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Shippers Demand More Of Their Carriers On Environmental Front

The EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership has gained a lot of traction, so much so that becoming a SmartWay carrier may no longer be an option if you wish to haul for some of the most well-known shippe...

The EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership has gained a lot of traction, so much so that becoming a SmartWay carrier may no longer be an option if you wish to haul for some of the most well-known shippers.

Michael Nelson, national manager, highway transportation for Toyota Logistics Services, said he first became aware of the SmartWay program in March.

“From a shipper’s standpoint, I was quite happy to find SmartWay,” he said during the recent Same Roads… New Challenges seminar. “I can pretty much guarantee you (SmartWay membership) will be a Toyota requirement. It’s one of those things we’re not going to compromise on.”

Nelson oversees the over-the-road delivery of Toyota’s finished cars to dealerships across North America. Last year, his department shipped 2.4 million cars by truck. As with many large companies, Toyota has placed a heavy emphasis on environmental stewardship.

When it measured which parts of its operations contributed the most greenhouse gas emissions, medium-and heavy-duty truck transportation ranked fifth.

“Being fifth on the list is something that certainly gets our attention,” Nelson said.

Toyota estimates logistics account for 60% of its CO2 emissions, and the transportation of finished vehicles accounts for 82% of that (parts shipments contribute the other 18%). Breaking it down one more level, Nelson said that truck transportation accounts for 42% of the C02 produced while delivering its cars to dealer lots (rail is responsible for 56% and ‘other’ for 2%).

“All of a sudden, that focus is narrowing very quickly,” he said.

Auto haulers face unique challenges when trying to green their fleet, Nelson acknowledged.

“Our trucks are about as aerodynamic as a brick,” he said, noting

they actually get better mileage when loaded because the cars themselves are aerodynamic. Trucks used to transport finished vehicles also have inherently high idle times, since they usually run a PTO to move the decks during loading and unloading. Local drivers can spend as much as six hours idling while loading and unloading vehicles every shift, Nelson said.

Despite the challenges, there are steps auto haulers can take to fit into the SmartWay Partnership Program, which recognizes fleets that have taken measures to reduce their emissions and improve their fuel mileage. Car trailers constructed of lightweight steel can be purchased and automatic start/stop systems are available, which automatically shut down the engine during loading and unloading except for when the decks are being moved. Tire pressure monitoring systems and some types of side fairings are also feasible, Nelson pointed out.

Currently, Toyota is helping 12 of its carriers become SmartWaycertified. Before long, Nelson said any fleet that wishes to haul cars for the company will have joined SmartWay. However, he said the company will give its carriers ample opportunity to comply before the business is pulled from them.

“It’s very difficult to get into Toyota and it’s very hard to get fired,” he said. “We will work very hard with our carriers.”

Also on the panel was Jason Bowman, global logistics manager for Method Products, a company that provides environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Not only are the products themselves environmentally-friendly, but so too is every step along the supply chain, Bowman said.

“We work with our carriers and we challenge them,” he said. “We challenge them hard and most have responded quite well.”

Companies that wish to haul for Method Products, must be SmartWay-certified. The company is so demanding of its partners, vendors and suppliers, that its CEO has been known to crawl around in their dumpsters to ensure there’s nothing recyclable being improperly disposed of.

Bowman said Method Products has used only SmartWay-certified carriers since June, 2007.

“Don’t even come and talk to me until you’re talking to SmartWay,” Bowman said. He added the company is currently helping a few Canadian carriers become SmartWay-certified.

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