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Challenges of Green Logistics

“Going green” is a catch phrase that so many marketers have used in recent years because the public is growing more conscious of environmental issues.  After all, we all want to do what is best to be sure our planet will be here for generations to come, right? Most cities across the country have implemented  recycling programs.  Many building contractors have embraced the concept of using recycled materials in both commercial and family home construction.

But what does this interest in “green” mean for logistics?

Some green improvements are easy and actually save businesses money. Carriers are already involved in the green movement as necessity, with things like improving fuel economy.  Small package companies like UPS have reconfigured drivers’ routes to maximize right turns.  The advantage here is that it increases the chances that a driver can make a “right on red,” thus avoiding long idling times.  Truckload carriers have added skirts and rear “trailer tails”  to greatly reduce fuel costs.  Ocean carriers have also implemented “slow steaming” techniques to save greatly on fuel costs.

But other green improvements are very costly to implement, or are government mandated.  And things like moving freight at a slower pace to save fuel is simply not accepted by a society that still expects goods to be delivered at a faster and faster rate.

A case in point is a recent report released by the California Cleaner Freight Coalition outlining ways to overhaul the state’s freight system to improve air quality standards.  You can read a summary of the report here:   Moving California Forward Executive Summary.  

The report is very thorough in outlining ways to improve fuel efficiencies and reduce emissions, but has very little data about the costs these programs will involve. The U.S. is going to continue to import goods for the indefinite future, so how best to implement green logistics while keeping costs low enough to maintain a still struggling economy?

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