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Mar 10, 2021 // Matthias Wurst

loading a truck with a forklift truck in a company

Freight transport has been growing for years and forecasts indicate that this trend will continue in the near future. Trucks continue to be the backbone of freight transport in Europe. But how is the carbon footprint of truck transport developing?

Many concepts and ideas for the sustainable management of truck traffic have already been developed and implemented by governmental and private institutions. These range from traffic avoidance, shifting traffic to more environmentally friendly transportation modes, and traffic optimization to the promotion of energy-efficient and/or low carbon commercial vehicles.

Every single company is called upon when it comes to achieving more sustainability in logistics. And even companies without their own truck fleet have many fine-tuning options that can contribute to the sustainability of logistics.

The term ‘sustainability’ and its beginning

Sustainability is everywhere today and describes a satisfactory lifestyle for all without risking the perspectives of future generations. Originally, the term comes from forestry and indicates resource use with a view to the regenerative capacity and stability of the forest.

There is hardly any other sector where climate impacts are so much at the center of public debate as in transport. Traffic is one of the biggest climate polluters. New technologies and fuels reduce the emission of pollutants per ton kilometer. However, a rebound effect is generated by the steadily increasing mileage. According to the German Federal Environment Agency, truck traffic has risen from 280 to 507 billion ton kilometers in the last 25 years, an increase of 81 percent. It is therefore even more important to identify and adjust all possible variables for sustainable transport to further reduce CO2 emissions.

Green Logistics - more ecological in small steps

Today, we know that "green logistics" is not a short-term trend, but an established part of the actions of many companies along the value chain. The (im)possibility of climate-neutral logistics is hotly debated in expert circles. Appropriate action ensures high competitiveness and long-term existence.

Various actions can make company processes more efficient and, thus, more sustainable. Some of these actions are cost-intensive and can only be implemented in the long term, such as the purchase of trucks powered by electricity or (green) hydrogen. Others, however, can be implemented by any company independently and are more cost-effective, such as the digitalization of logistics processes. The planning and control of transport offer a lot of optimization potential - not only in terms of efficiency but also sustainability.

Digitalized yard processes as a fine-tuning option for sustainable management

Every company can take actions to digitalize its logistics, starting, for example, with truck dispatch at the factory, to operate more sustainably. Intelligent time slot management can be the first digitalized variable when planning delivery logistics. The goal is to flatten delivery peaks throughout the day and better utilize loading point resources. Coordinated and optimized entry and exit processes lead to a reduction in truck congestion and waiting times. On the day of delivery, a yard logistics control system provides additional support to minimize throughput times and unnecessary re-parking and maneuvring.

A yard management system saves time. Even a saving of 10 minutes of idle waiting time per truck approach has great sustainability potential. The CO2 savings achieved in this way are equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 1,050 citizens in Germany, just with the 25,000 truck journeys controlled by INFORM systems every day. In practice, the savings in waiting and throughput times achieved by intelligent supply control systems are far greater.

If a company also has a trailer yard, the time trucks spend on the factory floor can be further reduced. Trailer yards can, thus, make delivery logistics on the factory premises even more sustainable. The internal tractor units used can be electrically powered. The use of autonomously driven transfer vehicles is also easier to implement on the factory premises than on public roads. In this way, a further reduction in CO2 can be achieved through lower and more environmentally friendly plant traffic.

More sustainable production logistics

A factor for more sustainability in factory logistics is the optimized control of the in-plant vehicle fleet. Production logistics is responsible for loading and unloading processes as well as production supply. All manufacturers of industrial trucks are working on environmentally friendly drives. Electric forklifts and tugger trucks are already standard in warehouses today. Nevertheless, forklifts have comparatively high CO2 emissions of about 8.5 kg/h on average, which is mainly due to the energy-intensive start-stop operation and the lifting process (calculated at an average of 60 loading operations per hour).

Consequently, the digitalization of internal logistics through a transport control system is a significant factor for more sustainability. By bundling orders and reducing search trips, the productivity of the fleet is increased and driving hours are reduced. For example, a transport control system can minimize the use of forklifts by an average of 25%, which avoids the need to purchase additional transport equipment and contributes to more sustainable logistics.

Increasing competitiveness

Today, sustainability in the sense of the UN Sustainable Development Goals along a company's value chain is a key competitive factor alongside price, quality, and delivery time. Companies that want to be successful in the long term are stepping up their efforts regarding their ecological and social responsibility. The energy and resource-saving path of the transport and logistics industry is also predetermined. Digitalization can and should be an important leverage device for the transformation to sustainability.

Which fine-tuning options are you already using to reduce your company's logistics CO2 footprint?

About our Expert

Matthias Wurst

Matthias Wurst

Matthias Wurst has been working at INFORM since 2014 and, as Head of Business Development Industry, is particularly interested in optimizing supply logistics and internal logistics processes.