February 4, 2022

As stakeholders increase their demands for improved sustainability measures, the need to address empty miles is more urgent than ever before

Empty miles…Can’t live with them, desperately want to live without them - but how?

Empty miles have been a constant in the freight industry since day one, and as the world continues to grapple with a third year of unprecedented supply chain volatility, they seem almost impossible to tackle. And yet, the need to address empty miles is more urgent than ever before, as customers, investors, regulators and other stakeholders increase their demands for improved sustainability measures.

What do empty miles have to do with sustainability?

As a reminder, empty miles are created not only when trucks drive empty, but when they idle too. In fact, empty miles occur when trucks go from their domicile to their first pick up, between two loads when a truck is moving from their drop-off and next pick-up location, driving back to the domicile from their last drop-off, and finally when driving empty back-hauls. Each of these miles driven empty represents an opportunity for incremental revenue, lower carbon emissions, and increased freight capacity in the system.

When a truck sits idle, it’s just as bad as driving empty; one hour of idle time is equal to 30 miles of driving. Many fleet trucks spend most of their day idling while waiting to and during loading and unloading. According to the US Department of Energy, passenger and commercial vehicles waste about 6 million gallons of fuel and $21 billion per year, without moving a mile. This waste is happening throughout the day, from domicile to first pick-up, every time a carrier needs a new load, to when the driver needs to make their way home.

In an era where capacity is difficult to find, comes at a premium, and where fuel prices are continually on the rise, trucks regularly idling and being driven empty isn’t just bad for the environment, it’s bad for business.

What’s driving the push for more sustainability measures?

With dire news about climate change in the media daily, the call for improved sustainability practices has become louder than ever before, and for good reason. The International Transport Forum reported that international trade-related freight movement is responsible for about 30% of all transport-related CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, which is more than 7% of global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. This has led a wide range of stakeholders to pressure companies to make sustainability more of a priority. Specifically, they are pushing for reduced carbon footprints and greener transportation solutions.

While some might believe supply chain disruption related to the ongoing pandemic may have dampened companies’ enthusiasm for investing in supply chain sustainability (SCS), this does not appear to be the case. According to MIT’s 2021 State of Supply Chain Sustainability report, executives were undeterred by the crisis. In fact, 83% of the executives interviewed for the report said that Covid-19 has either accelerated SCS activity or, at the very least, increased awareness and brought urgency to this growing field.

Who’s pressuring industries to step up their sustainability game?

In the MIT report, half of the executives interviewed confirmed that customers were the main driver for change, pressuring firms to take more environmentally-focused approaches in running their business. But it’s not just customers who are concerned about sustainability. Executives like CSCMP’s Interim President and CEO Mark Baxa have confirmed “There are companies receiving pressure from stakeholders, investors, boards, and employees.” The number of parties concerned about sustainability and pushing for companies to make positive supply chain changes continues to grow.

Consumers have always had a say in how certain firms perform, by having the power to vote with their dollars. And while we’re used to seeing that have an impact on a local level, today their voices are further amplified by social media. According to the 2021 Gartner® Report: Apply Technology to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Logistic, “Sustainability is becoming more of a priority for logistics leaders, especially as customers are demanding more sustainable delivery.” The report confirms that “customers are one of the main stakeholders that drive organizations to focus on sustainability and initiatives to improve their environmental footprint.” Behind customers, it appears that investors and regulators are the next largest sets of stakeholders pressing for investments in improved sustainability measures.

Sustainability measures eliminate empty miles

If only there were a way to implement sustainability measures that reduce empty miles, make all stakeholders happy, the freight industry more efficient, and the world cleaner…

Wait, there is!

We believe the 2021 Gartner Report: Apply Technology to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Logistics is packed with great ideas including one that we can really get behind, collaboration. According to the report,  “As transportation capacity and cost challenges rise, and as customers require more efficient delivery of products, shippers will have to look at collaboration as a way to secure capacity, reduce costs, improve sustainability and more efficiently deliver customer orders.” This type of collaboration is exactly what SemiCab’s Collaborative Transportation Platform was built for.

The SemiCab platform enables improved sustainability measures. Shippers with both private and dedicated fleets on the SemiCab platform can market their available capacity to other shippers. This is how one shipper with a dedicated or private fleet can get paid for previously unused capacity, and another shipper can find affordable and reliable capacity that’s not available anywhere else. Carriers can also benefit from the SemiCab platform by engaging in a dedicated capacity arrangement. With this type of engagement, SemiCab arranges for the dedicated capacity to carry out operations for a chosen set of lanes being managed for one of the shippers on the SemiCab platform. SemiCab takes care of all the relationship building and management, allowing carriers and shippers alike to continue running their operations without having to change a thing. This FAQ provides more details about platform participation.

If you’re looking for new ways to achieve your sustainability goals in 2022, focusing on the elimination of empty miles is an excellent way to begin. For more details on Gartner recommendations for technologies that can help you reduce your carbon footprint, download a complimentary copy of The Gartner Apply Tehnology to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Logistics report now.

Gartner, Apply Technology to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Logistics, Bart De Muynck, 3 June 2021.

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