Most operations executives in the industry would agree that an efficiently run business is also a business that is operating sustainably—namely, operating without waste and focused on reducing petroleum consumption. Transportation management systems (TMS) have evolved to the point of offering users a wide range of functionality yielding numerous opportunities to increase operating efficiencies, contain costs, and achieve sustainability goals.
No Idling Zone
Although conventional wisdom suggests that if you are operating your transportation network efficiently, you are probably operating sustainably as well, Cyndi Brandt cautions with a caveat to that belief. “You would be surprised to learn that it is not truly a one-to-one correlation,” says Brandt, vice president of marketing for Baltimore-based Roadnet Technologies. “Although you might reduce fleet miles—which is what our software does—you can completely erase any of those savings when you park your truck and leave it running. Sustainability ultimately comes down to reducing your petroleum consumption, which in turn reduces your carbon footprint. What is an eye-opener to many is the fact that idling is a very expensive endeavor, and we have found that truck drivers typically spend anywhere from 20 percent to 60 percent of their day idling.”
Some drivers believe they are operating their trucks efficiently because of the idling governors they have in place. “Governors are great because they will turn off your truck after it has remained idling for 5 minutes,” Brandt explains. “But what if you have a firmware updated to your engine and it is no longer working. We actually found that happening with several of our customers, who were surprised to discover they were really idling at tremendous levels every day.”
Most idling occurs during deliveries and when trucks are being loaded. “We have a few customers who couldn’t understand why their fuel consumption was so high,” continues Brandt. When Roadnet investigated, it discovered that employees loading the trucks and yard jockeys were starting the trucks at night, not turning them off until first thing the next morning. “It turned out to be a huge expenditure for those customers. The point I am making is you need to watch your idling habits—and it’s not just about making deliveries. It’s about monitoring your trucks when they are in the yard as well.”
Understanding these numerous cost-gobbling challenges facing transportation companies, Roadnet last June launched Roadnet Telematics, a box that floats into the engine control module. Advanced capabilities have been added to the product since its launch, notes Brandt, who adds that the company already has over 3,000 of these units in the field. “It has the ability to know when you are not moving when the ignition is on, and after a prescribed time period—our default is 300 seconds—it sends an alert through what we call an idling exception to advise someone is idling when they shouldn’t be.”
This information is critical in helping drivers develop habits that will enable them to perform more efficiently. When drivers are alerted to the number of idling incidents they were responsible for over a period of time, they can consciously stop bad behavior, Brandt says. An audible alert is also available that alerts a driver on the spot that he is idling and that his manager is aware of it. “We can even create a green scorecard based on mileage and the amount of time a driver idled relative to the number of stops and the number of total miles a driver drives every day.”
Brandt reports that a best-in-class driver with no power-take-offs should be able to achieve as low as 3 percent idling time throughout his total route time. “The thing to remember when thinking sustainably is that an hour of idling uses a gallon of gas, which is approximately 22.2 pounds of carbon that shoots out into the atmosphere.”