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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Why the Food Movement is Alive and Well

silverware 2 up closeMark Bittman’s recent New York Times op-ed, “Let’s Make Food Issues Real,” is a grim assessment of the current state of the food movement – in fact, he questions whether a food movement exists at all.

Bittman states that the lack of major change to government food policies means the food movement is not winning. “I’ll believe there’s a food movement when Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are forced to talk directly about food issues,” Bittman writes.

I’ll take that bet. With the drought in California threatening the nation’s produce and the other impacts climate change pose to our food supply, I think it’s likely that the next group of presidential candidates will discuss food issues on the campaign trail.

But even if politicians take up the banner of the food movement, new legislation should not be the sole indicator of success. Food companies are increasingly making changes to their products, practices, and sourcing in response to consumer demand. State policies and federal agency priorities are also shifting. Read more

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

3 Climate Leadership Openings Corporate America Can't Afford to Miss

Too much ink has been spilled on the anti-climate furor of the Koch brothers. If we lose on climate, it won’t be because of the Koch brothers or those like them.

It will be because too many potential climate champions from the business community stood quietly on the sidelines at a time when America has attractive policy opportunities to drive down economy-endangering greenhouse gas emissions.

Corporate executives have the savvy to understand the climate change problem and opportunity. They have the incentive to tackle it through smart policy, and the clout to influence politicians and policy makers. Perhaps most importantly, they can inspire each other.

And today, they have a chance to do what they do best: lead. Corporate climate leadership has nothing to do with partisanship – it’s ultimately about business acumen.

For starters, here are three immediate opportunities smart companies won’t want to miss.

1. Clean Power Plan: Will spur new jobs and investments.

The Obama administration’s plan will cut emissions from coal plants by 30 percent by 2030. This is expected to trigger a wave of clean energy investment and job creation. It will also seize energy efficiency opportunities and take advantage of America’s abundant and economic supply of natural gas.

Every company with an energy-related greenhouse gas footprint has something to gain from a cleaner power mix. Each one of those companies therefore has a stake in the Clean Power Plan.

Google and Starbucks – two large and profitable American companies by any standard – are among more than 200 businesses that have already stepped up to voice their support.

Who will follow them?

2. First-ever methane rules: Will make industry more efficient.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming methane emission rules are another opportunity for business leaders to weigh in.

The rules are part of a White House plan that seeks to reducemethane emissions – a major contributor to global warming and resource waste – by almost half in the oil and gas industry.

Globally, an estimated 3.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas leaks from the sector each year. This wasted resource would be worth about $30 billion in new revenue if sold on the energy market.

Some oil and gas companies that have already taken positive steps include Anadarko, Noble and Encana, which helped develop the nation’s first sensible methane rules in Colorado.

Engaging to support strong and sensible national standards isa good next step for companies in this space. And for others with a stake in cleaning up natural gas, such as chemical companies, and manufacturers and users of natural gas vehicles.

Climate solutions with a big impact

3. New truck standards: Can help companies cut expenses and emissions.

New clean truck standards are scheduled for release this summer. Consumer goods companies and other manufacturers stand to see significant dollar and emissionsavings as they move their goods to market.

Cummins, Wabash, Fed Ex, Con-Way, Eaton and Waste Management are among those that applauded the decision to move forward with new standards.

Putting capitalism to work

American business leadership is still the global standard and will remain so if it adds climate policy to its to-do list. While it will take time to build the bi-partisan momentum for comprehensive national climate legislation, there are immediate opportunities to move the needle.

Which companies will take the field?

This post originally appeared on EDF Voices.

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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.

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It’s Actually OUR Honor to be an EPA SmartWay Affiliate!

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Cheryl Bynum, National Program Manager at US EPA, SmartWay, presents the 2015 Affiliate Challenge Honoree award to Environmental Defense Fund.

EDF has long been a champion of the SmartWay program, EPA’s highly successful public-private partnership between more than 3,000 organizations that are committed to improved fuel efficiency and environmental performance. So we were thrilled when EPA named us a 2015 Affiliate Challenge Honoree for our efforts to promote the program in our Green Freight Handbook.

We were recognized last week at the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) conference, and we will participate in a virtual awards ceremony tomorrow. We have impressive company: the American Trucking Association, Penske, TIA, Wisconsin Clean Cities, and the North Central Texas Council of Governments were all named as honorees as well.

The program has helped facilitate positive results in many areas, perhaps most impressively in the goods movement sector.

Success in Texas and across the nation

SmartWay’s approach is one of partnership. The program brings together partners from the public and private sectors, to demonstrate the way modified operational practices can benefit both the environment and the bottom line.

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McDonald’s New Super-Sized Deforestation Commitment: 4 Things You Should Know

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Just in time for Earth Day, McDonald’s has released a new global deforestation commitment. While this policy is new, the company is no stranger to the issue. In fact, McDonald’s was one of the first companies to be confronted in the 1980s as consumers began to recognize the “Hamburger Connection” between beef production and tropical forests. In response, the company established its Amazon Policy, which prohibited the sourcing of beef from the Amazon. Seventeen years later, McDonald’s was instrumental in creating the Soy Moratorium, an industry-wide effort which has effectively halted soy expansion on native vegetation in the Amazon Biome. (Soy is a major source of feed for chickens and other livestock).

Now, following a wave of commitments from agricultural giants such as Cargill and ADM, the new global policy is a first-of-its-kind in the fast food sector and, if executed correctly, could stand as a shining example for other companies in the food business to follow. As one of the world’s most recognized brands, McDonald’s knows any commitment with such a large impact on the planet – tropical forests are one of the largest contributors to, and buffers against, climate change – will be heavily scrutinized. So, what do we need to know as we watch this journey unfold? To radically simplify, four things come to mind:

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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

Stick It To Carbon, Not The Man.

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from Climate Shock (2015) by Gernot Wagner, Lead Senior Economist, Environmental Defense Fund, and Martin L. Weitzman, Professor of Economics, Harvard University. Published here with permission from Princeton University Press.

Gernot & MartinTwo quick questions:

Do you think climate change is an urgent problem?

Do you think getting the world off fossil fuels is difficult?

If you answered “Yes” to both of these questions, welcome. You’ll nod along, occasionally even cheer, while reading on. You’ll feel reaffirmed.

You are also in the minority. The vast majority of people answer “Yes” to one or the other question, but not both.

If you answered “Yes” only to the first question, you probably think of yourself as a committed environmentalist. You may think climate change is the issue facing society. It’s bad. It’s worse than most of us think. It’s hitting home already, and it will strike us with full force. We should be pulling out all the stops: solar panels, bike lanes, the whole lot.

You’re right, in part. Climate change is an urgent problem. But you’re fooling yourself if you think getting off fossil fuels will be simple. It will be one of the most difficult challenges modern civilization has ever faced, and it will require the most sustained, well-managed, globally cooperative effort the human species has ever mounted.

If you answered “Yes” only to the second question, chances are you don’t think climate change is the defining problem of our generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a “skeptic” or “denier” of the underlying scientific evidence; you may still think global warming is worthy of our attention. But realism dictates that we can’t stop life as we know it to mitigate a problem that’ll take decades or centuries to show its full force. Look, some people are suffering right now because of lack of energy. And whatever the United States, Europe or other high emitters do to rein in their energy consumption will be nullified by China, India and the rest catching up with the rich world’s standard of living. You know there are trade-offs. You also know that solar panels and bike lanes alone won’t do.

You, too, are right, but none of that makes climate change any less of a problem. The long lead time for solutions and the complex global web of players are precisely why we must act decisively, today. Read more