Large shipper wants green-only fleets

TORONTO, (Nov. 21, 2003) — Some carriers hauling Swedish furniture these days may need to comply with a new environmental blueprint that goes above and beyond current stringent EPA engine emission standards truckers are already coping with.

Popular Swedish retailer IKEA is looking to implement a four-step environmental plan that would heavily rely upon all its carriers’ participation in the U.S. EPA’s Smartway Transport program — a voluntary partnership between various freight industry sectors and EPA that establishes incentives for fuel efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. And if copied by other large shippers, the plan — part of which requires carriers to train drivers “fuel efficient driving” techniques — will mean additional environmental compliance for the general trucking industry beyond what the industry already spends for new EPA-compliant engines, fuel and other equipment. The program would be rolled out in 2004 and evolve over a four year period.

A snapshot of IKEA’s Smartway model shows that in the first year of implementation fleets will have to provide an inventory of emissions output using a web-based calculator; knowledge of fuel quality and action plan to use best fuel; a requirement to have 40 per cent of a carrier’s drivers trained on the program next year, and 100 per cent by 2007. IKEA’s own target is for 40 per cent of its carriers to be compliant next year, and 100 per cent world-wide by 2007.

The first benefit as a result of compliance is that IKEA’s “environmental carriers” would be given preferential unloading privileges at its facilities by designating one or two docks exclusively for such trucking firms.

The Ontario Trucking Association’s Stephen Laskowski says the OTA is in the process of notifying members of the plan. For now, he says, the program is voluntary, and may prove to be a good opportunity for carriers already conducting a lot of these environmental programs on their own to get a return on their investments. However, Laskowski did acknowledge that if such programs are duplicated by shippers on a large-scale, only carriers who meet certain environmental criteria will tendered for freight, and risk losing business. So carriers may be asking themselves: is IKEA’s mandate an anomaly, or is it part of a new transport reality?

“That’s the million dollar question, and that’s why we’re looking to make carriers aware of it,” he told Today’s Trucking. “At the end of the day will this be good or bad for the trucking industry? Well that depends of course on who’s making the investment. The hope is that it’s a partnership.”

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