Sustainability is top of mind for companies across the logistics industry. Carriers, specifically, are facing a combination of corporate responsibility, government regulations and growing expectations from industry partners. They are taking a wide variety of approaches — from embracing electric vehicles to eliminating wasted miles — to cleaning up their supply chains.
While various new state-level government policies around the type of trucks carriers can run are the biggest motivating factor for some companies, others are feeling the pressure from their shipper and 3PL partners to cut down on emissions as end consumers become more aware of climate issues.
“In my opinion, it’s not one specific requirement that is impacting the carriers the most. It’s the cumulative effect of multiple rules, some of which vary by state of operation,” according to Jason Hawkins, senior director of carrier sales at Emerge.
Embracing alternative fuel vehicles is the most significant way many carriers are addressing their carbon footprints. Interest in electric vehicles, for example, is stronger than ever before. The most cutting-edge companies are already finding ways to utilize these vehicles in their day-to-day operations.
Electric vehicles offer a promising path away from diesel, but the majority of small to midsize carriers cannot afford to invest in those technologies just yet. While these companies wait for alternative fuel vehicles to become more accessible via price drops, government incentives or other funding options, they will continue to purchase diesel trucks. For them, valuing sustainability means paying close attention to fuel economy, a factor that is becoming more and more important when purchasing trucks.
Changing up equipment, however, is not the only way carriers can help create greener supply chains. Focusing on their own efficiency can go a long way in reducing waste throughout a carrier’s operations.
“Another major focus for carriers is reducing empty or wasted miles. They are looking for ways to shorten or eliminate the empty miles from shipment to shipment,” Hawkins said. “They are also taking a close look at RFP opportunities to determine if there are certain lanes that fit their networks and help reduce empty miles — being strategic, rather than bidding on every lane.”
In terms of strategy, some carriers are also embracing technology to make their drivers more efficient on the road. It is not uncommon for carriers to adopt applications that help drivers find closer truck stops for their breaks and nearby repair shops to address equipment issues, preventing wasted time and miles.
When working to increase efficiency and decrease waste, it is important for carriers to prioritize employee education. This includes both reworking new hire training guidelines and providing ongoing learning opportunities for existing employees.
“It’s important to educate new hires on day one about the importance of sustainability,” Hawkins said. “They need to approach their jobs with an attitude of, ‘What can I do today to make changes for tomorrow and improve sustainability?’”
Carriers that funnel their time and energy into becoming more sustainable will likely see gains across the board, from improved partnerships to growing profits.
“It is common for shippers to ask what practices a carrier is taking to improve their sustainability efforts. It has proven to be important in a shipper’s decision-making when evaluating new carriers gaining access to their bids,” Hawkins said. “Carriers with sustainable practices have a competitive advantage over the ones that don’t.”
Additionally, employees at all levels tend to feel better about working for companies that share their values. As climate change becomes an increasingly important issue to everyday citizens, it will also become more important to each company’s employees. Making strides now will help set carriers up for success in the future.