It’s time for local freight to reduce its carbon footprint

Jul 1, 2020 · 4 min read

Delivery fleets that move freight for small businesses produce more emissions than other vehicles on the road and may account for up to 25% of carbon dioxide produced in the U.S. every year. That’s a significant amount of pollution that contributes to global warming, endangering our health and hurting future generations. So what can we do?

A quick carbon footprint recap

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with all business activities. It covers both direct action like emissions used in manufacturing products or powering vehicles and indirect ones, such as the emissions associated with creating electricity to power the services you use. Tracking CO2 is important because it is the most common greenhouse gas, trapping heat in our atmosphere and contributing to global warming. At current levels, it also negatively impacts human health.

For the freight and trucking industry, carbon footprint is a significant concern. The entire transportation sector accounts for roughly 25% of annual CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels globally, and about 14% of total emission each year — this includes non-CO2 emissions. Road vehicles make up nearly three-quarters of these totals.

Unfortunately, if things stay the same we could see the growth in last-mile delivery create a 30% increase in emissions. That is unless we make efforts to change things.

Two logistics carbon contributions you can tackle

There’s no quick fix for environmental concerns, and states like California are focusing on improvements in the logistics sector. There are also steps businesses and transportation providers can take to curb emissions. We’re going to look at two of the most significant contributors: wasted miles and wasted space.

  1. Wasted miles are those that trucks drive empty. These deadhead miles aren’t moving freight, but they are polluting the environment and costing truck owners money. If you own your own fleet, the wear-and-tear on vehicles not associated with revenue compounds. If you pay someone else to move your freight, you could face higher costs if providers don’t have a large enough network to secure additional moves and are forced to drive empty after dropping off your freight.
  2. Wasted space operates in much the same way. Trucks generate higher carbon emissions per order when they have fewer items. By using less-than-truckload (LTL) moves instead of full truckload (FTL), you’re generating more significant emissions and have a higher carbon footprint. Consolidating loads, or freight pooling, can reduce your individual carbon footprint by spreading the emissions across multiple companies.

When it comes to optimizing loads, you’re protecting the environment and your bottom line.

A review of carbon and freight pooling

A 2014 comprehensive study on LTL and FTL shipments, comparing multiple ways to measure and compare carbon emissions found two essential elements:

  1. Pickup and delivery (P&D) was one of the most significant factors in total emissions per shipment.
  2. P&D plays a more substantial role in emissions for smaller loads (LTL) and moves that are shorter.

Optimizing routes and reducing the number of vehicles required for LTL moves — either by shipping less frequently or by pooling freight — can substantially reduce the emissions per freight. For your company, that means freight pooling and relying on platforms that automate route planning can reduce your carbon footprint when it comes to getting products and freight to distributors or customers.

An easy way to reduce the environmental impact of your business (and save money while you’re at it) is to join Mothership. Our smart freight dispatch tools help match trucks as they move between destinations and home locations, significantly reducing deadhead miles. It does this in two ways:

  1. Trucks waste less gas by making fewer empty trips back to home locations.
  2. Reducing the number of trucks needed for moves. One truck can move freight from A to B and then drop your freight off as it returns home to A, instead of needing two trucks (which would both then drive empty miles at the end of the day).

Since we dispatch freight to only the nearest drivers, they drive fewer miles to each pickup, resulting in fewer emissions. This also reduces wear and tear on trucks, keeping their engines in better shape, and curbs emissions even more. Freight pooling also reduces the likelihood of frequent loading and off-loading, again cutting emissions by reducing idle time.

Come be part of the solution

If by joining Mothership, you’re able to reduce LTL loads and eliminate deadhead miles for just a single diesel truck this year, you’re eliminating 26.4 tons of emissions. It’s a minor change in your shipments and one that could also save you money thanks to flat rates and dynamic dispatch.

The shipping and trucking industries are leading contributors to CO2 emissions. By acting separately, companies risk increasing emissions and harming the planet, increasing emissions by an additional 30% by 2030.

Or, we can start getting serious about pooling freight and optimizing routes, reducing individual company footprints, and eliminating dead miles. It’s a simple act that helps your business right now and protects the planet long-term. We owe it to everyone to make these changes, which is why Mothership is here to help.

Official Mothership Blog

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