Green Supply Chain Fuel Types Kuebix TMS

5 Alternative Fuels that Will Reenergize the Transportation Industry

The transportation industry relies heavily on diesel to help it successfully transport products from manufacturers to consumers via trucks worldwide. Technology has been instrumental in reducing the number of empty miles driven, and finding an alternative fuel source is the next step for eco-conscious companies.  As concerns about the longevity of fossil fuels grow, the search for a more sustainable fuel is intensifying.

There are more than 222 million licensed drivers in the U.S. today and the amount of fuel needed to power their vehicles is astronomical. The transportation of people and goods accounts for about 25% of all energy consumption worldwide. Gasoline is a byproduct of fossil fuels, of which the earth has a limited supply. The discovery of an alternative to gasoline is vital to preserving our modern way of life and avoid running out of fuel altogether.

Fortunately, scientists and engineers are already tackling this problem. The switch toward alternative forms of fuel is still in its infancy, but researchers are working tirelessly to create cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. Below are just five potential forms of less harmful and more sustainable fuel that have the potential to replace gasoline and introduce a new wave of cleaner, more efficient vehicles:

Electric

There are currently three types of electric cars: battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). According to The Guardian, there are already over 3 million electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the road today. Electric cars are known to be environmentally and economically friendly as they drastically reduce harmful emissions and save users all of the money they would have spent on fuel.

However, electric vehicles are restricted to a specific number of miles they can drive before they need a recharge (the average is about 100 miles). Outside of major cities charging stations are difficult to come by, making electric vehicles less than ideal for lengthier trips. In order for electric trucks to become a viable option for the supply chain, a solution to the limited range needs to be found. Once electric vehicles are able to carry heavy loads for longer stretches of road, the logistics industry will have a new, viable option for shipping.

Ethanol

Ethanol fuel consists of the same alcohol that is in most cocktails. It originates from plant matter including algae, trees and corn. Ethanol fuel is renewable and much better for the environment than gasoline as it produces less carbon dioxide, hydrocarbon and oxides of nitrogen emissions.

The production of ethanol can support farmers and create agricultural job opportunities. Ethanol production can also be domestic, which helps reduce dependence on foreign oil. Gasoline is often blended with a high percentage of ethanol to create a cleaner-burning fuel because of its higher octane levels.

A transition to fuel made only of ethanol would be simpler than other options because newer trucks are consistently manufactured with the ability to burn ethanol-mixed gas and wouldn’t have a problem burning pure ethanol. Since many gas stations are already selling a blend of gas with ethanol in it, potential infrastructure problems are not as likely if the industry ever makes the switch.

The point of concern with transitioning shipping entirely to ethanol fuel is the effect it would have on crop prices. Utilizing crops as fuel rather than as food would drastically increase the price of corn and other produce. In order to have ethanol completely replace gasoline, a significant amount of the world’s forests and free spaces would have to be dedicated to farmland.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from vegetable oils and animal fats and can be used before cooking or recycled even after use in cooking. It is non-toxic, biodegradable and emits less harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Biodiesel can work in any diesel engine, making for an easy integration into the transportation industry.

Although there are many positives to biodiesel fuel, it still presents its fair share of challenges. For one, it is much less powerful than regular diesel and gasoline fuels. Biodiesel is reportedly 10% weaker than traditionally used fuel types. The storage of biodiesel fuel can also cause some major problems over time. When it’s stationary for an extended period of time, biodiesel tends to thicken which can clog filters and create corrosion.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a popular and highly innovative alternative to gasoline. Fuel cell vehicles are technically considered electric vehicles, but they rely on a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen to produce electricity rather than a traditional battery. These cars are similar to gasoline and diesel vehicles as they are refueled in the same conventional manner and share the same long-distance driving range, allowing them to drive further and faster than battery-powered electric vehicles.

A vehicle with a fuel cell and electric motor running on hydrogen can be two to three times more efficient than gasoline. These vehicles discharge zero harmful emissions, only water. Hydrogen fuel can be produced domestically from nuclear power, natural gas, biomass and renewable powers like wind and solar energy.

The biggest problem associated with hydrogen fuel is cost. The fuel cells required to power hydrogen-fueled cars are very expensive, and there are very few gas stations that currently offer hydrogen as fuel. Should the transportation industry ever decide to make the switch to hydrogen-powered trucks, the eventual ROI could make it worth it.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a fossil fuel mostly comprised of methane. This alternative to traditional fuels can be produced domestically and is less expensive than gasoline. Natural gas could cut back on greenhouse gas emissions by 10% as well.

The reason natural gas hasn’t supplanted gasoline as the preferred fuel type is because of the limited number of vehicles on the market with the capability to utilize it. Making trucks natural gas-friendly would be a very costly investment for the trucking industry. There are very few fueling stations that provide natural gas and it provides fewer miles-per-tank than vehicles running on gasoline or diesel.

92% of the U.S. transportation sector uses petroleum products such as gasoline or diesel for fuel. These resources won’t last forever and soon we will have to find a new way to fuel our cars, trucks, boats and airplanes. Our economies are powered by supply chains, and whatever fuel becomes the fuel of choice in the future will have to work for the supply chain industry, not only for personal drivers. While some alternative fuels are already being implemented, research is still being done to develop a fuel that is truly sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly.

