With climate change becoming an ever more and more relevant topic to discuss and take action, making a difference is also crucial, as we are facing rising sea levels and more extreme weather due to the warming temperature. Each of us can and needs to make a difference, taking a more sustainable stance in our daily lives to reverse the negative effects of climate change.
As a company, we are not exempt from that and we are actively looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment, especially as the road freight transport industry has been historically seen as a heavy polluter, as trucks drive millions of kilometers across the road globally. Nevertheless, goods have to be moved across borders, from crucial food and medicine supplies to regular items such as clothes, and furniture, to name just a few examples. As cargo moves from loading to unloading locations by the way of diesel trucks, which are not the most climate-friendly option out there, they do emit harmful particles into the environment.
Yet the industry is continuously looking for zero-emissions options, including the quest to find the perfect replacement for the stereotypical diesel truck. Whether that would be a battery-powered or a hydrogen-powered truck remains to be seen, as manufacturers continue to explore the potential options on the table that would transform the carriage of goods on international long-haul routes into a way to carry goods in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Making a sustainable difference
While truckmakers are still looking for the seemingly silver bullet solution to cut trucks’ emissions, there are ways in which long-haul transportation companies can make a difference and reduce their impact on the environment.
For one, alternative fuels serve as a great short-term option to reduce CO2 from the get-go, without having to alter the trucks themselves to accommodate these fuels. The perfect example here is hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), which can be used interchangeably with regular diesel or mixed with the typical fuel found in a truck’s fuel tank. HVO, which is made from vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, sunflower, soybean, and palm oil, as well as animal fats, among the feedstock options, can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90%. Traditional trucks with Euro 6 engines can accommodate the fuel without any hassle, allowing operators and their customers to incorporate HVO into their fleets or lanes and not worry about purchasing special trucks that you might have to pay a premium for.
Still, the fuel has its downside, which is that its availability is rather scarce across Europe, especially as the infrastructure to produce and deliver the fuel is lagging behind the demand. There are options to still use the fuel indirectly, as, Girteka offers its customers a mass-balancing option, whereupon the fuel is used on other lanes within the fleet on behalf of the customer, allowing for both the carrier and its client to become more sustainable without having to worry too much about the infrastructure.
Another tangible way that Girteka has actively used to minimize its impact on the environment is the usage of intermodal rail transport, whereupon loads are transported between two points with trains, as trucks complete the last few kilometers of the journey from the train station to either the loading or unloading site. In 2021 alone, the company managed to save over 14.4 million kilograms of CO2 emissions, as it continued to expand its intermodal rail transport operations throughout the year. Looking deeper, the additional rail journeys also resulted in the logistics provider saving at least 900 tires and avoiding at least 61 accidents in 2021, based on the average numbers in the industry, as Girteka remains committed to being the obvious first choice for many stakeholders, including its communities.
In terms of long-term plans for intermodal rail freight transport, the company has a goal to carry out 20% of its long-distance kilometers by intermodal transportation by 2025, resulting in further emissions reduction.
Little things make up the big environmentally-friendly picture
However, much like HVO, intermodal rail freight transport has its own set of issues, including the lack of rail infrastructure to move goods throughout the whole Girteka network in Europe. That does not mean that the road freight transport provider has passively sat on a chair, waiting for green solutions to come to the market – on the contrary, it has continued to look for ways to minimize emissions as much as possible by paying attention to the small details.
The ECO League is an example, whereupon the goal to be more sustainable is done via encouraging to drive more ecologically by gamifying the process, as drivers are rewarded for their effort with a prize in two seasons per year. The ECO league accentuates the training by the Driver’s Academy, where the reduction of the number of times the brake pedal is pressed, the number of sharp braking, full stops, and the usage of autopilot, amongst other things. By reducing the most fuel-consuming actions when driving, the company’s colleagues reduce the overall emissions of the fleet, and as the motivational program has continued to be used, the more proficient it has become over the years. The ECO League has resulted in a 2% reduction in emissions on the average journey. While that is not a huge number, nonetheless, because this is a “soft” measure, it does add up in the grand scheme of things.
While being the largest asset-based road transport company in Europe means that Girteka has more than a few trucks in its fleet, more than 9,000 to be exact, the company has actively looked to make sure that only the newest equipment carries its customers’ goods on the road. As a result, Girteka trucks are, on average, three years old and are equipped with the latest technological solutions that also include the newest engines and gearboxes that reduce fuel consumption and emissions as they drive through the different landscapes found across Europe.
Operational changes can also make a difference. With the company beginning its digital journey, one of the main goals was to move its transport management processes to SAP’s dedicated Transport Management solution, allowing Girteka to be more streamlined. It has also allowed using such tools as the AI Planner and AI Operator, both of whom are based on Artificial Intelligence, and allows to plan journeys more efficiently and ensure that trucks are utilized fully. After all, according to Eurostat data, over 20% of road freight kilometers in 2020 were empty, per data published in late-2021, meaning that trucks were on the road without any purpose, per se, as they did not deliver any items or supplies anywhere if they were empty. With the help of the AI Planner, for example, Girteka has continued to reduce the number of empty kilometers it has driven, as the tool is being used more and more extensively throughout the different business areas of the company.
Overall, that has allowed the road freight transport provider to emit 15% fewer CO2 emissions per kilometer compared to the industry average, showcasing that even if there is no possibility to operate zero-emission trucks right here, and right now, there are ways companies can play a part in reducing their impact on the environment.
Strategy is important
The foundation of all of these measures, including working with partners to explore the capabilities of electric or hydrogen trucks, is to have a solid strategy and foundation to be able to make strides in becoming a more environmentally-friendly transport provider.
That includes measuring your total impact to the finest details, even measuring the potential impact of our office operations, including the waste generated daily. That is the foundation and the starting point upon which you can take the first step to become more sustainable with a solid strategy to do so.
In the company’s recently published UN Global Compact Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report, Girteka highlighted its seven sustainability-oriented solutions:
- Modernizing the vehicle fleet to achieve the lowest possible greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions;
- Digitalizing our operations to reduce empty kilometer driving;
- Increasing the use of alternative fuels, with a particular focus on HVO to reduce CO2;
- Increasing usage of intermodal transportation;
- Educating our truck drivers on eco-driving practices to maximize engine efficiency and increase road safety;
- Ensuring our own responsible consumption;
- Supporting all of our partners and colleagues in the drive towards sustainability.
Clearly knowing which items to focus on has helped the carrier to make the right strategic decisions in several areas to become more sustainable and be proactive in looking for the best solutions to reduce emissions now and in the future – a future where Girteka would be a carrier that carries its customers’ goods in an emissions-free manner.