A green way to keep on trucking


Well-Known Member
With rising oil prices, shipping companies are embracing fuel efficiency and are using information technology to plot shorter delivery routes.

A family in Oregon recently embarked on an unusual experiment. Using the package-flow technology developed by United Parcel Service Inc., the global transportation company, the family saved $3.69 a day on fuel — almost $1,000 over the course of the year.

When such savings are translated to UPS' fleet of almost 92,000 cars, vans, tractors and motorcycles, the results satisfy not only finance executives but also those trying to cut the company's emissions.

While e-commerce is a fact of life, goods bought in the virtual world still have to be moved around using old-world, physical transportation systems. And with rising oil prices and growing fears over climate change, transport — once considered a necessary evil by retailers and shippers — is now the focus of attention.

Many look to alternative fuels and hybrid-electric vehicles. But information technology has an important role in making existing vehicles more efficient, particularly when it comes to aggregating small gains across large fleets.

Take something as simple as reducing left-hand turns. For drivers, this means less time idling in the middle of the road waiting for oncoming traffic to pass.

"Left-hand turns — that's a huge issue," says Cyndi Brandt, product manager for the Roadnet transportation suite.

A division of UPS, Roadnet sells software that logistics managers at companies such as Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch use to re-engineer their fleet routing.

Roadnet uses an underlying map database that can penalize or disable left-hand turns in the route planning process. The system is well suited to the delivery business because drivers can run circular routes, ending up where they started.

Using this technique, Roadnet customers generate surprising savings on fuel and emissions. Collectively, Roadnet clients save an estimated 54.4 million gallons of fuel a year and can cut about 85,000 trucks and cars out of their logistics systems.

"One customer in Florida parked two of its trucks, and then grew by 20% but didn't put those trucks back on the road until year four," Brandt says.


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