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Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Green Trucking

05.14.2020 | By Katherine Stolin | 4 min. read

Crisis data proves that shippers and carriers alike can meet business objectives and slash carbon emissions with environmentally friendly shipping.

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 shipping method 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 with FlockDirect®.

Before we dive into how FlockDirect® reduces greenhouse emissions, let’s examine the data around carbon emissions during the crisis and explain why driving partially full trucks is wasteful.

The climate impact of parked trucks

Fossil fuel emissions heavily contribute to global warming. With every push of the gas pedal, trucking fleets release 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 a significant amount of carbon emissions. It’s notable that the EU’s daily carbon emissions are down by 58% since the start of coronavirus.
  • China: China emits the most carbon globally. China saw a 25% emissions reduction between February 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. The end result? Unnecessarily large carbon footprints for shippers that choose this shipping mode.

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, mid-size, or clunky 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®.

Why pooled freight is greener freight

optimized routes diagram

Flock Freight is the only logistics provider that guarantees terminal-free shared truckload service with FlockDirect®. When shippers book FlockDirect® at the point of sale, 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. Shipments then travel on one truck directly to their respective destinations — with no handling in between. As a result of this method, freight skips energy-intensive LTL facilities and arrives intact and on time. On top of that, shippers pay only for the truck space they need. With FlockDirect, shippers hit the trifecta: Environmentally responsible TL service at a better rate.

Shippers on the path to Net Zero shouldn’t let the pandemic throw them off-course—FlockDirect® is the answer slashing carbon emissions.

All FlockDirect® shipments move in a shared truckload, which reduces carbon emissions by up to 40% (compared to LTL shipping) by conserving fuel, removing the environmental risks of remaking (then reshipping) damaged goods, and skipping resource-intensive LTL facilities.

The shared truckload approach helps motor carriers, too. To reduce the freight industry’s overall fuel consumption (without investing in electric vehicles), carriers need only run FlockDirect® shipments. Carriers can simultaneously contribute industry sustainability while increasing revenue — pooling tops off trailers and giving carriers a way to maximize their earning 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, and tackle climate change at the same time?

Plus, Flock Freight gives its carrier partners flexible routes and catered loads to bid on every day — loads that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. To ensure the entire experience goes smoothly, we provide dedicated carrier 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.

Connect with us to learn more about your options for smarter, greener shipping.