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Why Sustainability is an Urgent Goal for the Fleet Shipping Industry

6 minute read

If the shipping industry was a country, it would be a bigger polluter than Germany. There are all sorts of reasons for that, including a steady increase in e-commerce.

Experts predict carbon emissions from shipping will rise anywhere from 50 to 250% by 2050 if no action is taken. This provides an opportunity for industry decision makers to display leadership in the pursuit of sustainable industry solutions.

Carbon Impact of Shipping

Shipping Methods

The shipping industry is made up of several different types of transport. This also means different levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.

Manufacturing relies heavily on global shipping. Most of the time, the parts that make up something aren’t sourced from the same place. Maritime shipping gets completed goods and raw materials to and from overseas markets. It’s no surprise, then, that maritime shipping makes up 90% of world trade. It also generates about 3% of total GHG emissions per year.

Shipping by ocean is not the only way to transport cargo around the world. Air freight has become increasingly popular as a faster international shipping method. Aircraft are notorious for being large carbon emitters.

When it comes to carbon, air freight has a higher footprint than ocean freight. This doesn't necessarily mean that ocean freight is better. Ocean cargo ships tend to burn lower grades of fuel (bunker fuel) that has a high sulfur content. Aside from CO2 emissions, jet fuel burns cleaner. Jet airliners have become more efficient over the past 20 years — but air travel volume has increased.

When it comes to land transportation, commercial vehicles play a large part in carbon emissions. This includes cars, vans, trucks, and specialist vehicles. When it comes to vehicle fleets, a 2018 EPA report found medium- and heavy-duty trucks contribute 23% of overall GHG emissions. In the US, regulations have helped to address vehicle fleet carbon emissions. For example, there are GHG emission and fuel economy standards for manufactured medium and heavy duty trucks. There has also been an increase in innovative new vehicle technology, like electric delivery trucks.

Cargo transportation on land also includes rail. Freight railroads account for the smallest percentage of GHG emissions. From a physics perspective, long-haul transportation by train is rather efficient. This is because the physics of steel rolling on steel is less friction than rubber on concrete. Rail is also the most electrified transportation sector: globally, three-quarters of rail passengers and half of rail freight rely on electricity.

Increase of E-commerce

Shipping is a growing sector as technology and consumer behavior changes. In 2021, the trucking industry expects to see gains in both shipment volumes and rates.

The rise of e-commerce has played a big part in the increase of home deliveries. At the height of the pandemic in the US last year, home deliveries rose to 70% of UPS’ volume. The uptick in volume has been a strain for some parcel delivery companies. Parcel delivery drivers have to make more stops. This means more time on the road, for both vehicles and drivers.

Consumer behavior with the increase of e-comm has also changed. Return rates online can be up to four times higher than in brick-and-mortar stores. Individual packaging for shipping typically contains single-use materials. Sometimes, these materials are not as easily recyclable as consumers think.

The rise of e-commerce is an exciting development. It also means more cargo transportation will be needed. Fleet managers can get ahead of the curve with sustainable fleets. A more sustainable fleet is not only better prepared for the future but it can offer consumers peace of mind, as well.

Shipping Trends and IoT Solutions

The shipping industry has taken on initiatives to address its carbon footprint. IoT has also been an important partner in tackling these issues.

Sailing transatlantic ships at lower speeds, or ‘slow steaming’, has become a trend for maritime shipping. The practice saves both money and fuel emissions. It does, however, create longer lead times. “Smart steaming” is a rising solution that uses real-time data to determine the best conditions for ships to slow down.

In the vehicle fleet industry, trends have moved towards electrification and automation. Vehicle fleets have become more electric and low carbon. Amazon alone has ordered 100,000 electric vehicles. The company has also pledged to be carbon neutral by 2040.

Even with gas trucks, IoT can help fleets achieve sustainable practices. Real-time data can also help optimize truck deliveries. This cuts down on wasted fuel. IoT data can help fleet managers address areas of fuel waste. This can range from unnecessary idling while driving to equipment that is not functioning properly.

Information is key when it comes to new sustainable practices. Real-time data gives decision makers a high-level yet detailed understanding of their carbon output.

Smart Solutions for Sustainability

The shipping industry can gain a lot from investing in sustainable solutions. IoT technology can help get it there. Solutions driven by data are smart and efficient. They save money and give fleet managers the full picture. They can also be used for good.

For more information on IoT solutions for sustainability, download our e-book. KORE Fleet is a leader in fleet telematics and is invested in using IoT for good.

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Topic(s): Fleet , Featured

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