5 ways to make haulage more environment-friendly

Sustainability and environmental causes are high on the agenda, and World Environment Day aims to raise further awareness of the urgent need to prevent further climate change.

While greenhouse gas emissions fell in 2020 in large part due to fewer people using road transport, the road haulage and transport sector still accounted for almost a third of all CO2 emissions. This makes this essential sector one of the main contributors to the UK’s carbon emissions.

With businesses reopening and road activity returning to pre-pandemic levels, the sector is set to increase its carbon output once again. But as the net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 deadline looms, all businesses will be looking to reduce their carbon footprint, make their businesses more environmentally friendly, and cut costs in the process. Hauliers have already made great strides by prioritising fuel efficiency, investing in new and more efficient vehicles and embedding best-practice driving into their training.

This World Environment Day, we look at five additional ways the transport and haulage sector can reduce its emissions not only to help tackle climate change, but to improve efficiency and cut costs.

Optimising Load Fill

One of the biggest impacts on haulier’s business’ efficiency is the number of trips you make and how many deliveries you can make without the need to re-load. If you’re setting off from Newcastle and have two deliveries to make in Liverpool, for example, you want to be able to make both deliveries during the same trip.

By making the most efficient use of your truck space, you can fit in both loads and therefore reduce the number of trips you need to make. Fewer trips equal fewer emissions, as well as significantly lowered costs and wasted time.

Technology can help.

Optimise your routes

Transport planning can be difficult if you don’t have the correct tools and information to hand. Trying to plan hundreds of jobs whilst balancing compliance, job and driver availability and customer expectations whilst working to the slimmest of margins and tightest of deadlines is all very difficult and stressful.

Technology can remove the guesswork for hauliers planning multi-drop deliveries and help to create more realistic and environmentally efficient plans before wheels start to turn. With route planning software you can visualise work on a map, plan routes and bring all the right jobs together into a load quickly; whilst taking customer SLAs, vehicle requirements and other KPIs into account.  Giving planners all the right information they need to make informed decisions at the planning stage can reduce risk, costs and your carbon footprint significantly.

Read more: What is route planning software?

ETA Route Planning is playing a critical role in refining plans, but not during the execution process but before the plan has been output to drivers.  It enables planners to see what time a vehicle’s estimated time of arrival. This avoids over-committing your fleet and enables the traffic planner and operator to create realistic and environmentally efficient plans before plans wheels start to turn.

Once you’ve output your plan, are you sure drivers are following the route you’ve planned or they’re driving safely and efficiently? Telematics is ubiquitous in the road haulage industry, but greatest benefits to be gained are to offer truck aware Sat Nav to guide drivers on their journey and complete jobs following routes you’ve planned, not what they decide.  Whilst being able to look back historically at which routes they did in fact take, it’s also possible to analyse common routes for regular work and look for opportunities where you can plan jobs differently and in a more efficient way to reduce costs and your carbon footprint.

Keeping customers informed

We’re operating in a world where customers expect to receive goods on-time, in full and to be kept fully informed along the way.  The supply chain is adopting technology to streamline communication in real-time to connect everyone involved in the whole process from order to delivery. Vehicle tracking, telematics and mobile technology all play a key role in providing the visibility everyone needs to keep the customer informed and to deliver at the planned date/time avoiding redelivery and costs as well as minimising miles travelled.

Ensure you never run empty again

In some instances, you might have a full, efficiently packed truck. But once you’ve completed your journey, you need to travel back with an empty vehicle. That’s not environmental or cost efficient.

Happily, there are now platforms that offer freight exchange services for this exact purpose. Shippers can advertise their available loads and display the collection point and destination. If your initial delivery is near the collection point and you’re travelling back to the same destination, you can eliminate your dead miles, increase your business’ profits, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Switch to electric vehicles

It’s understandable that many hauliers are still operating with petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. The capital outlay required to buy new vehicles is high, especially after a year that has ravaged the sector’s financial stability. But when it’s time to replace a vehicle in your fleet, moving to electric trucks is essential.

Additionally, if and when you’re in a position to expand your fleet, electric vehicles should be your first choice. This is a great way to integrate electric vans and trucks into your fleet without needing to source extra budget for them.

While the 2035 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles doesn’t currently affect heavy goods vehicles, electric will soon be the norm. This proliferation of electric vehicles means they will become more affordable across the board.

Consider carbon offsetting

Because of the nature of the business, the haulage and transport sector naturally has a higher footprint and therefore will need to work harder to eliminate emissions. While measures like switching to electric vehicles and packing your vehicles more efficiently will help you to dramatically reduce your emissions, you can also look at carbon offsetting to work towards becoming carbon neutral.

Carbon offsetting projects allow businesses to contribute to projects that will balance out their carbon emissions. This could be tree-planting initiatives, providing clean energy items to businesses or consumers, or capturing harmful gases at landfills. These projects should be considered an additional option alongside measures including using electric vehicles and securing backloads. They’re a great option for businesses who can’t completely eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions.

We know that some carbon emissions from the transport and haulage sector are to be expected because of the role of the industry. But this doesn’t mean we can’t reduce and offset those emissions to contribute towards tackling climate change. From fitting more deliveries into your journeys, to eliminating dead mileage with return loads and switching to low-emission electric vehicles, we can take action to reduce emissions from one of the UK’s most essential sectors.

Further read: Low emission zones – what you need to know

If you need help in looking where to start making your transport business more efficient, going digital is the best option for your business efficiency, schedule a call today.