There is nothing more sustainable than a solid relationship, or to use the more modern parlance, a solid partnership.
Recognizing the value of partnerships has led the US and Canadian governments to introduce programs (the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership, and Natural Resources Canada’s ecoENERGY for Fleets, respectively) that set emissions reduction goals for the transportation sector while offering some benefits in exchange.
A few years ago, it became obvious there was a clear opportunity for EPA and Natural Resources Canada to work toward the same goals in their energy efficiency programs, said Lynda Harvey, senior manager FleetSmart. The two countries signed an MOU in 2005 and Canada adopted the EPA’s standards for heavy-duty diesel engines and ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel.
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program rolled out in 2004. SmartWay Transport partners now number about 1,000 carriers, shippers, shipper-carriers, affiliates and logistics companies who commit to improving their environmental performance over a period of three years, while reporting their progress annually to EPA.
This progress is measured by SmartWay’s FLEET Performance Model, which calculates efficiencies and allows companies to choose among cost-effective strategies, with technical assistance available from EPA.
By the year 2012, the program aims to reduce some 33 to 66 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and up to 200,000 tonnes of NOx emissions, with a projected savings in fuel costs to transportation companies of at least $10 billion annually.
The EPA, for its part, offers incentives to facilitate access to innovative technology, and offers qualifying partners use of the SmartWay Transport Partnership logo.
The FleetSmart program offers free membership to fleets and practical advice on energy efficient practices that can reduce fuel consumption and emissions. A large part of the program’s focus is on the driver, whose knowledge can greatly affect a fleet’s fuel performance. FleetSmart offers the popular SmartDriver training modules in fuel efficient driving techniques, and has specially tailored programs for highway and city fleets, forestry trucks, motor coaches, transit and school buses.
Harvey said that as fuel prices rise, people are paying attention to programs like FleetSmart, which includes over 3,000 fleet participants, and there are plans to get a further series of workshops up and running.
“The EPA (was also) interested in FleetSmart’s Smart Driver for highway program for US drivers, (which would become available in Spanish) and one of our other tasks is to migrate the SmartWay FLEET model into Canada -converting matrices into metric and the French language,” she said.
The SmartWay FLEET Performance Model, (FLEET stands for Freight Logistics Environmental and Energy Tracking in this case) allows a company to quantify the environmental performance of its fleet operations. Users input the number of trucks in the fleet, gallons of fuel consumed, and mileage accumulated into the model and it expresses the company’s environmental performance for CO2, NOx, and particlulate matter (PM) emissions in terms of total tonnes of emissions, tonnes of emissions/truck, grams of emissions/mile, grams of emissions/ tonne-mile, custom metrics as defined by the company.
SmartWay is currently updating its FLEET model to make it easier for partners to more accurately benchmark current emission outputs and to project future emission reductions.
For FleetSmart and SmartWay members who have made environmentally-friendly strategies a priority in their day-to-day operations, the path has often been long but ultimately rewarding.
Lakeside Logistics in Oakville, Ont. is not only a member of the SmartWay program but is working with its carriers on auditing their current carbon footprint.
In November, the company became carbon neutral. The company’s own Vision Green program consists of a three-tiered approach to quantifying and reducing impact on the environment: an in-house program already in place, the Carrier program, and the Customer program.
According to Susan Moore, director of sustainability at Lakeside Logistics, the company is continually meeting with owners and presidents of trucking companies to inform them of what is going on in the industry in terms of the environment.
“During these meetings we get a chance to hear about their challenges. These meetings are for information exchange, andwefollowupbye-mail, withthe goal of being a conduit for information about green initiatives,” she said.
“Over the past several months we have spent considerable time analyzing our carrier base, understanding who our key carriers are. From that, we distilled a list of 3,500 down to 20 key carriers that are not SmartWay. We are in the process of meeting with each of these carriers to discuss our Vision Green program and to inform them about SmartWay. Aside from the obvious benefits of decreasing fuel usage through technology and education, we show them that Lakeside showcases our SmartWay carriers internally. So far, we have met little resistance and most of the carriers we have met with understand the issue of the environment and are happy to sign on to something that has obvious benefits,” said Moore, who said she frequently hears that it is difficult to find resources to put against something like this.
“We point out the process and the fact that most, if not all, of these carriers are already working on initiatives to minimize idling and save fuel. We also show them how they can use SmartWay in their own marketing program,” she said.
“Our goal is to help our carriers to decrease their emissions, and SmartWay makes the most sense for us to help them do that. As a logistics provider, when we joined last September, we had 15 SmartWay carriers in our carrier base. We have 30 today and the list is growing. Our goal is to double the miles hauled by SmartWay carriers over a three-year period.”
Over the past year alone, Moore has documented a huge change in shipper interest in programs such as SmartWay. Shippers who join must commit to ship at least 50% or more of their goods with SmartWay partner carriers. They must also create and submit an action plan detailing how they will commit to improve performance.
