On 05 November 2018 | Logistics Junction

Eco-Friendly Transportation - Logistics Industry’s Effort to Reduce Carbon Emissions

What is Green Logistics?

The logistics industry is one of the major contributors to environmental despoliation. Around a quarter of global CO2 emissions are due to fossil fuel combustion in transport sector alone, according to International Energy Association. While Europe and the developed world have taken concrete actions to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from the logistics and commercial transport sector, the developing nations have barely moved beyond paying lip service. As witnessed in the developed world, increase in emission is in lockstep with economic growth; for instance, the CAGR in Indian CO2 emissions from transport sector due to fossil fuel combustion has been around 4.5 % compared to 1.16 % in OECD countries and 1.04 % in North America in the previous decade. No wonder, environment, and growth are often couched in mutually antagonistic terms, especially in India, which is in a great hurry to catch up on growth. Transportation globally accounts for major impact on the environment. Out of total carbon dioxide emission, 75% of it is contributed by road transport vehicles, and this number is growing exponentially. Also, 95% of the road transportation consumes oil, which leads to around 60% consumption of the total oil in the world. All this puts the national government under strong pressure to come up with domestic transportation solutions to reduce pollution and gasoline demands.

Why is Eco-Friendly Logistics Important in India?

Commercially viable and efficient alternatives are not available and high capital investment costs deter the fragmented, small-scale Indian logistics services sector from importing these eco-friendly technologies. On the other hand, players in the Indian logistics industry are yet to appreciate that green logistics is compatible with their bottom-line. Fuel efficiency, payload management, routing, and driving techniques matter a lot in saving costs. For small truck service companies masquerading as logistics operators, performance metrics for monitoring these aspects are alien practices. Going green and being greener than your competitors is still not an advantage in Indian logistics industry due to consumer apathy. Reverse logistics industry that takes care of recovery—retrieval of parts, recycling of products and disposal of packaging waste—is almost non-existent in India. With the rise of e-commerce, there is a concomitant rise in packaging waste. Though many e-retailers no longer provide paper receipts to enhance their green-image, they still do not provide consumers with the option of disposing of packaging material, even at a nominal cost. Mandatory legislation regarding these aspects like in the E. U. would prod both consumers and businesses in the right direction and push towards a ‘circular economy’ while contributing to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan as well.

Over the years, the share of rail transport has decreased drastically by more than two-thirds from 89 % in 1951, while the share of road transport has increased seven-fold from 10 % within the same period. Restoring rail as a primary mode of transport, in particular for freight, would be essential, as rail emissions (per tonne-km) are at least five times lesser than road emissions. Although Indian roads, despite being in bad shape, will still retain a major share of commercial transportation as they alone can provide door-to-door delivery until we move on to intermodal transport with roads providing only the last-mile delivery. Building bypass roads for managing congestion, adding capacity at specific chokepoints and speeding up traffic are obvious solutions, as despite increase in traveling distances CO2 emissions are lesser due to optimal speed. Yet, we have not been able to do this in the Pune or Mumbai Logistics transportation sector; almost 80,000 trucks pass through here every night for want of bypass roads. Replacement of fossil fuel based technology with bio-fuel based one or even with alternatives like CNG, hybrid, battery-operated vehicles and equipment is improbable in the short to mid-term.

Ways to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Road transportation being a prime contributor to polluting the environment, steps should be taken to reduce the greenhouse gas emission and achieve a sustainable atmosphere. This corresponds to green transportation, which includes eco-friendly transportation practices that do not lay a negative impact on the environment.

  1. Reducing trips – Reducing the number of trips helps reduce the amount of fuel consumption and emissions. Freight vehicles can combine part load bookings into a single load to reduce trips.
  2. Use public transportation – Public transport vehicles carry a large number of people in a single vehicle. In addition, they are cheap and easily accessible. They can also be a boon for logistics companies, especially in Pune and Mumbai as the providers can send smaller loads through public cargo trains or vehicles. As public transportation is facilitated by the government, hopefully, appropriate green transportation measures must have been taken.
  3. Using Bio-Diesel and electricity to power the logistics vehicle – As logistics and supply chain vehicles also account for environmental pollution, using Eco – friendly fuel and electricity can be a good way to preserve the environment.
  4. Prefer multiple occupant vehicles – Rather than four transportation drivers using individual vehicles while going in the same direction, it is more economical and environmentally-friendly to use one vehicle. As apparent from the scenario, the greenhouse gas emission can be reduced to 1/4th.
  5. Modifying aerodynamics of the vehicle – Even the structure and the body of the vehicle impacts the gas consumption. Changing the vehicle’s body for the smooth movement will consume less fuel, and thus, less emission.

Implementation of green initiatives has emerged as one of the top trends in the Logistics & Supply Chain industry worldwide. The uncertain economic conditions have urged the players of the supply chain industry such as the logistics companies in Pune, Mumbai, and other metros to rethink their strategies and prioritize long-term sustainability as the main focus area. Thus, green transportation must be adopted by all transport services, as it involves practices including effective utilization of resources, adapting transportation structure and making healthier commuting choices. This demands public awareness and active participation of the companies manufacturing vehicles. They must pioneer the use of renewable sources of energy and avoid using methods and materials that emit harmful gases.