Fighting for Fuel Efficiency in Manufacturing Supply Chains

Analyzing the cost and environmental benefits of modern TMS technology

The U.S. transportation sector’s consumption of diesel fuel resulted in about 432 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That equates to about 26% of total U.S. transportation sector CO2 emissions and about 9% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020.

Coupled with the national average for diesel fuel peaking at $5.25 per gallon in March 2022, shipping goods via truck is costing manufacturers an exorbitant sum. Cost and environmental concerns have transportation managers looking for practical ways to improve fuel efficiency.

How to Increase Fuel Efficiency

U.S. manufacturers have been working to be more fuel efficient for decades. They have reduced fuel consumption by 16% since 1998. While this is a commendable achievement by itself, in the same time period they have also increased gross output by 12%, which makes the results even more impressive.

Consumer sentiment has turned towards “greener” brands with people spending more on sustainable goods. Nearly 70% of purpose-driven shoppers will pay an added premium of 35% or more for sustainable purchases, such as recycled or eco-friendly goods, according to IBM. This is driving the market for manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions, primarily by reducing fuel consumption.

Three main strategies for manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency are:

Engaging vendors in their supply chains. The total amount of carbon emissions in a manufacturing company’s supply chain accounts for 11.4 times the amount of emissions from its own operations. By working with vendors who are focused on green processes, manufacturers can significantly improve their sustainability results. 

Switching to more fuel-efficient fleets: By utilizing compressed natural gas (CNG) or electric vehicles (EV), shippers can decrease carbon emissions and have a large return on investment. 

  • Natural gas reduces carbon monoxide emissions 90 to 97 percent.
  • Fleet electrification can eliminate 155,000 tons of CO2, a 60% reduction in carbon emissions.

However, EV and CNG trucks aren’t the only fuel-efficient options. Traditional diesel fleets can increase fuel efficiency through aerodynamic products that reduce air drag to lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Numerous options increase fuel efficiency, from trailer skirts to spoilers, low-rolling resistance tires and wheel covers to smooth-sided trailers, aerodynamic mirrors and low-drag bumpers.

Utilizing transportation management software (TMS): Investing in advanced transportation technology management software (TMS) that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning (ML) capabilities will not only increase fuel efficiency but can help shippers improve operational processes to save time and money.

Cloud-based TMS systems that leverage AI can increase fuel efficiency by:

  • Optimizing load and route planning. Shippers can maximize driver productivity and create the most efficient routes with a TMS that automates daily load planning. Better route planning also maximizes truck capacity and ensures full loads and backhaul routing, keeping empty trucks off the road. Optimizing asset utilization and reducing empty miles can save up to 40% in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reducing wait/idling times. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an idling truck wastes about 0.8 gallon of fuel per hour, and on average, a long-haul truck idles about 1,800 hours per year and uses about 1,500 gallons of diesel. That is a lot of time and money wasted at the expense of shippers, carriers and the environment. 

TMS systems equipped with AI can determine the best possible time to arrive at a facility to reduce wait times. They can also track drivers’ idle time, streamline the load matching process, and implement new standards for driving behavior to reduce idle time and increase fuel efficiency.

  • Increasing access to data. Algorithms perform better with more data. Cloud-based TMS systems that connect with multiple sources of real-time data can route drivers around construction, weather impediments or traffic accidents. They can also provide load, route and rate data to help algorithms forecast demand to ensure the optimal amount of capacity is utilized. They can also track driver information to reduce inefficient fuel behaviors like engine idling and speeding. 

Why It Matters

Manufacturers can save time and money by using the latest TMS technology to increase the fuel efficiency of their shipping operations. This also significantly reduces carbon footprint while saving consumers money and strengthening brand loyalty. The most important outcome is creating a more sustainable future for the planet. For more information, download “Manufacturing Sustainability”.