In transportation and logistics, the market is hot. Unfortunately, there is some reason to believe that so is the planet, and it is getting hotter. Environmentalists believe that transportation activities account for 17% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions causing global warming. As a result, companies are reexamining their supply chains as an area to fight climate change. Whether you believe these stats or not, we all have to increase our focus on sustainability.
A 2020 study revealed 81% of companies are more focused on sustainability today than three years ago. The pressure is on for transportation and logistics companies to do better. The push for “going green” is prompting a wave of innovation as the sector steps up to the call for action.
Fuel and Equipment
Compressed natural gas (CNG) made headlines for years as the industry’s next great alternative to diesel fuel. Many fleets retrofitted equipment, but lack of fueling infrastructure limited use to local or dedicated lanes and cities. The technology remains expensive today and rapid advancements of hydrogen and electric make CNG a less attractive fuel. However, the natural gas reforming process is creating opportunities for a much cleaner fuel option—hydrogen.
California, the nation’s most populated and truck-active state, put OEMs on notice requiring zero-emission trucks and vans by 2024. The push now has class 8 fuel cell trucks powered by hydrogen on roads. Hydrogen produces clean energy, is abundant, and easily produced. However, like CNG, hydrogen lacks a fueling infrastructure. As of late 2020, the U.S. only had 46 hydrogen fueling stations, with 43 located in California. However, producing hydrogen is getting easier with long-term potential to cost less than diesel. That incentive may promote more rapid adoption nationwide.
Fully electric vehicles now are hitting the market as well from OEMs like Cummins and Tesla. Charging times align with DOT-mandated breaks minimizing downtime. Currently the technology works best for light duty trucks, package delivery vehicles, and port drayage trucks. For OTR applications, charging stations will need to be widely available, which is addressed as part of the Biden Administration’s infrastructure proposal.
In the meantime, fleets are looking to IoTs for help. Telematics can monitor speeds, poor driving behavior, and tire pressure to help reduce fuel consumption and the number of tires disposed of every year.
One of the best ways to reduce emissions is by keeping transportation miles to a minimum. With the U.S. expected to require an additional one billion square feet of warehouse space by 2025, many of these locations will come in the form of a “pop-up.” The rapid growth of e-commerce has companies moving away from central distribution hubs to locations closest to the greatest volume of customers. Pop-up warehouses allow companies to get to customers quickly and reduce the overall mileage associated with transportation.
The locations of warehouses aren’t the only thing changing. Energy bills typically comprise 15% of a warehouse’s operating costs. Energy management systems working to autonomously reduce consumption of electricity, gas, heat, and water are becoming more commonplace. Plus, the flat roofs of most warehouses are ideal for solar panels allowing facilities to fulfill at least a portion of their own energy needs. The price of solar now is an affordable option even for homeowners making it a viable alternative energy source.
Dunnage and Packaging
Packaging and containers account for nearly 30% of municipal solid waste in the U.S., most of which is not recycled. Research shows 60% of e-commerce deliveries contain at least 25% bubble wrap, polystyrene beads, or air. The use of paper and card increased by 11% in three years also connected to the e-commerce boom.
Manufacturers are working to improve these numbers by reducing the amount of packaging used with products and introducing biodegradable options. Dunnage represents a significant challenge with much of it comprising wood and plastic. Companies are weighing the emissions footprint of returning dunnage to facilities for reuse versus the environmental impact of disposal after a single use. The simplest option has companies looking to their logistics partners to manage recycling programs that reduce packaging materials heading to landfills or incinerators.
Langham Logistics: Focusing on Today To Serve the Future
At Langham Logistics, we understand there is no “planet B.” We run our business using earth-conscious choices. From reducing our emissions footprint to limiting non-renewable packaging and implementing IT practices that promote sustainability, we embrace a pledge to protect the planet every day. Learn more about our sustainability initiatives and how we operate with a reduce, reuse, and recycle mindset. When it comes to our environment, Langham Logistics truly does more by using less.