Want to Ship Greener? Skip the LTL Terminals with FlockDirect
Within the freight industry, companies are finding more and more that sustainable shipping is not only a benefit to the earth, but also to their bottom lines. So what if we told you that there was another way you could reduce your shipment’s associated fuel emissions by 40%… instantly?
You can, and here’s how: Shipping FlockDirect with Flock Freight instead of standard LTL. But how exactly do we do this? Let’s take a walk through the energy impacts of the hub-and-spoke LTL system to find out.
Hub-and-Spoke Shipping Explained
In standard LTL shipping, your freight moves through what is referred to as the “hub-and-spoke distribution model,” which you can picture as a bicycle wheel. Your less-than-truckload shipment is picked up from your location and taken to a local satellite terminal, or one of the ends of the “spokes,” where it waits to be grouped with other shipments in order to move on a fuller truck. These freight terminals receive all of the shipments from the immediate area that need to be rerouted to continue their journeys to their final destinations, and possibly taken to yet another terminal or two in between. Each time your freight travels to a new terminal, it’s offloaded, organized with other shipments traveling in the same direction, and stored for however long necessary until its next pickup.
Your freight zig-zags its way along its designated “spoke” from terminal to terminal until it arrives at a hub—the center of the proverbial wheel. There are centralized primary hubs (in metro areas like Chicago and Dallas, for example) as well as regional hubs (such as a Los Angeles hub, which serves the southwestern U.S.), all of which receive LTL freight from their respective terminals and store, reroute, and reload the shipments to transition to their delivery markets. Then the process repeats again, in reverse order, as your shipment winds its way to one or more central or regional hubs in its broad delivery zone, then through local freight terminals (unloading and reloading each time), until it reaches its drop-off location.
Terminals & Energy Output
Freight can go through a number of terminals on its way to and from centralized hubs. Each time it does, it’s unloaded, stored, and reloaded for the next leg of its journey. This process requires a variety of energy outputs, including (but certainly not limited to) the following:
- General power needs: Though variables like building size and location make each freight terminal unique, in general, most warehouses use around 6.1 kilowatt hours of electricity per square foot every year. Just the simple need to keep the lights on equals a massive energy output, before a single piece of freight enters the building.
- Forklift usage: If your shipment is boxed up onto pallets (like most LTL freight), it’ll likely require a forklift to transport it from the truck, across the terminal, into its temporary storage location, then back out again when it’s ready to load onto its next carrier. Forklifts can either be powered by electricity or fuel (such as propane, natural gas, etc.). Either configuration results in extra energy consumption—with electric forklifts consuming between 12,900 and 26,000 kWh per year, and engine-powered machines using 6 pounds of gas… per hour. Factor in, also, the required oil and/or lubricant, tire replacement, and other maintenance needs, and you’ve got quite the energy hog on your hands.
- Terminal layout: Often overlooked but equally crucial when considering energy consumption associated with LTL terminals is its floor plan. Factors such as the terminal’s shape, the height (and number) of its racks, and floor plan/routes all contribute to how many miles a cart or forklift has to travel and how much electricity or gas it uses in order to move pallets around the facility.
- Climate control: Because freight is often stored at terminals as it’s reorganized and rerouted, the facility needs to stay at optimal levels of temperature and humidity. When shipping certain consumer packaged goods, that need becomes even more crucial—especially when refrigeration is required. On average, non-refrigerated warehouses use up 13,400 Btu of natural gas per square foot per year, much of which is related to HVAC systems. Naturally, refrigerated terminals (or sections thereof) require even more energy output to maintain the optimal temperature for fresh goods, averaging an annual consumption of 9,200 Btu and 24.9 kWh per square foot.
- Staff: Handling and maintaining all of that freight requires a team of people—all of whom need their own means of transportation in order to get to and from their jobs. Commuting hours for workers add up to yet another layer of emissions output associated with the terminal system. (That said, in rural areas you’ll sometimes find what are called “dark” terminals that aren’t continuously staffed, but rather are run by the drivers themselves.)
How Flock Freight Ships Greener
Flock Freight takes a different approach to LTL shipping… that is, the TL approach. Our FlockDirect service taps into the TL network, even though you’re shipping fewer pallets than what’s required for a full truck. Instead, we algorithmically pool your freight to find a route and carrier that creates the full truckload shipment. And what happens when your freight moves via TL? It skips the most energy-costly aspect of LTL shipping: the hub-and-spoke terminal system.
By entirely bypassing the terminals that LTL freight typically passes through, FlockDirect instead sends your shipment directly to its central or regional hubs, then straight on to its final delivery address—cutting out a huge part of the industry that consumes the greatest amount of energy. All of the factors listed above (like climate control, forklift usage, and electricity needs).
But outside of the energy costs coming from the freight terminals themselves, let’s take a look at the emissions generated from traveling through the terminals on the way to the hub. Pickup and delivery routes to and from an LTL terminal account for 59% of fuel used by an LTL carrier—that’s over half of a truck’s fuel. When you ship FlockDirect, you completely eliminate that mileage.
Now, sometimes even pooled routes go out of route for one reason or another (bad weather, a road obstruction, an unforeseen emergency, etc.). On average, around 20% of pooled shipments find themselves carried out of route. But even factoring this percentage back in, a pooled shipment still results in 40% less fuel than standard LTL service.
And lastly—because we ship your items directly via TL service, the risk of damage drops to below 1%. This leads to fewer remanufacturing costs—both to your bottom line, and to the natural resources needed to remake your goods.