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Trucking tips for supply chain sustainability

02.11.2019 | By Min Kim | 3 min. read

Sustainable practices that emit fewer greenhouse gases

More and more American companies are adopting an eco-friendly mindset and sustainability programs as pressure mounts for the private sector to embrace corporate social responsibility. The United States freight industry has the power to affect the entire supply chain. Meeting sustainability goals starts with truck drivers, who have a unique opportunity to help the environment and create positive change through their behavior. Given the trucking industry’s immensely un-green impact on the planet, it’s high time for logistics workers to engage in sustainability practices.

In this article, we’ll break down some ways that the trucking industry can reduce its environmental footprint. Currently, freight transportation — including water, air, and trucking — accounts for roughly 16% of all corporate environmental emissions. Trucking makes up a significant portion of this figure. While truck manufacturers and designers have been able to make vehicles more fuel-efficient in recent years, there are still steps that the freight industry can take to reduce its carbon footprint and build sustainable supply chains.

Leverage route-planning technology

One of the core things that the trucking industry as a whole will be looking to do in coming years to improve its environmental impact is find ways to drive with increased efficiency. How can the industry do more with less? For starters, truckers can improve their efficiency with better route planning. Trucking companies are making serious headway in this regard. With better road-mapping and route-planning software, truckers are more equipped than ever to choose routes that improve their efficiency. Organizations can use present-day management systems for sustainable supply chain management. Better route planning is essential for reducing fuel costs (and, by association, greenhouse gas emissions). It’s also important for accurate delivery timetables, which grow increasingly critical as demand for transportation services soars amid ever-tightening delivery windows. On top of this, efficient trips reduce time on the road, resulting in less vehicle wear and tear and fewer long-term maintenance costs.

Prioritize fuel efficiency

The largest source of pollution from the transportation industry comes from burning fossil fuels; trucks running on diesel are no exception. Improving fuel efficiency is a cornerstone of environmentally friendly trucking. It also makes economic sense, considering rising fuel costs and the thin profit margins that most carriers operate on. There are many ways that truck drivers and truck designers work to improve fuel efficiency, such as designing more efficient engines.

Over the past two decades, engine fuel efficiency has improved exponentially, but there is still room for growth. As long as diesel remains the predominant fuel of the trucking industry, the use of natural gas will keep rising. Natural gas is highly efficient, but has some drawbacks. While natural gas is cheaper than diesel fuel (and yields long-term cost savings), trucks that run on natural gas cost quite a bit more at the outset. Industry experts believe the introduction of electric trucks will revolutionize the industry. While electric truck designers are unveiling new models every year, it will take time for their popularity to eclipse that of natural gas (let alone diesel) trucks.

One way that almost all trucks today are more efficient than trucks of the past is aerodynamic design. Modern trucks are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible. Drivers in the industry may want to consider retrofitting trucks of older designs to incorporate new aerodynamic panels that improve fuel efficiency. Aerodynamic panels can pay for themselves in short order, while reducing the environmental impact of aging trucks that aren’t as efficient as newer models.

A key factor affecting fuel efficiency is regular maintenance. To operate at peak efficiency, truck drivers should ensure they change their oil with the correct oil grade. They should also regularly change their oil and air filters, in addition to using low viscosity lubricants. Not only do these small changes extend the life of a truck, they also make a big difference in overall fuel efficiency.

Drive slow and steady

Another way that truck drivers can drastically improve the efficiency of their vehicles is by driving slow and steady. Rapid starts and stops use fuel at an alarming pace. Speed also has an enormous impact on fuel consumption. Consider driving at 65 miles per hour (MPH) for the entirety of a trip rather than 75 MPH. Lastly, be sure to accelerate and decelerate smoothly to maximize fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Avoid idling

Environmentally conscious truck drivers never like to see another truck idling all night at a truck stop. Some drivers are simply unaware of idling’s impact on emission levels. While leaving a truck idling is bad for the environment, with the current price of diesel fuel, it’s also bad for the bottom line. When stopping overnight, drivers should use an auxiliary unit or a truck stop’s electrical system to power their cabs. It can be entirely necessary to keep the heat on all night, particularly in inclement weather or cold climates. However, understanding that there are more efficient ways to power systems overnight is a big step toward improving efficiency and reducing operating costs at the same time.

Implementing business practices that boost sustainability efforts will help the freight industry — and ultimately, the world. It will mitigate supply chain issues and position companies to meet sustainability goals. By paying attention to routes, fuel efficiency, and driving habits, trucking companies will conserve natural resources and solve sustainability issues. These tips offer a starting point. Businesses can do more by incorporating sustainability initiatives into their supply chain management plans, identifying performance indicators, measuring environmental performance, and committing here and now to continuous improvement. Every link in the value chain needs to engage at this level to develop sustainable supply chains.

Flock Freight helps you find efficient routes to keep your truck full and your company sustainable.