How delivery services can cut costs and emissions with fleet monitoring and electrification

 In Fleet Sustainability

UPS recently announced its intention to reduce its fleet’s emissions by 12% by 2020; the shipping giant has long been at the forefront of fleet improvements in this way and represents a growing trend in the way fleets are managed. With alternative fuel and electric powertrain technologies improving, the potential benefits such alternatives can provide to your carbon footprint and to your bottom line have been increasingly realized. Within this context, and with the recognition that the use of cleaner technologies by fleets yields benefits for consumers, companies, and the environment, what follows is a brief overview of the benefits from alternative technology fleets and methods for making this change.

Using a delivery service is already more efficient than driving to the store

A 2013 University of Washington study of grocery delivery services found that they can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least half, as compared to the emissions from individual trips to the store. ‘Trucks filled to capacity that delivers to customers clustered in neighborhoods produced the most savings in carbon dioxide emissions’. They found, in studying Seattle, that savings between trucks and personal (Internal Combustion) vehicles were 20 to 75 percent and 80 to 90 percent for companies if they clustered customers together. In addition to reduced emissions, the fuel required is significantly less, especially if delivery paths are strategically set, which obviously positively and significantly impacts a company’s bottom line. A trial of Walmart’s ‘Supercube’ trailer in Canada, for instance, proved to reduce costs by 24% and greenhouse gas emissions by 14%, as well as allowing the trailer to ship 40% more merchandise than conventional options. Such technological advancements combine a variety of energy types with aerodynamic and lightweight designs to meet emissions goals and prepare their fleets for the future.

Monitoring a fleet is the first step to improving efficiency

In studying your fleet to understand what changes can be made to improve your efficiency and emissions, there a few primary steps to be taken. Specifically, you must first understand the business model your company and fleet are pursuing. By knowing your current and future requirements, you can make a better judgment in terms of the type of vehicle you need and the type of energy/fuel that best suits your needs. Next, you should identify the best type of transport for your business model. This involves defining whether you really need a fleet, whether you can use an outside or remote service, or even if there is some sort of public transportation that could work for your needs. Finally, you should know the exact number of vehicles your company requires, the areas in which these vehicles will operate, and the types of vehicles that best suit these specific demands. By understanding your present and future fleet, you can make a much more educated decision on your vehicle choices and, resultantly, significantly reduce your emissions and improve efficiency.

Fleets need to work with a sustainability manager

Sustainability managers ensure that their organization works towards finding economically efficient ways to stay green. As the fleet is generally the second largest cost center after personnel and has the largest environmental impact, it is a vital area for the sustainability manager to focus on.

Electrification of any fleet, even heavy fleets is right around the corner

Electric heavy vehicles are already taking to the road in Europe. Don’t eliminate electric drivetrains as an option when cutting emissions from a heavy fleet. With increased production of electric HDVs manufacturing costs will continue to come down. Current manufacturers of heavy electrics include: Athon, BMW, Daimler Trucks, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen to name a few.

Measure the Outcome (Reduction of GHG/Emissions)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for about 95% of total greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, with nitrous dioxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) also prevalent, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Collecting and measuring data on such emissions will identify the total level of emissions and your demonstrable impact on greenhouse gas levels. In measuring your output, total emissions of carbon dioxide, which is by far the most prevalent of pollutants emitted by your fleet, can be found by multiplying the amount of fuel consumed by that fuel’s specific carbon dioxide coefficient, which can be found below. Measuring other greenhouse gases is more complicated and requires careful measurements of factors such as drive cycle, miles traveled, pollution control technology, and air conditioning usage. Familiarizing yourself with all of these, or at least with CO2, can go a long way toward improving your fleet’s efficiency and emissions.


Methods for Reducing Emissions in Vehicle Fleet

There are a few steps to be taken in understanding how to best improve your fleet’s efficiency and emissions. First, ensure that all your vehicles are well-maintained and all tires are properly inflated; regular maintenance can increase fuel efficiency by 30%, with tires adding a further 3% and oil maintenance 2%. Responsible driving without idling can also help in emissions and efficiency; the EPA found that a heavy-duty truck will burn roughly one gallon of diesel for every hour of idling. Avoiding erratic or fast driving tendencies can save you another 33%. Finally, be intelligent; track your usage, mileage, and routes to make sure every mile is accounted for, maximizes efficiency, and minimizes waste. As your vehicles age, invest in natural gas, biodiesel, or hybrid electric vehicles. Familiarize yourself with the right choice for your needs as urban driving has different demands than does long-distance rural driving. Know your source; natural gas can reduce ‘well-to-wheel’ emissions by up to 25%, for instance, while solar technology has made hybrids cleaner and more efficient as well. By conducting a study of your fleet and understanding your specific needs, you can make a more educated decision as to which choice can have the most significant impact on your efficiency, emissions, and bottom line.

Reducing your fleet’s emissions is a manageable objective and can be achieved as long as you take the right steps. By familiarizing yourself with your fleet, your specific needs, the benefits from improving your emissions standards, and the advantageous technologies available to you, you can go into the future with a more-efficient, greener delivery system. It has been shown that delivery services can provide distinct advantages to consumers, companies, and the environment;. As delivery services become even more widespread, fleets need to become smarter or companies risk falling behind. Adapting early and benefiting from the natural gas, biodiesel, hybrid electric, and other technologies available to you can have a multifaceted, tangible impact on you, your bottom line, and the world.

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