November 2013 | Commentary | Green Landscape

Using SmartWay Data to Inform Transportation Purchasing Decisions

Tags: 3PL, Green Logistics, Transportation

Ashton Shaw is Senior Lean Coordinator, Menlo Worldwide Logistics, 630-870-3541

In 2014, SmartWay will celebrate 10 years of providing the transportation industry with tools to measure, benchmark, and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel efficiency. Partnering with groups such as SmartWay allows shippers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers to equip themselves with actionable data and, in turn, use that information to help further educate their customers' buying decisions and improve freight sustainability.

Initially, SmartWay focused on gathering data from shippers, carriers, and 3PLs on factors such as tractor age and emissions, miles per gallon, distance traveled, and trailerload weights. Specific, defined transportation emissions data, controls, and operational targets are necessary to drive emissions reporting and meet sustainability goals. Measurement is the first step toward applying the value of the derived data to reach identified targets.

The newest generation of SmartWay—unofficially known as SmartWay 2.0—allows shippers and 3PLs to evaluate and incorporate environmental data, and use it to make educated, meaningful, and valuable business decisions. Under SmartWay 2.0, information is compiled into a standardized, transparent format for reporting carbon footprint data. For the first time, carriers' emission profiles can be compared and used as a decision-making factor in procurement.

Increasingly, shippers and 3PLs are incorporating environmental performance data into purchasing decisions. For example, carriers in all transport modes now have specific CO2, NOX, and particulate matter emission factors for their operating fleets. These advancements in fleet-specific emission factors create new, measurable ways to incorporate environmental performance into the procurement process. Shippers and 3PLs that ignore such information limit their ability to compete in an evolving global marketplace that seeks to improve efficiency and freight sustainability.

When reducing environmental impact, shippers and 3PLs often look first at direct emissions, or those they can control. Over time, they can improve these impacts, and extend their focus to reducing the indirect emissions that result from global supply chain operations. SmartWay and other sustainability partners enable shippers and 3PLs to successfully quantify and benchmark indirect transportation emissions to make more balanced procurement decisions.

Because of this new and increased breadth of information, shippers, carriers, and 3PLs must be aware of how to leverage available freight sustainability programs in order to quantify global transportation emissions and give attention to operational controls, targets, and corporate sustainability initiatives.

Identifying and quantifying how business practices impact the environment has become an important indicator for policymakers and financial analysts. Inherent in increased reporting requirements is greater accountability. Putting SmartWay and similar program data to work to meet new reporting requirements will boost efficiency.

In the future, not only will shippers and 3PLs use SmartWay data as a decision point when purchasing services, but they will also come to expect its availability and disclosure. Actively participating in these programs brings value directly to shippers, carriers, and 3PLs by creating efficiency opportunities, new avenues to progress shipper sustainability initiatives—and, ultimately, new ways to improve global freight sustainability.