook offers advice and formulas to determine all these numbers.

At a specific level, other freight efficiency metrics –such as average emissions per shipment, percentage of ton-miles by mode, and average miles traveled per shipment – link to specific strategies that, taken together, will ultimately drive the results you see in your corporate freight sustainability metrics.

In Emissions Reduction, Activity Doesn’t Always Equal Achievement

Real progress in freight sustainability can only be measured in numbers. That’s why starting with a baseline is so crucial. If your strategies don’t shift the numbers in a positive direction, they are clearly not the right strategies.

Read more

To Drive Down CO2 Emissions, Focus on Freight

Did you know that, as the energy demand for passenger vehicles declines steadily over the next 25 years, the fuel demand for commercial transportation is predicted to increase 40 percent over current levels?

That’s a difference of well over 10 million oil-equivalent barrels per day.

Most of that demand will come from heavy-duty trucks, which account for 57 percent of all logistics-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 16 percent of total corporate GHGs.

Freight-share-GHGs

As a society, our appetite for goods of all kinds—food, electronics, apparel, housewares – is growing. As the population grows, demand grows, and so does the number of trucks on the road. Read more

The Green Freight Journey: Raise the Bar

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. In this blog series, EDF is taking a brief look at each step of the Journey.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Life’s a journey, not the destination.” Your Green Freight efforts are no exception.

The Green Freight Journey is about setting long-term goals and continuously learning.  Each time you reach a “destination,” remember to celebrate your success and share your learnings broadly within your organization and network.

Once you’ve acknowledged your success, challenge your department to take on new and more complex projects. As emissions from global goods movement continue to increase, the changes you make will make a difference and influence others to do the same.

To learn more about the Green Freight Journey, watch our recorded webinar, where we go into more detail about the Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

During the webinar, participants will:

  • Be introduced to the steps of a Green Freight Journey and receive tips for success on each;
  • Hear real-world examples of companies that have cut emissions and costs by optimizing freight moves;
  • Review existing tools, including a green freight benchmarking survey and the EDF Green Freight Handbook; and
  • Learn how an EDF Climate Corps fellow helped Ocean Spray Cranberries identify new green freight opportunities

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

Be a Green Freight Superhero

Also, watch our EDF Supply Chain Heroes video to learn how logistics managers can channel their "superpowers" to drive their companies' sustainability efforts. The choices they make, such as moving cargo via rail or participating in a truckload consolidation network, have the power to slash costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Become a green freight superhero at your organization today!