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The Shipper's Guide To Green Logistics
Before we discuss the specifics of what shippers can do to help, it's best to understand what the underlying problems are. Below are the primary fuel waste and pollution issues that shippers can positively influence:
- Fuel Efficiency - Most of the issues in this guide all tie back to fuel efficiency. Using less fuel saves money and helps the environment.
- Packaging - A lot of pollution can be avoided before a carrier even shows up. Making smart packaging decisions can save fuel and reduce pollution.
- Idling - When trucks idle, they burn fuel. Reducing the time trucks need to idle significantly improves fuel efficiency.
These are the problems that can be solved by implementing some of the efficiency tactics discussed below.
Green Packaging vs Damages and Returns
One of the biggest things any shipper can do to impact the environment is to maximize the effectiveness of their packaging.
There is more to environmentally friendly packaging than biodegradable peanuts and recycled boxes. One of the most costly problems with packaging is damages. Using green packaging doesn't help much if it results in damaged product that must be returned to the shipper. Returns waste fuel and negate most of the cost savings and benefits of environmentally friendly packaging. Shippers have to strike the right balance between going green and minimizing damages. Stronger packaging is usually less eco-friendly, so the key is to use packaging just strong enough to keep the amount of damages and returns low.
It is a good idea to test the strength of your packaging before shipping. This testing can range from simple, manual simulation of life on the road for your product, or more sophisticated methods such as ISTA 3A testing. This is a standardized test for package strength. Companies such as the Advanced Packaging Corporation and others offer these testing services.
If you can load 1200 units on a truck instead of 800 units that's obviously going to be much more efficient and use less fuel. See our guide on packaging and palleting best practices for more information about how you can maximize the efficiency of your packaging.
Docking Benefits For Green Carriers
Some shippers designate one or more docks as "green docks." These docks would serve as express lanes for carriers that adopt eco-friendly trucking practices such as using APU units instead of idling or using fuel efficient trucks.
Organizations such as SmartWay have made it a much easier to identify carriers that have good fuel efficiency/environmental performance scores. Shippers could use participation in this program as an easy way to identify green carriers.
Idling Reduction Strategies
Anything you can do to reduce the amount of idling at your dock makes a big impact. Some idling reduction strategies shippers can use include:
- Allow truckers to use your break room or some other room to relax in while the truck is waiting to be loaded or is being loaded.
- Use shorepower to provide electricity to the areas where truckers wait. This allows truckers to run AC units, refrigerators and other devices without the need to idle their engines.
- You can reduce the time carriers need to idle by improving scheduling and organization. Using manual methods or logistics software can reduce the time carriers need to wait and possibly idle at your location.
- Some shippers simply don't allow trucks to idle on their property.
Forklifts - Alternatives To Gas Power
Running gas powered fork lifts uses a surprising amount of fuel and all of this money can be saved by using alternatives to gas powered fork lifts. Many companies sell electric fork lifts, and rapid advances are currently being made involving fuel cell powered fork lifts.
Feel free to comment below if you feel we've left out any important things shippers can do to improve their efficiency and impact on the environment.