Top Couriers Become Greener Road Warriors
The three most popular courier services in the world are in fierce competition not only to make the most deliveries but to be the greenest while getting those millions of packages to their destinations.
DHL Express, a division of German logistics company Deutsche Post DHL; the American global courier delivery services company FedEx; and the American package delivery company United Parcel Service, or UPS, together move millions of packages every day.
Their fuel and vehicle choices have a big impact on the environment, and each is striving to be recognized as a green transport leader.
DHL's GoGreen Solutions
Based in Bonn, Germany with at least 90,000 employees around the world, DHL prides itself on its "GoGreen Solutions" to goods transport by air, ocean, road and rail. The company is optimizing transport routes and buying alternative drive vehicles.
In March 2017, Deutsche Post DHL Group’s registered a first for the logistics industry by announcing a commitment to reduce its logistics-related emissions to net zero by 2050. The mission of zero emissions logistics is supported by four interim milestones to be achieved by the year 2025 as part of the Group's environmental protection program GoGreen:
- To increase the carbon efficiency of its own activities and those of its transport subcontractors by 50 percent compared to the 2007 baseline.
- To operate 70 percent of its own first and last mile services with clean pick-up and delivery solutions, such as by bike and electric vehicle.
- To generate more than 50 percent of sales from products and services incorporating Green Solutions
- To train and certify 80 percent of its employees as GoGreen specialists and actively involve them in its environmental and climate protection activities
Now, DHL is expanding its environmentally-friendly City Hub concept in the Netherlands with customized electric vehicles.
The City Hub idea was launched in March 2017 in Utrecht, Netherlands and Frankfurt, Germany. These pilots linked the DHL Cubicycle – cargo bicycles, which can carry a specialized container with a load of up to 125kg – with a customized trailer carrying up to four containers.
DHL introduces Cubicycle, an innovative cargo bike for urban distribution, made by Flevobike
in Dronten, the Netherlands, a manufacturer of recumbent bicycles. (Photo courtesy DHL)
A DHL van brings the trailer into the city center, where the containers are quickly loaded on to Cubicycles for delivery over the last mile.
DHL is now extending its City Hub concept to inner-city deliveries in The Hague, Netherlands with a new pilot involving electric vehicles, including the StreetScooter electric delivery van.
In The Hague, a modified pickup version of a StreetScooter and a Nissan e-NV200 will take on the last-mile delivery of up to three containers each. Combined with larger 7.5-tonne trucks that can bring a higher number of 125kg containers into the city center, this will make overall transportation more efficient, the company says.
“As one step on our longer-term journey to reduce emissions to zero by 2050, Deutsche Post DHL Group has set a target of operating 70 percent of first and last-mile delivery services with clean transport modes by 2025. The City Hub concept is one innovative way in which DHL Express is contributing towards this target,” said John Pearson, CEO, DHL Express Europe.
“With its simple use of standardized containers, the City Hub is a flexible solution that will allow us to introduce more electric vehicles, bicycles and even walking couriers on inner-city routes," said Pearson. "This, in turn, will give us an even sharper competitive advantage as more and more cities around the world focus on promoting sustainable transport systems and competition intensifies among delivery companies over the last-mile.”
For longer range deliveries, DHL offers intermodal solutions that combine multiple modes of transport.
On shipments traveling from Penang, Malaysia to Bristol, England, for instance, customers have to date been able to choose only the slower and more carbon-efficient ocean route or the faster but more polluting air route.
Now, DHL can combine both for an intermodal solution, moving shipments from Penang to Dubai via ocean freight and then flying them from Dubai to the UK. Compared to air-only transport, the company calculates, this reduces carbon emissions by half; and compared to ocean-only freight, the goods arrive at their destination up to 20 days earlier.
DHL offers a Carbon Report and an advanced Online Carbon dashboard to help customers identify areas for improving their overall environmental performance and ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. To compensate for unavoidable emissions, DHL offers climate neutral services.
Fedex Keen on Green
Based in Memphis, Tennessee with more than 400,000 employees serving more than 220 countries and territories, Federal Express, known as FedEx, is determined to make more of its deliveries more sustainable.