“Last year, shippers were interested, many with a wait-and-see attitude. Today, they are coming to us to talk about the program and find out how we are making progress. My impression is that Canada is a bit behind on this. Even subsidiaries of large Fortune 500 companies are only lately starting to talk about sustainability, whereas their parent company has been talking about this for a couple years. There is a lot of room for improvement, but I would say that most of our customers are putting long-term sustainability plans together. A year ago, we were ahead of the curve, and many in our industry were skeptical of our strong emphasis on green. Our goal is to be ready for our customers, and be able to help them accomplish their goals as quickly and efficiently as possible,” she said.
At Hudson’s Bay Company, which has also been a member of the FleetSmart program for several years, the effort to join SmartWay “was motivated by the company’s desire to gain recognition for our environmental efforts in the way we operate our fleet of trucks and ship our goods, and also to be used as a marketing tool in securing new business. I would say the process was fairly streamlined but very detailed,” said Dave Deshane, national equipment and maintenance manager.
The company’s current goals are to continue to explore opportunities to decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gases.
“This could be through new technologies for our fleet of trucks including new EPA-approved engines, year-round temperature control in sleepers and wide-based tires. We plan to expand on our use of LCV’s where permitted and continue with intermodal in specific lanes,” said Deshane.
In the long-term, he added: “We believe the program will grow and more carrier and shipper partners will look for opportunities to work with each other and promote the program. We have seen evidence of both carriers and shippers looking for this information on business proposals but more as information than a deciding factor at this point,” he said. Shipper-carrier Wal-Mart Canada recently announced a large advertising campaign to align its operations with some heady environmental goals: to produce zero waste; to be powered 100% by renewable energy; and to make more environmentally preferable products available to customers.
John Lawrence, director of corporate social responsibility for Wal-Mart Canada, said that sustainability “starts in our own house and is being incorporated into our business in many ways.”
The company launched a For the Greener Good program in 2007 which focuses on forging partnerships, creating initiatives and selling products that support environmental sustainability. A large part of implementing environmental strategies is keeping score on progress within the organization.
At MacKinnon Transport in Guelph, Ont., Richard Sharpe, vice-president fleet services, said that maintaining the score is a case of continuous improvement.
MacKinnon, which has achieved a SmartWay score of 1.25, the highest in the program, is already employing strategies such as road speed controlled equipment, monthly electronic control module (ECM) data collection and analysis, and driver education and incentive programs, and testing of new fuel economy innovations that are realistic and provide return on investment, among a list of other strategies.
“Within the SmartWay assessment, there are technologies and processes we have yet to fully explore. Coupled with that are the innovations emerging almost daily. With our industry’s newfound understanding of the ramifications of good corporate citizenship, in regards to emissions and energy conservation, much more resource has been focused on developing knowledge and innovation. With current energy costs, the reward -above and beyond a sustainable environment -for energy conservation, hits the bottom line quite quickly. I think we’re getting to the good stuff, the ‘outside the box’ stuff,” he said.
Sharpe noted that metrics represent a critical element in rationalizing conservation activities. He also stressed that strategies that are realistic are the most relevant ones.
“If I have one truck, I may see a 7% improvement as well worth exploring. Were I to have 10,000 trucks, a .25% improvement could represent a great deal of potential savings. ROI, in itself, should determine cost versus return over a period. From an ROI standpoint, realistic is fitting my corporate model of positive return on investment. From an environmental standpoint, ROI is genuine, sustainable improvement to the environment. I wouldn’t be presumptuous enough to suggest criteria. In a perfect world, a realistic ROI will encompass both. Vendors will offer claims of percentage of improvement. They can tell you the cost of the product. you know the miles/kilometers/hours of utilization and the lifecycle. from there, you can decide if the concept is worth testing and pursuing. Assess your individual expectations and requirements, then, carefully and clinically, test for ROI.
“Perception can be a costly luxury. I conduct my testing on known routes, dedicated lanes with proven drivers. Whenever possible, I build in a placebo unit and always use a control group. It’s amazing what kind of improvments you can see in a placebo unit when the operator knows that you are scrutinizing its activity. However, ultimately, clinical research, conducted by engineers, in a controlled environment, provide the most credible ROI data,” said Sharpe.
The whole testing protocol is also under examination at the EPA, where SmartWay program administrators are now working with industry on a truck Emissions Test Protocol which will examine the benefits of various heavy vehicle designs and technologies, and compare the relative emissions and fuel efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles.
To this end, EPA developed a working draft for the protocol in November to start discussion among stakeholders and which aims to achieve a technology-neutral, performance-based specification.
The EPA had also announced that the SmartWay Transport Partnership was available to the entire supply chain, at an inaugural Greening the Supply Chain conference held in Sacramento, Calif. in June. The event was a collaborative effort between the EPA, the International Warehouse Logistics Association, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) and Cascade Sierra Solutions.
“Today, the global nature of our profession requires that we collaborate with our partners throughout the vast supply chain to ensure that the entire process is managed with a focus on efficient conservation of resources,” said Rick Blasgen, president and CEO of CSCMP.