How Smart Are You About Your Transportation Operations?
Wed, 05/16/2007 - 7:36am
Being smart about how your run your manufacturing facility is a necessity for business success, but did you know that the government can help you be even smarter about your transportation operations?
The SmartWay Transport program is a voluntary partnership program between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the freight industry, and companies that move their products by truck or rail. The program establishes incentives for fuel efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emissions reductions and has as its goals to reduce between 33-66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and up to 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions annually.
“Manufacturers have traditionally had direct control over emissions from their plants and manufacturing processes, but they have not been able to have this same control over companies that they hire for shipping services,” commented Mitch Greenburg, manager of the SmartWay Transport Program. “SmartWay matches up shippers with environmentally responsible carriers who have joined the program.”
The program has three primary components: creating partnerships, reducing all unnecessary engine idling, and increasing the efficiency and use of rail and intermodal operations.
“When developing the SmartWay Transport program, we learned that manufacturing companies did not have the tools to find the best carriers, or to figure out how to save money on energy and shipping costs, in the same way that manufacturers have tools for saving energy in buildings and production processes,” noted Greenburg.
Not only does the SmartWay Transport program provide a manufacturer with the means to reduce its transportation footprint – but it is easy to join – and free, too!
“To join the program, manufacturing companies (and carriers) just have to access our Web site (www.epa.gov/smartway ) and download and sign a one-page agreement,” explained Greenburg. “The EPA provides the tools and materials needed to help companies perform an environmental assessment of their freight operations. Participating companies then commit to improve their performance within three years.”
Manufacturers (shippers) can meet their goals by using participating carriers to ship their goods and products. Carriers meet their goals by improving the efficiency of their fleet operations.
Shippers and carriers that reach a high level of environmental excellence, scored through the EPA’s FLEET standards (Freight Logistics Environmental and Energy Tracking Performance model), are eligible to use the SmartWay Transport Partner logo to promote their commitment to the program.
CFI (Contract Freighters, Inc.), an international truckload carrier, is one of only 75 out of almost 500 participating partners to improve their SmartWay Shipper Index Factor (SIF) to 1.25, the highest level recognized by the EPA.
“Our company is proud to ‘fly the flag,’ with the SmartWay Transport logo, for achieving this milestone,” commented Bruce Stockton, vice president of maintenance for CFI. “Our goal was for continuous improvement to benefit the bottom line and the environment.”
CFI was able to reach its goals by switching to wide-based tires, which reduce emissions through gains in fuel mileage; by using synthetic fuels; and by using teams of drivers, rather than just one driver in a truck, to reduce idling.
Stockton was especially pleased with how easy it was to join the program and with how much useful information a partner has access to.
“There are hundreds of choices to choose from – about technologies, techniques, ideas for saving money and fuel – and the SmartWay program keeps a scorecard of each company’s progress as they move towards their individual goals,” said Stockton.
Coincidentally, one of the partner companies in the program also helped CFI meet its criteria to carry the SmartWay Transport logo.
Michelin, a manufacturer of tires for trucks and commercial vehicles, is involved in the program both as a corporate shipping partner and as a supplier of technological solutions to the shipping industry.
“Approximately 75 percent of Michelin’s shipments are made with SmartWay carriers,” noted Marc Laferriere, vice president of marketing at Michelin Americas Truck Tires. “And we’ve also developed the Michelin X One tire, which was credited with helping CFI to meet its goals.”
The Michelin X One, a wide-based single tire, replaces dual tires and delivers higher stability and load-carrying capacity, resulting in a three-to-four percent gain in fuel efficiency.
Laferriere said that Michelin is a strong supporter of the EPA’s efforts to minimize the environmental impact of the freight industry, and “is committed to shipping tires in a socially responsible way while managing customer demands and costs.”
For Michelin’s own fleet, the company has replaced 70 percent of its North American leased vehicles with hybrid versions, and hopes to replace the remaining 30 percent within the next year.
Laferriere encourages other companies to join the SmartWay Transport program. “It makes good sense for the environment and for shippers and carriers alike,” he noted.
Jim Branham, Transportation Manager at Milliken & Co., a textile and chemical manufacturer, concurs with CFI’s Stockton about the usefulness of the SmartWay Transport program.
“Not only does the program have information on the latest techniques,” Branham said, “a company can also check to see how a similar organization was successful with a certain technique and then gauge if it would be good for your company. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
Although Milliken has only been involved with the SmartWay program for about a year, they have already seen a fuel efficiency increase of five percent. Currently, Milliken is testing the viability of using biofuels in its fleet. (Milliken has 31 plants in the United States where a trucking fleet is in operation.)
Milliken has also earned the right to use the SmartWay Transport logo, and Branham remarked that this is good for customer relations, “because it shows our customers that Milliken is concerned about the environment and is using measures to save energy.”
The Whirlpool Corp., a manufacturer of major home appliances, sees its involvement with the SmartWay Program as a logical extension of the EnergyStar ratings that can found on its products.
“Being environmentally responsible does not have to be a business trade-off between good financial results or good environmental/citizen practices. You can do both,” explains Kevin O’Meara, Director of Supply Chain Operations at Whirlpool.
“For example, we have moved most of our fleet of propane clamp lift trucks to an electric fleet, resulting in a significant reduction in energy expenses,” said O’Meara. “We also ask that our carriers be part of the SmartWay program, ensuring that the carriers we use are practicing good fuel management thus reducing our costs.”
O’Meara believes that companies who are interested in joining the SmartWay Transport program should first get a champion at their company who can explain to upper management the benefits of the program, both economically and environmentally.