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.

Example: greenhouse gas calculation for a truck move

Using the formula from above, I'll walk through a simple emissions calculation example for a truck that travels 1,000 miles with 20 short tons of cargo (a short ton is 2,000 lbs).

  • Step 1: Determine the total amount of ton-miles. Multiply 1,000 miles times 20 tons, which gives us a total of 20,000 ton-miles.
  • Step 2: Get the weight-based truck emissions factor for a freight truck. The average freight truck in the U.S. emits 161.8 grams of CO2 per ton-mile.
  • Step 3: Multiply this emissions factor with the total ton-miles {161.8 X 20,000), which gives us a total of 3,236,000 grams of CO2.
  • Step 4: Convert the total grams into metric tons. Metric tons are the standard measurement unit for corporate emissions of greenhouse gases. There are 1,000,000 grams in a metric ton. To convert our answer from step three we divide it by 1,000,000. This gives us 3.24 metric tons of CO2 for this one move.

Even  if don’t have access to the tonnage data, you can still achieve a meaningful calculation based on mileage alone.  You’ll find an example of mileage-based calculation on page 13 of the Green Freight Handbook.

Once you have the formula, this process of greenhouse gas calculations can be easily automated using data from your transportation management software.  The key is to get started.

To learn more about getting started with green freight projects, download the Green Freight Handbook from the link below:

GF-Handbook-CTA

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.

While they seldom directly own large delivery fleets, consumer goods companies are the largest single consumer of freight moves: accounting for nearly 30% of moves, according to an EDF-commissioned analysis from ICF International.

Most large consumer goods companies have robust environmental sustainability platforms, which increasingly include supply chain impacts. This makes sense, as nearly 90% of consumer goods impacts occur in companies' supply chains.

PrintProduct distribution is a meaningful contributor to those impacts: around five percent for a pair of Timberland shoes, 8 percent for a six pack of Fat Tire craft beer, and 10 percent for an iPad. Freight moved via truck accounts for the majority of logistics-related emissions. By increasing the efficiency of heavy trucks by 46% compared to 2010, consumer goods companies will meaningfully reduce supply chain climate emissions.

Increases to fuel efficiency are good for the bottom line too. Fuel has long been a top cost for trucking, accounting for nearly 40% of per-mile cost. More efficient trucks lower lifecycle costs significantly, and reduce per-mile freight costs by 21 cents a mile, as an analysis by EDF and Ceres demonstrated last year.

President Obama pledged last year to issue new truck efficiency standards this spring. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration ready the proposed standards for release, consumer goods companies should be leading the call for the administration to set bold standards. These companies stand to benefit the most from lower supply chain emissions and reduce shipping costs. As the largest single consumer of trucking services, calling for protective standards is the responsible course of action.

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

Consumers Get Their Say in Supporting Sustainable Products

Like teenagers, all ground-breaking products or ideas go through an awkward adolescent phase.  And, like teenagers, the only way products or ideas can move past the clumsy stage and blossom into a sought after, form-meets-function icon is through experience.  Meaning, real consumers have to put them through their paces: does this work? How could it work better? Revise, improve, re-test, repeat… that’s how you make something truly effective; truly great.

Sustainability-Shop bug_115x115

All this is by way of acknowledging a group of sustainable-minded collaborators on the coming-out party this week for Walmart’s “Sustainability Leaders Shop”, an online shopping portal that “will allow customers to easily identify brands that are leading sustainability within a special category”.  It is, literally, the very first time a quantifiable, science-based index of various products’ sustainable provenance is being placed in the hands of consumers at the scale that only Walmart can provide. 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!

The Green Freight Journey: Declare a Goal

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.

Green Freight Journey

These first three steps of the Green Freight Journey are fundamentally about getting “up to speed” on your journey. You start with your objective and metrics; launch a pilot or two; and then embrace the approach with wider adoption and a formal recognition. Now it’s time to invest in progress over the long term.

Companies set themselves up for longer-term success and spur innovation by declaring a goal, which is step 4 of the journey.