Sustainable Supply Chain Kuebix

6 Ways to “Go Green” With Supply Chain Technology

Sustainability initiatives and efforts to “go green” are trending through every industry and many are focusing on the supply chain. There are innumerable reasons why companies are prioritizing sustainability. These reasons range from everything from worries about climate change, the need to save money and streamline operations, to increasingly eco-friendly customer bases and the need to please investors that are prioritizing sustainability.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported in January that global venture capital investment into startups focused on sustainability jumped 127% to $9.2 billion in 2018, which is the highest seen since 2010. If that increase in investments doesn’t show where the economy is headed, Forbes recently reported on a study which found that:

  •      •     68% of Millennials bought a product with a social or environmental benefit in the past 12 months.
  •      •     87% of consumers will have a more positive image of a company that supports social or environmental issues.
  •      •     88% will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues.
  •      •     87% would buy a product with a social and environmental benefit if given the opportunity.
  •      •     92% will be more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues.

There is plenty of evidence that sustainability initiatives can improve companies’ bottom lines and strengthen customer loyalty and brand awareness. Finding the opportunities to implement these green initiatives, however, can be seen as a challenge for many organizations unfamiliar with this new terrain. For most companies selling physical products either B2B or B2C, the low-hanging fruit for environmental change lies within their supply chains.

The simplest and most effective way for companies to understand, streamline and make strategic changes to their supply chains is to leverage supply chain technology like transportation management systems (TMS). With the help of technology, companies can make environmentally friendly changes to their supply chains and add to their overall company sustainability initiatives.

Here are 5 ways supply chain technology can help companies can “go green”:

  1. Plan Routes More Effectively

According to the American Trucking Associations, 3 billion gallons of fuel was consumed for business purposes in 2016. That number has likely grown as gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States increased 2.3% from 2016 – 2017 as reported by the World Bank. Reducing fuel consumption should be a priority for businesses not only to benefit the environment but also to reduce transportation costs.

Technology can help logistics professionals choose the best route for every load, something that can be nearly impossible to do by hand. Instead of manually comparing routes and consolidating loads one by one, routers and warehouse employees can leverage optimization technology to automatically create the perfect load based on predetermined parameters. An algorithm in the technology will ensure the fewest number of miles are driven for the maximum number of orders per truck, reducing overall fuel consumption.

  1. Select the Best Mode

Selecting the best mode for every shipment is another way to ensure less fuel (and money) is used on a shipment. Many shippers don’t have time to compare LTL, FTL, ground freight pricing, and parcel for every order, however. With a transportation management system in place, every available mode type can be easily compared on a single screen. That means orders which would normally be shipped as LTL, for example, may be able to be shipped as parcel. By choosing the best mode type for every shipment, companies reduce wasted space on trucks and save money in the process.

  1. Fill Empty Miles

For companies with their own fleet assets, filling empty backhaul and deadhead miles can be a lofty goal. Finding and booking available backhaul freight can be nearly impossible to do manually. It can require one or more individuals to dedicate all of their time to find opportunities, and more often than not those opportunities aren’t repeatable. By connecting to a transportation management system with a large shipping community like Kuebix, fleet owners can be easily matched with available backhaul freight. This means that trucks drive empty less of the time and less fuel goes to waste.

  1. Waste Less Fuel Idling in the Yard

Idling is a large culprit of wasted fuel consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical long-haul truck “idles about 1,800 hours per year, using about 1,500 gallons of diesel.” That’s a shocking amount and most certainly cutting into companies bottom-lines, not to mention contributing to overall fuel emissions. While much of this time idling comes from regulated rest periods, some of it comes from long waits at gates and for available docks in yards. Not only are detention fees being racked up, fuel usage is as well.

Companies who want to reduce idling time in their yards can leverage supply chain technology like yard management systems (YMS) to streamline operations. Features like gate check, dock scheduling and hostler optimization can speed up operations in the yard and get drivers in and out quickly.

  1. Embrace the Circular Supply Chain

The circular supply chain is about taking apparent waste materials and returned goods and turning them into products which can be resold. Shippers can embrace this level of “reduce, reuse, recycle” by using a transportation management system to help track their orders and returns. Complete visibility to products down to the SKU level can help OS&D and customer service departments understand exactly where returns or damaged products are and turn apparent trash into revenue streams.

Circular Supply Chain

 

  1. Reduce the Paper Trail

At their core, supply chain technologies are helping move traditionally operating supply chains to the digital age. That means saying goodbye to the physical paper-trail associated with shipping and instead keeping track of all operations online. By leveraging cloud-based supply chain technology, companies save paper while also speeding up their operations.

Should My Company “Go Green?”

If you’re asking yourself if your company should try to improve their environmental footprint with a sustainability initiative, the simple answer is yes. No matter why you decide to “go green” there will likely be positive benefits for your company. You’re likely to save money, please customers and investors and make a positive impact on the environment. A large portion of companies’ carbon footprints stems from the supply chain, making it the obvious place for many companies to begin their green initiatives. With the help of supply chain technology like transportation and yard management systems, the overall environmental impact can be reduced in a smart and simple way.