How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint With Green Trucking

Published on
Apr 15, 2023
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Alongside the European Union (EU) and China, America is one of the largest carbon (CO2) emitters in the world. Transportation is the number one culprit, with approximately 25% of the U.S.’s total greenhouse gas emissions coming from commercial trucking.¹COVID-19’s near halt of freight in the early months of 2020 created an unprecedented opportunity to analyze real-life data around the industry’s environmental impact – with the International Energy Agency (IEA) finding that global CO2 emissions fell an estimated 5.8%.² As the largest percentage decline since World War II, that near 6% drop is equivalent to removing all of the EU’s emissions from the global total.²Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. As the pandemic continued on and business began to resume, global energy-related CO2 emissions grew higher than pre-pandemic levels, from approximately 33 billion tons in 2019 to 36.8 billion tons in 2022.³Every push of the gas pedal releases more harmful emissions into the atmosphere – and inefficiencies in the freight industry only exacerbate the issue.It’s time to embrace green trucking.

What is green trucking?

Green trucking is the commercial motor freight industry’s adoption of environmentally-friendly technology, strategies, and policies in order to reduce waste and greenhouse emissions.While introducing more sustainable equipment, such as lighter-weight, more aerodynamic electric or biofuel-run vehicles, would make a big impact, the change doesn’t need to be that daunting, and costly, to be impactful.It can start smaller – and start now – with simple logistics changes that optimize the equipment already in use.

How supply chain inefficiencies impact climate.

Abruptly following 2021’s disruptive surge in consumer demand, a rising inflation rate and subsequent slowing of global trade caused consumer buying habits to plummet again in 2022.Despite this dramatic difference in market conditions, our most recent study with Drive Research revealed that the same inefficiencies persisted year over year.No matter what’s happening with the market, shippers and carriers face the same challenges that unnecessarily harm both profit and the planet.

Wasted trailer capacity.

Despite 2022’s favorable market for shippers, offering more flexibility and options, 45% of shippers moved partially empty truckloads (TL) last year – averaging 25 linear feet of unused space, or what’s roughly half of a typical trailer.That’s nearly 3x more shippers unnecessarily booking TLs than the year prior, despite 2021 being a far more challenging market for shippers. So why is this underutilization of truck space happening? Tightening delivery expectations, smaller linear foot caps, and poor planning are to blame.The ‘Amazon Effect’.Customer expectations have shifted thanks to Amazon’s extraordinarily fast deliveries – with most consumers now expecting purchases to arrive as quickly as the next day or even on the same day. This growing pressure to deliver goods fast is causing shippers to splurge on trailers they can’t fill in order to keep customers happy with shorter and shorter delivery expectations.Shrinking linear foot caps.Adding to the problem, in 2021, nearly 36% of shippers reported experiencing shrinking linear foot cutoffs, meaning that carriers are accepting smaller and smaller shipments. The average shipment size carriers accepted in 2021 hovered at a mere 9 ft, 8 pallets, or 4,263 pounds.Shippers with loads whose linear feet are smaller than a full truck but larger than what a carrier will accept have no other option but to pay for a TL they can only partially fill – causing them to pay to ship air.Deadhead backhauls.The Drive Research study also found that, in 2022, one in five TL shipments moved completely empty – due in large part to inefficiently planned routes. When carriers aren’t able to secure freight for return trips after delivering a shipment, drivers haul empty trailers back to their starting location.

Inefficient routes.

While shipping less-than-truckload (LTL) instead of a truckload that’s not full solves the problem of wasted trailer space, LTL comes with its own problems – such as trucks moving on indirect routes through damage-prone terminals.Out-of-route mileage.With no regard for CO2e – meaning, carbon and equivalent – emissions, the hub-and-spoke system passes shipments from truck to truck, zigzagging freight through multiple terminals before arriving at respective drop-off locations. These inefficient deviations from the most direct route, referred to as out-of-route mileage, not only unnecessarily waste time but increase fuel consumption and add harmful wear and tear on vehicles. Plus, trucks idling at terminals while waiting to be loaded and unloaded only adds to the fuel waste.Damage-prone terminals.More than wasting fuel, hubs also exacerbate another costly inefficiency: damage.Each transfer of a shipment onto a new truck at each terminal it moves through increases the chance of damage – which increases emissions because the shipper will need to trash the damaged goods, manufacture more, and then reship them. And it’s a common occurrence. In 2022, 86% of LTL shippers filed damage claims, and 26% in 2021 reported replacing and reshipping goods “often”.

