Crisis data proves that shippers and trucking companies alike can meet business objectives and help the planet with environmentally friendly shipping practices.
Just a few short months ago, American highways were lined with carrier fleets as semi-trucks transported freight all over the country. Today, with shelter-in-place orders extended and shipment volumes lower than normal, freeways in the United States are emptier than any other time in recent memory.
Decreased economic activity has translated to fewer motor carriers on the road and had an overall positive impact on the environment. Stopping big rigs in their tracks, coronavirus has unexpectedly (albeit temporarily) improved the situation for Mother Earth.
The pandemic has caused a myriad of problems though. In addition to creating major public health dilemmas and economic hardships, coronavirus has forced the trucking industry to contend with the waste and inefficiency of moving relatively small freight volumes.
Luckily, there’s a solution that optimizes truck space, minimizes costs for shippers, and maximizes revenues for carriers. Plus, it doesn’t use the damage- and delay-prone hub-and-spoke system. No, it’s not truckload (TL) service (it’s more affordable than that!); it’s shared truckload (STL) shipping.
Before we dive into the shared truckload approach, let’s examine the data around carbon emissions during the crisis and explain why driving partially full trucks is wasteful.
The environmental impact of parked trucks
Truck fleet emissions heavily contribute to global warming, with every push of the gas pedal releasing harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s by chance that coronavirus reduced the number of trucks in operation and presented scientists with such a rare opportunity to measure worldwide emissions levels.
Let’s consider carbon emissions data on the U.S., the European Union, and China:
- America: The U.S. is one of the largest carbon emitters in the world, with transportation (the movement of vehicles) being the number one source of emissions. Freight trucks account for 23% of transportation in America.
- The EU: Taken together, the 27 nations in the EU emit the second largest amount of carbon emissions in the world. It’s notable that the EU’s daily carbon emissions are down by 58% since the start of coronavirus.
- China: China takes the bronze for overall carbon emissions when compared to the other two regions in this list. Chinese emissions fell by 25% between Feb. and March due to the pandemic.
According to a Scientific American article, the crisis has also affected emissions on an international scale, causing “a dip in global greenhouse gas emissions.” In fact, the International Energy Agency anticipates worldwide carbon emissions to shrink by a staggering 8% this year as a result of coronavirus.
Clearly, shipping freight comes at a cost to the planet. We can infer from scientific findings that — from an environmental perspective — it’s never been more important for the trucking industry to make the most of deck space and miles traveled.
Smaller loads = bigger headaches
“There’s just less freight, with [millions of] people out of work, and so many factories mothballed.”
That quote is straight from Jeffrey Tucker, CEO of Tucker Company Worldwide, Inc., and speaks to the massive drop in freight volumes that the trucking industry has been experiencing. Freight’s “[fallen] off a cliff”, confirms Todd Spencer, President of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Business closures and financial difficulties are at the root of the problem.
American shipping volumes are 7% lower than they were this time last year, and experts don’t expect permanent increases anytime soon. The steepest decline measured 10% on April 6. Volumes should pick up temporarily in the next couple of weeks due to produce seasonality, but will most likely re-flatten at the end of the produce boom.
Compounding this predicament is the fact that existing loads are smaller than usual. (Lately, shippers have had to deliver freight just as fast or faster than they did pre-pandemic and have been opting to send partially full loads when they might typically wait to fill a whole truck.)
Shippers are looking for the best way to ship these smaller loads. TL and less-than truckload (LTL) shipping are two options, but neither is ideal for reducing emissions or moving partial loads in the coronavirus landscape.
LTL service zigzags shipments through the outdated hub-and-spoke system, moving them inefficiently through multiple hubs before delivering them to their respective drop-off locations. Without a care for carbon emissions, the hub-and-spoke system passes shipments from truck driver to truck driver, emitting more pollutants than necessary.
TL service creates waste, too. Filling trucks all the way isn’t a priority with TL; trucks move regardless of load size, oftentimes leading to unused truck space. TL also wastes trips when shippers don’t plan backhauls in advance; without a new load to refill the truck, TL releases toxins on the drive back for nothing.
Without a doubt, tacking on miles is a quick way to make supply chains less green. Environmental strikes against LTL and TL aside, neither shipping service is the best way to transport small loads. Moving freight TL traps shippers into paying for more space than they need, while moving LTL takes longer and damages freight (two issues that shippers can’t afford right now). Add in the facts that the TL sector has been on the decline for months now and the LTL sector has been hit by COVID-19 spread, and neither one sounds appealing. Luckily, there’s a better solution: FlockDirect.
In conclusion, explore pooling
Flock Freight is the only logistics provider that guarantees shared truckload service. When shippers select FlockDirect for STL shipping, our proprietary algorithms pool their shipments with others that are moving in the same direction and tap into the TL network to find a carrier that can haul them together. Then, they travel on one truck directly to their respective destinations — with no handling in between. As a result of this method, freight arrives intact and on time. By keeping trucks filled with freight from multiple shippers, shared truckload service eliminates wasted time, wasted fuel, wasted space, and wasted trips. Best of all, shippers pay only for the truck space they need. With FlockDirect, shippers hit the trifecta: Environmentally responsible TL service at a better rate.
FlockDirect’s shared truckload approach helps motor carriers, too. Pooling tops off trailers and gives carriers a way to maximize their revenue potential. (Servicing shared truckloads pays more than standard one-pick, one-drop truckload freight.) Who wouldn’t want to boost profits when rates are at rock bottom? Additionally, Flock Freight gives its carrier partners flexible routes and thousands of loads to choose from every day — loads that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. To ensure the entire experience goes smoothly, we provide dedicated support from pickup through delivery.
In conclusion, shipping or partnering with a freight provider that offers shared truckload service lowers your environmental impact and makes the most of delivering partials. Get in touch with our team to experience these benefits for yourself.
Flock Freight is pooling essentials like food, medical supplies, and household goods at this time to expedite delivery across America.