Launched in 2004, SmartWay® is an EPA program that reduces transportation-related emissions by creating incentives to improve supply chain fuel efficiency. For years shippers have worked to recognize and reward “SmartWay Carriers” with more business and bid awards. Some shippers have mandated that any carrier participating in their bid be SmartWay certified or become certified within a specified time period after the bid is completed.
But many shippers are also uncertain exactly what it means to be SmartWay certified and wonder “Is this just marketing?” or do SmartWay carriers have to really work to become certified?
Results of a recent survey initiated by PepsiCo and Transplace confirmed that SmartWay certification is much more than marketing, and carriers are working hard to evaluate, implement and optimize the technology changes that will significantly improve fleet fuel mileage performance.
We worked with many of our core carrier partners and the EPA SmartWay team to design the survey, which was sent to 65 carriers – representing a range of small, mid-sized and large carriers. The survey results showed which initiatives are being widely implemented with good results, and they also revealed some surprising insights.
SmartWay Technology Implementation
The survey and discussions with participating carriers confirmed that some initiatives have a clear payback and are widely implemented while others have a mixed track record on both ROI and levels of implementation. Widely implemented initiatives include:
- Drive Training and Awareness
- Reducing Highway Speed
- Progressive Shifting
- Verified Low Rolling Resistance Tires
- Record Engine / Performance Data (for driver feedback and training)
Each carrier is evaluating these initiatives on a wide range of criteria, such as fit with their fleet (avg. length of haul, trailer-to-tractor ratio, customer base, etc), cost to implement and capital plans. This was reflected in the survey results, and some of following initiatives showed a mixed level of adoption or implementation across fleets:
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System
- Trailer Gap Reducers
- Trailer Side Skirts
- Nitrogen Filled Tires
The survey uncovered a number of findings that stood out as surprises or gave a deeper understanding of why there is such a variance in how widely or consistently initiatives are implemented. Some of these include:
- Every technology does not fit every fleet. Side skirts, for example, have a higher payback for fleets with a longer average length of haul and/or a lower trailer-to-tractor ratio.
- It is difficult for carriers to get all of their existing trailers into the shop to retrofit them with fuel mileage technology. Some initiatives therefore, are either implemented only on new equipment purchases or as existing trailers come in for other repairs or work.
- While some initiatives may not have a clear ROI they may still be implemented on dedicated fleets where fleet customers want to maximize sustainability initiatives.
- Driver support may be difficult at first, but over time, as they see the benefits, they become enthusiastic supporters. Drivers reported liking that “side skirts” make pulling the trailers much easier while also helping improve fleet miles per gallon.
The SmartWay Technology Program has helped encourage industry adoption of fuel efficient technologies. As a result, carriers are doing their part to implement the initiatives that they believe fit their fleet, have a positive ROI, and help increase fleet fuel efficiency.
Original equipment manufacturers and after-market suppliers continue to improve the technology, and carriers are working with these partners to evaluate and improve these technology innovations. There is tremendous work being done in this area and its impact on fleet miles per gallon has been significant.
We continue to work with the EPA SmartWay Team, PepsiCo and carriers to expand the survey, while sharing the results with carriers and shippers to ultimately improve our collective understanding of how SmartWay technology is being implemented and the overall benefits for the whole industry.
Ben Cubitt is Senior Vice President of Transplace, leading the company’s Engineering, Consulting and Strategic Carrier Management team. Ben has been active in Supply Chain and Transportation optimization for over twenty years, with most of his time spent on the shipper side of the table with companies including Federal-Mogul, MeadWestaco and RockTenn Corp. He also has more than five years of experience in consulting.