In an open letter earlier this year, Fedex Chairman and CEO Frederick Smith said, "As trade connects the world and enhances prosperity, we understand that how we connect the world matters. By incorporating sustainability efforts throughout our global network, we’re reducing the environmental footprint of commerce."
"Since 2008," wrote Smith, "we’ve saved more than 158 million gallons of vehicle fuel by replacing vehicles with more efficient models and making greater use of electric vehicles, fuel cells, natural gas, hybrids and clean truck technologies."
The Fedex chief is pleased with the progress his company has made already. In FY15, five years ahead of target, Fedex met its goal of increasing FedEx Express vehicle fuel efficiency by 30 percent from a 2005 baseline.
"We’ve now set a new goal," wrote Smith. "By 2025, we want to increase vehicle fuel efficiency by 50 percent from a 2005 baseline, or 17 percent from a 2015 baseline."
"In FY16, we saved more than 153 million gallons of jet fuel by continuing to modernize our aviation fleet and improve operations," he wrote. "As a result, we avoided the equivalent of almost 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions."
In 2016, Fedex saved $233 million by moving toward the company's goal of reducing aircraft emissions intensity 30 percent from a 2005 baseline by 2020. The savings was accomplished by aircraft fleet modernization and FedEx FuelSense operational improvements. The company achieved a 22 percent reduction in FY 2016.
Now, Fedex has set a goal of obtaining 30 percent of jet fuel from alternative fuels by 2030. The first delivery of commercially viable and available alternative fuels is anticipated in 2019.
The company saved $48 million by moving toward the company's goal of increasing Fedex Express vehicle fuel efficiency 50 percent from a 2005 baseline by 2025. Fedex recorded a cumulative improvement of 35 percent in fuel efficiency in FY 16, achieved by "fuel-efficient driving, vehicle technology improvements and alternative fuel useage."
Blogging on the Fedex website, Jason Baker wrote in January, "At FedEx, as we continue our development of the fleet of the future, we look at things like electric vehicles, hydrogen, and alternative fuels."
As part of the company's EarthSmart program, Fedex has just invested in more than 100 new tractor-trailers that run on compressed natural gas. Those vehicles are part of a test at the FedEx Freight hub in Oklahoma City.
"We’re looking at how tractors run, as well as ease of use from our drivers and technicians’ perspectives. We’re also looking to figure out if natural gas vehicles can have a lower maintenance cost," said Baker.
CNG tractors are more expensive than traditional diesels, but they have a similar range of 750 miles, and the driver certification is the same.
Special equipment is required to fill the tanks safely, so Fedex has equipped its Oklahoma City Service Center with a new CNG fueling station. Its “Time-Fill” option allows employees to hook up hoses to as many as 18 trucks at a time to refuel them overnight. Drivers can hook up and walk away, returning in the morning to a fully fueled vehicle.
Fedex is reaching out around the world to develop safer and greener operations.
Smith says, "In cities from Mexico City to Mumbai, we’re working with EMBARQ, part of the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, to develop safe and sustainable transport and planning solutions. EMBARQ adapted the FedEx Safety First manual to train 1,150 public transportation drivers in three Mexico cities. As a result of the training, more than 1.2 million passengers a day benefit from safer bus systems."
UPS 'Rolling Laboratory' Hits Billionth Mile
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, UPS' 434,000 employees delivered 4.9 billion packages and documents in 2016, about 19 million a day, to more than 220 countries and territories.
Many millions of those packages were delivered via UPS' "rolling laboratory" of advanced technology vehicles powered by alternative fuels.
The rolling laboratory has more than 8,100 vehicles worldwide, including hybrid electric, electric, propane, biomethane, lightweight fuel-saving composite body diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), ethanol, and hydraulic hybrid cars and trucks.
In August 2016, one year earlier than planned, UPS achieved its goal of driving one billion miles in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles, the company said in its 2016 Sustainability Report.
