5 Ways the Freight Industry is Moving Toward Greener Shipping Solutions

Posted by Jason O'Leary on May 27, 2021 2:15:00 PM

Choptank Transport has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to corporate responsibility for more than twenty years, and it is excited to announce its plan to provide a customer-facing environmental initiative as well. 

We all want future generations to enjoy the world we currently live in, and many are willing to take measures to curb carbon emissions and stop excessive pollution to ensure that future. Choptank is one of those companies. 

According to a 2004 EPA study, 23% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from transportation come from heavy- and medium-duty trucks. At Choptank, our hope is to reduce that number or even someday, help eliminate it. Stay tuned, as we will be providing more information on our new green initiative in the coming weeks and months.

To hear what the industry is doing now to address the issue, read our guest blog post from Jason O'Leary, Managing Partner, Surety Bonds Direct, detailing five advancements already in play toward a greener supply chain.

Green grass truck

The world of logistics has historically been relatively slow to adjust to the need for greener business practices. 

Freight shipping consumes huge amounts of fuel every year and, until relatively recently, few concrete efforts were in play to reduce those numbers. The logistics industry is an indispensable part of the global supply chain, but it’s also become increasingly apparent that the continued health of the world's economy depends on efforts to mitigate climate change.

Fortunately, change is finally on the horizon for freight shipping. Increasingly, shipping businesses are coming to see green logistics as a must-have that is just as important as a DOT license or a freight broker bond. Many major players in the freight industry now have taken a spot in the vanguard of green logistics, and even small businesses are trying to do their part.

These are five big moves toward a greener future that the freight industry is in the process of making. From more fuel-efficient vehicles to optimization algorithms, the logistics industry is beginning to create world-changing investments in green technology.


1. Fuel-Efficient Fleets

Making logistics vehicles more fuel-efficient is among the most impactful strategies in the green logistics toolbox. Perhaps even more importantly, this set of strategies can be employed even by businesses that don’t have the resources to make big investments in advanced green technology or switch their entire fleets over.

Some of the common best practices of logistics fuel efficiency include:

  • Reducing vehicle speeds and discouraging operators from driving aggressively.
  • Making sure vehicle tires are properly inflated and maintained.
  • Adding IoT sensors to vehicles that collect advanced data on driver behavior and vehicle efficiency.
  • Performing regular preventive maintenance on fleet vehicles to keep them in top shape.

Businesses that can make bigger investments can see bigger results. Some companies are building their trucks to be more aerodynamic, while others are investing in electric, natural gas, and other alternative fuel vehicles. The key is for each business to make whatever improvements it can and to design them in the way that will be most impactful.


2. Cleaner Fuels

Slowly but surely, cleaner fuels are making their way to the logistics industry. From natural gas to biodiesel to hydrogen to electricity, there are many new and exciting fuel options now on the market that can get goods to their destination while reducing carbon emissions.

Freight giant UPS is quickly becoming a leader in green logistics through its investments in fleets that use advanced green technology. UPS invested over $1 billion in advanced technology and alternative fuel vehicles between 2008 and 2018, resulting in a 90 percent emissions reduction when compared with the replaced vehicles. The company has set an ambitious goal of powering 40 percent of its ground vehicles with alternative or renewable energy by 2025.

This is also a particularly important issue in marine logistics, where cargo ships have long been powered by heavy fuel oil—a tar-like slurry that is one of the Earth’s dirtiest-burning fuels. In 2020, the International Maritime Organization introduced a ban on high-sulfur bunker fuel and required all ships to transition to a low-sulfur version. The transition has not always been painless, but it’s a necessary step toward eco-friendlier marine shipping.

 3. More Efficient Packaging

Packaging has long been one of the most significant sources of pollution in the supply chain. Much of the plastic used to wrap and protect goods for transport ends up in landfills or oceans, where it will remain for centuries or longer.

Increasingly, the logistics industry is investing in packaging methods that are more environmentally friendly without compromising protection. There are many different eco-friendly packaging styles available, from simple recyclable plastic to materials made from compressed mushroom fibers. Each can be a great option for different types of goods and different business models.

Even steps as seemingly simple as reducing the weight of packaging can be effective. Lighter packaging weighs less and, when packaging is downsized, the gains at scale can add up to a significant reduction in fuel usage.

4. LTL Shipping

LTL, or less-than-truckload, takes cargo from multiple shippers and loads it onto the same truck. The popularity of LTL has steadily increased in recent years, with many shippers utilizing it for its cost-effective nature and efficiency for small and medium businesses.

However, LTL isn’t just cost-effective—it’s also a greener way to ship. By consolidating multiple shipments into one, LTL shipping reduces the number of trucks on the road and, in turn, the amount of fuel consumed.

Working with an LTL shipper does mean that your cargo will probably experience more touchpoints as it is loaded, unloaded, and transferred through distribution centers throughout its journey. Thus, it is imperative both to package your cargo appropriately and to ensure that the LTL carrier you work with has all of the proper credentials such as their FMCSA license and freight broker surety bond. 

5. Smart Logistics

Smart logistics is among the most powerful 21st-century tools for reducing the environmental impact of logistics. By leveraging the innovations of big data, smart routing, and predictive analytics, logistics providers can make their operations significantly more efficient (and thus more eco-friendly).

Supply chains can conserve a surprising amount of fuel simply by employing smarter routing practices. By finding ways around traffic jams and navigating the complex web of choices in U.S. highway systems, smart routing algorithms reduce fuel consumption while getting shipments to their destination more quickly.

Predictive analytics also are key for pushing green logistics forward. Sophisticated predictive algorithms help forecast demand more accurately and reduce unnecessary cargo shipments. Similarly, large-scale supply chain optimization algorithms, when deployed correctly and fed the right data, can create energy and fuel savings through tweaks and efficiencies all the way up and down the supply chain.

Businesses in all sectors have an obligation to work together to ensure that the world remains a vibrant and livable environment for humanity. The freight shipping industry is finally taking a place of pride in the movement toward a greener economy, and the developments are coming just in time as the urgency of fighting climate change continues to challenge the global economy.

Guest Blog Post by: Jason O'Leary, Managing Partner, Surety Bonds Direct