To do this, companies need to:

  • Assess long-term opportunities – More than just looking at what they can move forward on today, companies need to be thinking along the lines of what  they can build towards over the next 3-5 years.
  • Focus on continuous improvement – The metrics-driven approach we discuss throughout the Green Freight Journey will be key here. A long-term goal backed by objective metrics inoculates your effort from the threat of “big shiny object” projects – for example, that pet project of an executive that might be great for a press release, but won’t move the needle forward on the metrics.
  • Choose an actionable timeframe – The goal should be far enough on the horizon that you will be able to make some significant network changes over the time frame. It should be close enough, though, to be actionable.
  • Set specific targets – Your goal should be framed clearly so that all team members will understand when the project can be deemed a success.

Many companies are already setting goals for their freight operations; here are some examples to get you thinking:

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.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

The Green Freight Journey: Accelerate Performance

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. Leading up to our January 14th webinar, EDF is taking a brief look at each step of the Journey.

Once you have completed your green freight pilot project(s), it’s time to start applying your learnings at scale. Build off the success of your pilot—from one or two projects, can you now expand your program to five or ten? Below are some useful tips to help your company take the next step in the Green Freight Journey.

  • Formalize the team  It’s critical that your company’s Green Freight efforts are given a clear structure. Recognize team members for their sustainability efforts as part of the evaluation process. Put in place procedures for sharing results and bringing forward new ideas.
  • Scale successful pilots – Make sure you get the most return for your effort. Scope out opportunities where you can scale up your impact and look for additional lanes where you can deploy your learnings.
  • Identify new opportunities – Be on the lookout for new challenges to take on. Are there slightly higher-hanging fruit to reach for? What projects have a bit more complexity but could deliver significant return? For ideas, be sure to check out the Green Freight Handbook.

CycleThis is the stage where you really start to leverage the power of EDF’s Virtuous Cycle of Strategic Energy Management. It is a model of change we've discovered that applies to energy performance  including in freight applications – across even radically different organizations with five powerful, interdependent components.

  1. Executive Engagement
  2. Resource Investment
  3. People
  4. Identification, Implementation and Results Measurement and Verification (M&V)
  5. Stories and Sharing

The five components of this machine affect one another, for better or for worse. If the performance of one improves, it often improves the performance of all in a "virtuous cycle" of positive feedback. When all components function at full capacity, the cycle will run smoothly to improve energy performance, maximizing financial and environmental returns.

Join me on January 14 at 12PM ET for a webinar that will introduce you to the full Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

Register here today for this informative webinar.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

The Green Freight Journey: Create Momentum

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.

Once you have established a Green Freight goal and defined metrics for tracking your progress, it’s time to start putting the wheels in motion. Below are some tips for taking the next step, creating momentum, in your Green Freight Journey:

  • Choose a pilot project – Select pilot projects that can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere in the organization, if successful. See our Green Freight case studies for examples of replicable pilot projects.
  • Focus on what you control – Choose a pilot project where you have direct control over the outcome. Examples here are increasing load factors or moving to intermodal from truckload. Projects that rely on the actions of suppliers, such as alternative fuel use by your contract carrier, are more difficult to execute.
  • Track results – Be sure to capture good data and use the metrics you created in step one. The data you produce will be a powerful tool in communicating the results of your pilot to employees, customers, and key stakeholders. The data will also help you identify new opportunities.

Below is an example from our Green Freight Handbook, which can help you determine which pilot project would be most impactful for your organization.

Green Freight Diagnostic

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.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

The Green Freight Journey: Take Your First Step

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 of the steps along the Journey.

The first step, Getting Started, is about deciding where you want to go. To do this, companies:

  • Gather internal stakeholders  such as supply chain or transportation executives, sustainability officers or EHS professionals, and an executive sponsor.
  • Define their green freight objective  such as reducing climate warming emissions or cutting fossil fuel consumption.
  • Determine key metrics – by reaching each agreement on how to objectively measure progress. A metrics-driven approach helps to keep you focused on the actions that will deliver the biggest results for the best returns.

When determining your metrics, consider these examples from the EDF Green Freight Handbook:

Metrics

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.

Steps on the Green Freight Journey: