10 Tips for Environmentally Friendlier Freight

Enviornmental blog pic'

(September 25, 2014) This past Sunday (9/21/2014) over 400,000 people participated in the People’s Climate March in New York City making it the largest political demonstration on climate change in history. The march, just days before 120 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, convened Tuesday (9/23/14) at the United Nations in New York to discuss combating the growing threat of climate change, was well timed.

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it,” President Obama said Tuesday.

We are at a critical time where sustainability and environmental responsibility are necessary considerations for the entire world, including shippers. There are ways that shippers can reduce their environmental impact when they move goods across the country or across the globe.  A few to consider, depending on your industry and needs:

•Consolidate smaller loads into larger ones. The fewer trips trucks have to make to deliver goods will reduce emissions.

•Be flexible about drop off and pickup windows – this will minimize the amount of time trucks may need to idle waiting to appear at the specific appointed time. Not only will emissions be lowered, but less fuel will be consumed thus lowering the carrier’s cost.  It will also help with capacity as more equipment will be available to meet a broader time window.

•Be ready when trucks come to collect goods or deliver goods – this too will reduce truck idle time.

•Explore new ways of packaging goods for shipment.  This is particularly true for liquids and food stuffs.  Using Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC’s), bulk tanks or ISO tanks that can be cleansed and reused can be more environmentally friendly than using multiple smaller drums or barrels that need to be cleaned or disposed of after use.

•Try recycled wooden pallets, and make sure that those that have reached the end of their serviceable lives are recycled as well.  When wooden pallets reach the end of their lives, parts of them can be reused into new pallets, and what can’t be reused can be turned into other products such as landscape mulch, animal bedding or wood fire pellets.

•Explore new shipment methods.  Intermodal shipping generally has less of an environmental impact than over the road for long haul shipments.  While intermodal may not be able to replace an entire truckload network, it can add value as a supplemental form of capacity.

•Find partners.  3PLs or shipping brokers can optimize shipments and help find carriers that can be loaded both headhaul and backhaul.  Reducing empty movement makes every mile count and can help save fuel, reduce emissions and reduce costs.

•Look for Smartway certification.  Smartway is an EPA partnership in which logistics companies, shippers and carriers commit to using processes and equipment that improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

•At warehouses, consider using energy efficient lighting, including motion-sensitive lighting.

•If your shipping dock has forklifts or yard tractors, consider electric, propane, or natural gas rather than gasoline or diesel.

Be sure to review your entire supply chain for environmental impact. Although many of the suggestions above pertain primarily to outbound shipments, they can easily apply to inbound movements as well.