Why pooling freight is the green alternative.

With TL’s wasted capacity and LTL’s inefficient routes, shippers historically haven’t had many good options.“Today’s $7 trillion supply-chain industry works backwards,” said Flock Freight’s CEO, Oren Zaslansky. “Limited choices among outdated shipping modes forces customers to pay for inefficient options that no longer work.”Which is exactly why we created a better alternative: our one-of-a-kind shared truckload (STL) mode. Using a sophisticated algorithm, STL smartly pools freight from multiple shippers to send fuller trucks on more efficient routes. By maximizing trailer capacity while eliminating LTL’s inefficient routes and damage-prone terminals, STL drastically minimizes fuel and product waste – emitting 15-40% less CO2e compared to traditional modes.In 2022 alone, STL saved over 34,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions, which is the equivalent to taking more than 7,000 gasoline-powered vehicles off the road. “If America’s truckload industry committed to sustainable freight shipping by using STL, market valuations show that carbon emissions would fall by over 10.5 million metric tons a year,” said Oren.So how does STL minimize fuel and product waste? Maximizes trailer utilization.Combining freight from multiple shippers so that trucks carry all of the inventory they are designed to hold minimizes the amount of trucks on the road unnecessarily burning CO2e hauling completely or partially empty trailers.Additionally, STL’s sophisticated algorithm makes it easier for carriers to find reloads, preventing those wasteful deadhead backhauls.Enhances route efficiency.Sending trucks on optimal, direct routes minimizes out-of-route mileage and, thus, total miles driven, greatly reducing the amount of fuel consumed.Minimizes idling.Skipping terminals prevents the release of greenhouse gasses emissions by removing the need for trucks to wastefully idle at terminals waiting for goods to be transferred to or from their trailer.Reduces product waste.By avoiding terminals, STL drastically reduces the number of goods that end up discarded, remade, and/or reshipped after incurring transloading-related damage.

Why pooling freight is good for business.

STL disproves the misbelief that lowering carbon emissions requires economic sacrifice.By pooling freight, shippers only pay for the space they use and carriers earn more from every linear foot of trailer capacity – transforming sustainability from an added expense to a key ingredient for growth for both parties.“The most important takeaway about pooling freight is that it’s a financial win-win for both shippers and carriers,” said Oren. “We know that STL is inherently better for the environment, but it works because it offers immediate incentives for everyone involved.”

Impact on shippers:

STL offers shippers truckload-quality speed and service — without all the hidden inefficiencies and related fees that riddle traditional LTL. With STL, shippers:

  • deliver on time 30% more often than traditional LTL with efficient, hubless routes
  • cut costs up to 20% compared to TL by sharing truck space and only paying for the space they use
  • ship 99.8% damage-free due to goods staying on one truck all the way to the destination
  • see no linear foot caps, sending bulky, mid-size 10-44 linear feet freight with ease

Impact on carriers:

Carriers win too when they pool freight, earning more while lowering costs and getting more time back. With STL, carriers:

  • earn up to 20% more per haul without added effort by moving freight from multiple shippers at the same time
  • lower fuel consumption and costs by reducing out-of-route mileage, idling at terminals, and deadhead backhauls
  • minimize equipment wear and tear by lowering overall mileage with direct routes
  • secure more loads with optimized routes that speed up deliveries to give drivers and carriers more time back

Ship carbon neutral with Flock.

Don’t stop at reducing your carbon emissions. Erase them by joining Flock’s frequent flocker program, which neutralizes your greenhouse gas emissions by supporting carbon offset projects.