UPS Chairman and CEO David Abney wrote in his introduction to that report, "To reduce absolute emissions, we will increasingly rely on renewable energy sources throughout our operations. We are accelerating our investments across our fleet and facilities, aiming for 25 percent of our total electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025."
"We’re also testing new applications for renewable energy sources," wrote Abney. "For example, we’re giving vehicle batteries a second life as storage devices for solar energy in our facilities, and we’re exploring ways to use renewable natural gas in fuel cell electric vehicles in the future."
Some 19.6 percent of the conventional diesel and gasoline fuel previously used by UPS’s ground fleet is now being replaced by alternative fuels, including renewable natural gas and renewable diesel. Globally, since 2009, UPS has invested more than US$750 million in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations.
Now UPS is investing more than US$90 million more in natural gas vehicles and infrastructure.
In March 2017, UPS announced plans to build six more CNG fueling stations and add 390 new CNG tractors and terminal trucks plus 50 LNG vehicles to its fleet.
The six new CNG stations are going up in Ontario, California; Orlando, Florida; Salina, Kansas; Louisville, Kentucky; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Renewable natural gas (RNG) will be used at the station in Ontario. Known as biomethane, RNG can be derived from decomposing organic waste in landfills, wastewater treatment and agriculture, distributed through the natural gas pipeline system, and used as liquid or compressed natural gas.
Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president global engineering and sustainability, said, “We know the importance of investing in natural gas globally for our fleet and the alternative fuel market. In 2016, we used more than 61 million gallons of natural gas in our ground fleet, which included 4.6 million gallons of renewable natural gas. This helped us to avoid the use of conventional gas and diesel, and decreased CO2 emissions by 100,000 metric tons.”
Problems still arise for hauling the heaviest loads, and finding low-carbon propulsion systems for the big class 8 truck tractors that pull trailers weighing up to 80,000 pounds is a challenge.
Renewable compressed and liquefied natural gas are the best option today, but they lack adequate commercial scale and infrastructure.
Electrification will play a major role in the future of transportation, says Mike Britt, UPS director of maintenance and engineering, International Operations. "In many areas of the world, electrical grids must keep pace with electric vehicle technology. Today, that’s a challenge in Europe, where older infrastructure is costly to update, and in Asia, where adequate infrastructure has yet to be built."
The greatest obstacle to low-carbon transportation of goods may simply be one of economics. In prolonged periods of low petroleum prices, incentives for research and investment in alternative fuels and technologies decline, and the business case for gasoline substitutes becomes much harder to make.
The good news, says Britt, "none of these challenges are insurmountable."
Britt said, "When our fleet of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles logged its one billionth mile in 2016, we wondered, 'At what point will the alternative fleet become the norm?' The answer: sooner than you might think. We are bringing that answer closer with our new goal of committing 25 percent of our total new vehicle purchases to this fleet by 2020."
What Good Are Electric Buses to Pune?
The sprawling city of Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, home to more than three million residents, experiences all the problems of modern traffic - jams and polluted air that has gotten much worse in the past three years.
Now, in an effort to clear the air in India's seventh largest city, the Pune Smart City Development Corporation (PSCDCL) plans to introduce electric buses in the city.
Initially, three electric buses will be brought in on a trial basis for one month. Three companies will provide one bus each to operate on a pilot basis.
Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd. (PMPML) will operate the buses; the city will provide a charging station and pay for replenishing the batteries. The Pune Municipal Corporation will provide electricity.
PSCDCL Board member Chetan Tupe said in April that the city is being cautious. “During the discussion of electrical buses, we have decided not to deploy 100 electrical buses without checking its financial viability and performance. The trial run of three buses will help us know the expenditure on electricity taken to recharge a bus.”
But the problem is that three electric buses operating for one month are too few to make a change in the city's air quality, which is bad and getting worse.
Data on Pune from the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme shows that between 1999 and 2004 nitrogen dioxide levels due to vehicle emissions had increased. Coarse particles up to 10 micrometres in diameter, mainly from dust stirred by vehicles, ranged from unhealthy to critical, according to an April report by the "Indian Express."
