September 2009 | Commentary | Green Landscape

Ensuring Your Carrier Promotes Supply Chain Value Through Sustainability

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Consumers used to appreciate an environmental consciousness in the businesses they patronized. Now they expect it. Improved sustainability has become the right choice for corporations—economically, environmentally, and legally.

Corporate sustainability programs should provide guidelines and measures for strategies such as reducing fuel consumption, reducing or eliminating materials for disposal, and preventing pollution.

Shippers formalizing and strengthening their programs need to recognize the benefits of choosing carriers with the same commitment. Some shippers now require carriers to provide sustainability positioning statements and participate in government sustainability programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) SmartWay Transport Partnership.

As a result, carriers are increasingly examining their processes and implementing innovative solutions to minimize impact on the environment while achieving efficiency, responsiveness, and cost savings for shippers.

Emphasizing sustainability promotes value along every channel of the supply chain. Hire carriers that demonstrate their sustainability strengths with proactive, purposeful endeavors, such as:

  • Participation in government sustainability programs such as SmartWay. SmartWay is a voluntary collaboration between the EPA and the freight industry designed to increase energy efficiency while significantly reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution. SmartWay designation means participating carriers work to improve aerodynamics, freight logistics, engine idling, and driver training regarding fuel economy, and employ automatic tire inflation systems, among other vital initiatives.
  • Formal driver training programs. Proper training shapes drivers' influence on vehicle maintenance and fuel consumption. Carriers should also implement speed reduction policies, such as 65 mph limits, as roughly 60 percent of consumed fuel is used to overcome air resistance on the vehicle with increased highway speeds.
  • Eco-friendly facilities. New and renovated terminals, maintenance facilities, and offices may be LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognizes green design standards and construction practices that increase efficiency and profitability.
  • Investment in technology and equipment. Expect carriers to use clean equipment—both in appearance and emissions controls—with the least possible environmental impact. Trucks should use low viscosity, synthetic lubricants. Installing Auxiliary Power Units in sleeper cabs reduces emissions from idling engines. Also, attention to aerodynamics is a must, with upgraded tractor designs consuming less fuel.
  • Compliance with government regulations. In 2006, Congress passed the EPA's 2007/2010 Diesel Engine Emissions Rule requiring oil refineries to manufacture and sell ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel that reduces nitrogen oxide and other particulate matter emissions. As a result, new engine technologies are available to comply with the ruling, which becomes effective January 2010.

Finally, ask your carriers to propose creative, value-added green objectives that your employees can implement in their work and personal lives. By working toward a common goal, shippers and carriers can improve supply chain value through persistent sustainability endeavors. Sustainability is no longer a choice, but an imperative.

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