3 eco-friendly analytics solutions for freight companies

Technical Writer

It's no easy feat for transportation companies to reduce their environmental impact. According to the 2015 Inbound Logistics Trucking Perspectives Survey, 22 percent of trucking companies ranked sustainability as one of their greatest challenges. However, sustainability is essential for freight businesses that want to remain competitive, as manufacturers and retailers often give preference to environmentally friendly service providers.

It can be challenging to determine which initiatives will provide substantial return on investment from both a cost and effectiveness perspective. Freight companies can collect and analyze data to determine which routes will reduce environmental impact, which fuel options are best for the company and what maintenance issues are plaguing the fleet.

1. Pair fleet management software and analytics

Even the most innovative sustainability policies are useless if your employees and drivers don't follow the guidelines. This is especially true when it comes to idling time, speed reduction and optimal routes — Teletrac explains that idling cars and trucks in NYC alone produce 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Many freight companies use fleet management software to monitor these pollution-creating driving behaviors in real-time, and this software can be paired with data analytics tools that use up-to-date traffic information to determine the optimal routes to save gas and reduce emissions. Further, by taking into account current traffic conditions, historical records of a given customer's deliveries and even information on which employees are working the loading dock, companies can predict specific outcomes, such as whether the freight truck will likely be delayed, and adjust day-to-day operations accordingly to save time, money and emissions.

2. Ensure more efficient fuel use

Alternative fuels are an important part of green trucking. The California Energy Commission recently reported that 37 percent of all in-state greenhouse gas emissions came from the transportation industry. Companies that want to be seen as eco-friendly need to address this huge issue.

Freight companies may want to consider moving from diesel fuel to other options, specifically liquefied or compressed natural gas. Alternative fuels can be expensive, though, even with funding from government agencies. For this reason, some companies are simply seeking to cut back on fuel usage. To make matters confusing, though, there is no one "right" biofuel for all situations, and a number of factors need to be considered to pick the best option.

This is where data analytics can help. Freight companies can collect data regarding fuel consumption and actual fuel costs and then use predictive analytics to plot out projected fuel costs. The next step is comparing costs and environmental impact with different fuel scenarios to determine which is the best business decision from cost and environmental impact perspectives. The Harvard Business School Digital Initiative explains that by using analytics to optimize routes and make fueling decisions for select vehicles, UPS was able to save 1.5 million gallons of fuel between 2008 and 2014.

3. Keep up with proper maintenance

Trucks that are not properly maintained or have mechanical problems often have a worse environmental impact. Truckinginfo reported that freight companies are collecting information on filter problems, low oil levels, high temperatures and other factors that often precede mechanical problems. By using analytics to spot problems before they occur, transportation companies can prevent maintenance issues and the related environmental impacts. The source uses the example of a freight company that used analytics to determine why a fleet was falling below the expected fuel mileage. The cause? The vehicles were not adjusted for the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains. After repairs were made, fuel mileage increased by 20 percent.

By integrating data analytics into your freight company's operations, you can reduce costs and environmental impact at the same time. But to see the results, you must not simply collect the information, but change your policies and processes based on the data-driven insights.

Maximize the value of your data to understand the environmental and cost impacts of your freight business. Connect with data professionals via IBM's Travel and Transportation Industry Page.