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When it comes to sustainability, little things add up

March 28, 2023
Switching from diesel cuts out emissions, but it's not the only thing fleets can do. Look to your vehicle spec'ing, drivers' habits, and shop operations to find out how you can decarbonize bit by bit.

It seems that there has been an increased emphasis on sustainability both from a regulatory standpoint and also from corporations. More and more corporations are making public statements about their sustainability goals, and we are even seeing announcements of businesses appointing vice presidents of sustainability. 

Obviously, trucking is looking to move goods in a cleaner manner, and we now have a host of powertrain options to choose from depending on the duty cycles in which you operate.

However, there is more to being green than just investing in zero and near-zero-emission vehicles. There is still work that can be done to make diesel more efficient and your sustainability efforts should extend to other areas of your operation as well.

See also: New trucking coalition looks to set realistic decarbonization path

Of course, the best place to start is with the truck itself. For duty cycles where it makes sense—terminal tractors, pick-up and delivery with vans and step vans, short return to base runs—begin looking into battery-electric vehicles as they make sense in those applications. Consider other alternative fuel vehicles as well. Perhaps hydrogen or compressed natural gas makes sense in parts of your operation.

In duty cycles where battery-electric, hydrogen, or other alternative fuel vehicles don’t make sense, look at how you are spec’ing your diesel trucks. Make sure your electronic engine parameters are optimized for fuel economy. Spec aerodynamic devices on both the tractor and the trailer. Spec low-rolling resistance tires and outfit tractors and trailers with tire pressure monitoring systems. Add electric auxiliary power units (APUs) for heating and air conditioning so drivers do not have to idle the truck engine when they are on their mandated breaks.

Once your vehicles are spec’d for fuel efficiency, it is time to review your operational practices. Take a clean sheet approach to routing to see if there are ways you can make it more efficient, especially given the fact that COVID may have changed your customers’ business models. Look at ways to eliminate empty backhauls. As we all know, nothing is more expensive than hauling air.

Educate your drivers on how to drive with fuel efficiency in mind. Controlling speed, utilizing cruise control, and eliminating hard braking are three good practices. After careful review using oil analysis, you may be able to extend your oil drain intervals which results in using less oil and fewer filters.

Enlist your shop in your sustainability efforts. Can you eliminate aerosol-based cleaners? What about switching to aqueous-based cleaners, which have lower volatile organic compound (VOC) content. This can apply not only to handheld sprays but also to your shop’s parts cleaner. What other things can you do to make the shop greener?

See also: How to improve engine efficiency and service life

You might also consider setting up a recycling program in your office and installing smart light switches that turn lights on when someone enters the room. Or set a policy that employees need to turn lights off when they leave a room. While these seem like little things, little things add up and all count toward your sustainability efforts.

Reducing your carbon footprint should be an ongoing effort as new products and solutions are coming into the market all the time. While you may not need to name a vice president of sustainability, it might be a good idea to put someone in charge of monitoring your efforts toward being greener.

Gino Fontana, CTP, is COO and EVP at Transervice Logistics Inc. Prior to this, he was VP of operations at Berkeley Division and Puerto Rico. He has more than 35 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry with both operational and sales experience.

About the Author

Gino Fontana | Chief operating officer and executive vice president at Transervice Logistics Inc.

Gino Fontana, CTP, is COO and EVP at Transervice Logistics Inc. Prior to this recent promotion, he was VP of operations at Berkeley Division and Puerto Rico. His operational expertise emphasizes cost savings, process efficiency and improvement, superior quality, and people management skills. He has more than 35 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry with both operational and sales experience.

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