Effective emissions reduction: data transparency holds the key

4 October 2019 - Our Technical Development Director Alan Lewis shares his insights from last month's decarbonising freight transport and logistics​ workshop at the ITS4 Climate conference in Bordeaux.


Last month I attended the first ITS4Climate conference. Here I presented how ITS and data transparency can help improve logistics efficiency, and smooth processes for the calculation, reporting and reduction of emissions. So what are the barriers to action on emissions reduction? How can the integration of systems lead to good decision making on GHG emissions? My key points from the morning workshop are summarised below.

Breaking down the barriers to action
Urgent action is needed. GHG emissions from freight transport and logistics continue to increase at a global level. Global GDP and trade are on the rise, and new markets opening. Combined with lengthening of supply chains, this results in more freight transport activity. However, there is a need to reduce total emissions if we are to meet climate targets, meaning we need a step change improvement in emission intensity.

Effective emission reduction strategy
Although there is a tendency to focus on new, low emission fuel technologies, there is a range of other actions that can be considered. These include: local sourcing of goods, shifting to lower emission transport modes, consolidating loads within the chosen mode, retrofitting efficiency equipment to existing vehicles, training drivers and installing telematics support equipment. Many of these are already in place in well-managed supply chains, but this is by no means universal and the savings can be substantial.

For example, combining data about shipments being produced by different companies based in the same area - that would otherwise be transported separately - can lead to fuller vehicles. This means fewer vehicles on the road to fulfil the same demand, lower costs and fewer emissions. Data collected from one of the cases in the EC funded AEOLIX project suggested emission reductions of 43% from this type of load consolidation alone.

Data transparency holds the key
Achieving this reduction requires some form of platform for the shippers and carriers to match loads, which was one of the key elements of AEOLIX. Estimation of the emission reduction impact can be done if shippers use the information in their own systems to best effect. However, adding the (potentially more accurate) information known to carrier would add further accuracy to the calculation.

Integration of systems
One of the barriers to good decision making on reducing GHG emissions is decision makers having access to good quality data within the broad freight transport and logistics ecosystem. The commercial nature of the relationship between customer and transport operator may always lead to a certain level of caution, and an inherent aversion to data sharing. However, the current situation, where there is little or no scope for interoperability between carrier and customer systems, whether developed in-house or provided by commercial providers, and no standardization, is a significant barrier. When combined, the information contained in carrier fleet management and customer transport management systems would provide everything necessary for an accurate calculation of total GHG emissions and emission intensity.

KPIs are king
Road transport operators are used to thinking in terms of miles per gallon or litres per 100km. While relevant for standard, vehicle only tests, this KPI is not helpful on its own when trying to improve overall efficiency – it takes no account of the extent of empty running of vehicle loading. A well-run operator with a good telematics system will know the extent of empty running of vehicle loading, and be trying to minimize them. It’s a straightforward step to incorporate them into a single KPI that allows monitoring of overall efficiency and which can also help customers reward good performance.

Take action…
- Suppliers of freight transport telematics systems need to upgrade their systems to combine traditional fuel consumption, empty running and vehicle loading data into a single carbon intensity KPI.
- Customers of freight transport services need to request data so that transport operators and telematics providers see a commercial need to make this change.
- Suppliers of freight transport telematics systems and TMS providers need to come together and agree interoperability standards and partner to enable seamless data transfer.

Are you ready to report, reduce and collaborate?

GLEC was set up to establish and implement a global, transparent framework for calculating, reporting and reducing logistics emissions. Find out more below