Trucking companies, particularly those that haul temperature-sensitive freight, increasingly must adapt to “green” initiatives as food producers and retailers seek sustainable supply chains, reports the Journal of Commerce.
The trend is being driven in part by grocery chains that are looking for greater control over inbound inventory and manufacturers looking for more sustainable shipping, reports the Journal of Commerce. This often translates into shipping more freight with fewer trucks to cut costs and carbon emissions, according to the article.
The article cites Kraft Foods as an example. The company has cut more than 50 million truck miles over the past four years by shifting freight from highway trailers to barges, boats and railcars.
Rail firms already saw the change coming. As an example, Union Pacific has invested $18 million in the past two years to bring its nearly 5,000 refrigerated boxcars into compliance with California Air Resource Board standards implemented in July last year. The units will reduce diesel particulate emissions by 50 percent over the previous refrigeration units.
However, foods companies like Kraft Foods are also transitioning their truck fleets into greener versions. As an example, Kraft put its “green” truck fleet into operation last year, touted as the first-of-its-kind diesel-electric hybrid delivery truck equipped with a RouteMax refrigerated truck body.
According to research firm IGD, 85 percent of food companies either increased or maintained sustainability investments during the recession, pushed by consumers who want foods with less of an environmental footprint, reports the Journal of Commerce
A survey from Datamonitor also shows that consumers are starting to make their buying decisions based on concerns about excessive packaging, prompting the food and beverage industry to deliver more sustainable packaging.
As a result of changing demands in the refrigerated supply chain, shipping companies say the food industry is aggressively reducing their packaging, which includes better package designs to reduce the space used on trucks, reports the Journal of Commerce.
Raymond Greer, president of refrigerated food hauler Greatwide Logistics, told the newspaper that shippers are increasing total pallets per shipment to get better utilization and lower costs.
Greer also says in the article that changing shipping patterns, coupled with the recession, have reduced volumes for refrigerated carriers anywhere from 3 to 15 percent.