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How Real-Time Container Tracking Helps Build a Sustainable Supply Chain

December 8, 2023

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to anthropogenic U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. [...] transportation accounted for the largest portion (27%) of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2020.” While some logistics professionals may look at this number and shrug, the federal government is increasingly placing pressure on the transportation sector to clean up its act. 

As part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law on August 16th, 2022, the federal government is allocating significant cash toward creating a more sustainable logistics industry. FreightWaves, “The IRA includes production and investment tax credits for battery storage and renewable wind and solar energy. This should make it greener and cheaper for supply chain companies to power their warehouses, distribution centers, and stores [...] The IRA includes $3 billion in grants and rebates for port authorities and marine terminals to purchase zero-emission cargo-handling equipment until September 2027.” With billions in federal dollars dedicated to greening the logistics industry through regulatory compliance measures, it’s clear that shippers are facing mounting pressures to go green and fast. 

But it’s not just the federal government that wants to see a more sustainable supply chain. In recent reporting, SupplyChainBrain, quoting logistics industry expert TJ Roberts, reported that “As many as 90% of e-commerce customers today are interested in sustainable shipping options,” with further reporting from SupplyChainBrain stating “a majority of consumers would be willing to accept slower deliveries if doing so were beneficial to the environment, and a substantial proportion would even pay more for “green” delivery options.” Today’s consumers don’t just want fast delivery; they want green delivery. Yet many customers struggle to find sustainable shipping options in a logistics industry where semi-trucks consumed 36.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel in 2020 alone. 

Facing pressure from the federal government and customers alike, today’s shippers are searching for sustainable solutions. For most, the first step isn’t implementing an electric fleet or declaring carbon neutrality; rather, it’s investing in strategies that help them do more with what they have. By investing in improved container visibility, shippers can use container real-time container tracking to do more with less. To help shippers get started, we’ve identified three key strategies for shippers looking to use container tracking innovations to create a sustainable supply chain. 

Improved Routing Means Less Fuel

Though the images of container ships waiting outside harbors—more than 100 of them outside Port Long Beach in October of 2021, according to reporting from The Guardian–may seem like flashbacks from a bad dream to today’s logistics professionals, it’s impossible to predict when the next logistics crisis might strike. Rather than wasting fuel idling in times of crisis, sustainability-minded shippers should partner with an API-enabled container tracking provider to access the responsive routing they need to face real-world logistics crises in real time. With container visibility through a container tracking software provider, shippers can access up-to-date shipping information and analytics that allow them to make the last-minute, high-stakes decisions required by today’s logistics environment. 

According to reporting from National Public Radio (NPR), “[...] container ships plying the world's waterways spew about 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air, which is about three 3% of all greenhouse gas emissions.” With container ships responsible for such a large portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, it’s clear that shippers have a difficult task ahead in curbing output. Shippers can access the container visibility they need to improve routing and eliminate unnecessary freight movement through container tracking technology. 

Intelligent Allocation Strategies Mean Fewer Trips

According to recent reporting from Vox, “The shipping industry accounts for about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is comparable to the total emissions from aviation.” Facing statistics like these, it’s clear that dramatic change is needed to build a sustainable logistics industry. For shippers facing a volatile logistics industry and pressure from regulatory bodies and customers, the question is not so much ‘how do we use less fuel on our trips?’ but rather ‘how do we make fewer trips?’

One easy answer to this question: is improved allocation. Through the rigorous implementation of container tracking technology, shippers can curate a more detailed understanding of how freight assets are being transported and sight worrying trends that would otherwise go unnoticed. Shippers can use innovative container tracking developments to see assets moving in real-time, and what freight is loaded onto which cargo assets. This detailed container visibility, paired with a cloud-based communication platform, ensures that operations remain as centralized and efficient as possible. For shippers, container visibility through a container tracking software solution allows unprecedented insight into how assets move from A to B. 

Do Away With Dead Mileage

According to McKinsey, a consumer company’s logistics results in a staggering 80% of its total emissions. Many of these emissions result from logistical inefficiencies, such as dead mileage. In logistics, dead mileage, also known as deadhead miles, occurs when a truck travels empty due to a lack of freight traveling in the same direction. 

Besides being a hazard to driver safety–empty trucks are 2.5 times more likely to crash than full trucks–dead miles are a nightmare for shippers pushing toward improved sustainability in their supply chain. FreightWaves recently reported that “87 million metric tons of truckload freight’s annual carbon emissions can be traced to non-revenue—or empty—miles.” 

For many shippers, dead miles seem like an inevitability; however, by improving container visibility through container tracking software, shippers can reveal efficiency opportunities that were previously invisibile. Once efficiency opportunities are revealed–such as previously unknown load opportunities–shippers use API-enabled, cloud-based communication platforms. With container tracking, shippers can reduce dead mileage with unprecedented ease. By using improved container visibility to reduce or eliminate dead mileage, shippers can not only create a safer work environment for the logistics professionals they work with but can dramatically reduce their carbon emissions. 

Step Toward Sustainability with Container Tracking from OpenTrack. 

For shippers looking to take steps toward sustainability on their own terms, before new regulations do it for them, partnering with a real-time container tracking software provider is a must-have. By partnering with OpenTrack, an API-enabled, cloud-based container visibility solution, shippers can access the real-time analytics, container tracking, and intelligent allocation they need to curb emissions and improve efficiency. Book a demo with OpenTrack today, and see what a sustainable supply chain can do for your business.

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