Action on climate change: Freight consolidation to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions
In this post, we start by making a review of the importance of taking action on climate change. We continue by presenting data that helps to understand the impact that the transportation sector in North America, and particularly freight transportation, has on climate change. Finally, we explain one of the strategies that can be applied in the freight transportation sector to help cutting greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere: Freight consolidation.
Real action on climate change is imperative
Real action on climate change is crucial. “The UN estimates that the world would need to increase its efforts between three- and five-fold to contain climate change to the levels dictated by science – a 1.5°C rise at most – and avoid escalating climate damage already taking place around the world.”
According to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, “The best science, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tells us that any temperature rise above 1.5 degrees will lead to major and irreversible damage to the ecosystems that support us”. In fact, “Science tells us that on our current path, we face at least 3-degrees Celsius of global heating by the end of the century. ”.
Environmental impact of freight transport
Increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere causes the Earth’s atmosphere to warm, which results in climate change. Examples of greenhouse gases are methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, and carbon dioxide. Cars and Trucks burn fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel, releasing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases emissions from transportation in Canada, the US, and Mexico
Greenhouse gases emissions from transportation in the United States
- In 2014, the second highest emiting country was the United States with 17.7% of global GHG emissions.
- In 2017, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,456.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.
- In that country, transportation is the largest source of GHG emissions. In fact, it accounts for about 29% of the US total GHG emissions.
- Medium and Heavy -Duty Trucks accounted for 23% of the GHG emissions in the transportation sector in the US in 2017.
Greenhouse gases emissions from transportation in Canada
- Canada’s emissions in 2014 made up 1.6% of global emissions.
- In that country, the transportation sector was the second largest source of GHG emissions in 2017 (24%).
- Moreover, there was a growth of 43% in GHG emissions between 1990 and 2017, which was mostly driven by increases from freight trucks and passenger light trucks.
- Freight trucks GHG emissions in Canada were 59.9 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 2017, whereas in 1990 Freight truck GHG emissions were 19.4 Mt CO2 eq.
Greenhouse gases emissions from transportation in Mexico
- In 2013, Mexico’s total GHG emissions were 665.5 MtCO2e, totaling 1.38 percent of global GHG emissions.
- In Mexico, 26% of the total GHG emissions come from transportation, which is the largest source of the total GHG emissions of that country.
Reducing Carbon Pollution from Freight Transportation: Freight consolidation
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has identified strategies to cut GHG emissions and local air pollution while driving business value. One of those strategies is “Getting the most of every move”.
Fuller truckloads are more environmentally friendly and have more business value. However, “15–25 percent of U.S. trucks on the road are empty and, for non-empty miles, trailers are 36 percent underutilized.”, explains Homayoun Taherian in his article Co-loading your way to green.
And, “Capturing just half of this under-utilized capacity would cut freight truck emissions by 100 million tons per year – about 20 percent of all U.S. freight emissions – and reduce expenditures on diesel fuel by more than $30 billion a year”1
Freight consolidation helps to reduce the percentage of truck underutilized and cuts freight truck Greenhouse gas emissions. Freight consolidation is a freight transport service in which several loads, all of them being forwarded to the same location, are shipped together in a Truck.
Greenhouse gas calculation for North American Freight
The Center for Transportation and Logistics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offers the formula for the greenhouse gas calculation.
D x W x EF
D= The distance your shipment has traveled
W= The weight of the shipment
EF = The mode’s specific emissions factor from the Environmental Defense Fund chart.
The weight-based truck emissions factor is 161.8 because the average freight truck in the U.S. emits 161.8 grams of CO2 per short ton-mile.
Example: Calculating emissions from truckload move from Montreal to Laredo
Formula= D x W x EF
Distance= 2,184.6 miles from Montreal to Laredo
Weight= 22 short tons, which is the maximum weight admissible for a 53ft Dry Van.
EF= 161.8 (161.8 grams of CO2 per short ton-mile)
2,184.6 miles x 22 short tons = 48 048 ton-miles
48 048 ton-miles x 161.8 grams of CO2 per ton-mile = 7 774 166.4 grams of CO2
7 774 166.4 grams of CO2 = 7.77 metric tons of CO2 for this move.
Therefore, a Dry Van going from Montreal to Laredo at its maximum weight capacity accounts for 7.77 metric tons of CO2.
How freight consolidation reduces the amount of CO2 emissions
Imagine there are three shippers sending freight from Montreal to Laredo.
- Shipper A sends a load of 10 tons
- Shipper B sends a load of 4 tons
- Shipper C sends a load of 5 tons
As we said, a Dry Van going from Montreal to Laredo at its maximum weight capacity accounts for 7.77 metric tons of CO2.
On one hand, if each of these shippers ships its freight separately in a 53ft Dry Van, each shipper would account for 7.77 metric tons of CO2, a total of 23.1 metric tons of CO2.
On the other hand, Mexicom Logistics can consolidate the 3 shippers freight at its Consolidation center in Montreal and use only one 53ft Dry Van for the 3 loads, reducing the emissions of CO2 from 23.1 metric tons of CO2 to 7.77 metric tons of CO2 for the three shipments. Also, every shipper would reduce its CO2 emissions in the following proportion:
- Shipper A, which sends a load of 10 tons, reduces its CO2 emissions from 7.77 metric tons of CO2 to 3.5 metric tons of CO2 by using a freight consolidation service.
- Shipper B, which sends a load of 10 tons, reduces its CO2 emissions from 7.77 metric tons of CO2 to 1.41 metric tons of CO2 by using a freight consolidation service.
- Shipper C, which sends a load of 10 tons, reduces its CO2 emissions from 7.77 metric tons of CO2 to 1.76 metric tons of CO2 by using a freight consolidation service.
1 Russell D. Meller, Kimberly P. Ellis, Bill Loftis “From Horizontal Collaboration to the Physical Internet: Quantifying the Effects on Sustainability and Profits When Shifting to Interconnected Logistics Systems” Final Research Report of the CELDi Physical Internet Project, Phase I. September 2012.
Blanco, Edgar, Center for Transportation and Logistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delivering
“Green,” Case Studies in Carbon-Efficient Logistics. April 17, 2013.