The latest data from 2008-2016, shows that the increasing number of vehicles on the Pune's roads has led to rising nitrogen dioxide levels. Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter has remained above permissible limits throughout the last few years, the data show.
Many cities are working together to invest in clean buses, and Pune might find help there for its electric bus venture, although other Indian cities also have hit roadblocks in bringing electric buses to their streets.
Created and led by cities, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) connects 90 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 650+ million people and one quarter of the global economy.
The C40 Cities Transportation Initiative works to facilitate and accelerate C40 cities’ efforts to combat emissions from the transportation sector, where global greenhouse gas emissions are rising the fastest.
Among the C40 Cities members are the great Indian cities of Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai.
In Delhi, the government’s plans to introduce 25 electric buses has been put on the shelf. While the buses have low operating costs compared to the CNG low-floor buses now plying Delhi streets, they are expensive to purchase.
In Kolkata, the Bengal state government is planning to authorize electric buses. Suvendu Adhikari, the state Transport Minister, said, “We have received proposals to allow plying of electric buses in the city. We are going through the plan to ply buses that are also already operational in some cities in the country.”
In Mumbai, the city is coming to the end of a six month trial of six diesel-electric hybrid buses. Some cities, like Delhi and Mumbai, already are using CNG for the bus operations.
But the acceptance of electric and hybrid buses is slow in India, because the average cost of hybrid or electric buses is three to four times higher than that of diesel buses. With the current decrease in the cost of diesel fuel, there is littleincentive for the operators to shift from polluting diesel to cleaner hybrid or electric buses.
Ridesharing Drivers Share Trip Stats
Easy Taxi, Grab, and Le.Taxi - three ridesharing companies that, combined, cover more than 30 countries and millions of people - are partnering with the World Bank and other organizations to make traffic data from their drivers’ GPS streams open to the world, under an open data license.
The new information flow is intended to empower transport agencies to develop better, evidence-based solutions to traffic and road safety issues.
Through the new Open Transport Partnership, these companies, along with founding members Mapzen, the World Resources Institute, Miovision, NDrive, and the National Association of City Transportation Officials, hope to transform the way big data companies collaborate with governments for the public good.
“As the largest taxi hailing app across Latin America, we view the Foundation as an important next step in powering the future of an open market for transport services,” said Jorge Pilo, CEO of Easy Taxi. “As a founding data partner, Easy Taxi is committed to using our access to insightful traffic data for the global public good.”
The Open Transport Partnership builds upon the success of Open Traffic, a pilot program launched in the Philippines in April 2016.
In Metro Manila, congestion costs the economy more than US$60 million a day and many residents spend over two hours traveling just eight kilometers (five miles) during the evening commute.
Other cities face similar challenges. Yet, traditional methods for collecting traffic data needed to address congestion are costly, requiring either labor-intensive field work or capital-intensive sensor data networks.
In the Philippines, the World Bank collaborated with Grab, with support from the Korea Green Growth Trust Fund, to develop an open-source platform for using "anonymized" GPS data generated by more than 500,000 Grab drivers to analyze traffic congestion peak patterns and travel times.
Anthony Tan, Grab CEO and Co-founder, said, "It takes a long term commitment to solve traffic congestion, particularly as public transport infrastructure in Southeast Asia is still developing to meet the needs of its growing urban population."
Through the Open Transport Partnership, the success of this pilot will be replicated in other countries, including Malaysia, Brazil and Colombia.
“This is the first scalable open-source program of its kind. We want to empower lower income countries to leapfrog a stage in their ITS development - and hopefully, support better transport outcomes in advanced economies as well,” said Holly Krambeck, World Bank senior transportation specialist.
“Traffic congestion and poorly-performing streets are an issue in every city,” said Linda Bailey, executive director of the North American-based National Association of City Transportation Officials.
“Access to high-quality trip data is a substantial hurdle to our member cities in making informed decisions on transportation infrastructure and policy, especially in light of the quickly changing dynamics in transport service provision. The Open Transport Partnership will provide cities with the much-needed tools to understand traffic patterns and plan for better mobility.”
By Sunny Lewis – Environment News Service
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