How freight brokers can use SONAR to lower carbon emissions

Grace SharkeyFreight Market Blog

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions, electric vehicles and switching fuel sources are all the rage. 

This strategy is important, as 81% of greenhouse gases are made up of carbon dioxide, which comes from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that 34% of carbon dioxide emissions come from transportation, but simply switching fuel sources is not going to eliminate the industry’s carbon footprint.

SmartWay, a voluntary program under the EPA, helps measure and offers solutions to reduce the total carbon emissions created by freight transportation. They list the following opportunities to limit your carbon footprint:

  • Fuel switching
  • Improving fuel efficiency with advanced design, materials and technologies
  • Improving operating practices
  • Reducing travel demand

While asset-based brokerages have more direct control over these scenarios, non-asset brokerages can still participate in reducing carbon emissions.

With these opportunities in mind, we will examine two ways brokerages can help their carrier partners lower carbon emissions with the help of FreightWaves SONAR.

Find your driver a second load to eliminate deadhead

Following past recommendations, all carrier representatives should have access to the SONAR Lane Signal Dashboard to execute their load matching role.

Lane Signal considers the following indices:

With these insights, your carrier representatives can use Lane Signal to figure out the probable deadhead a carrier will encounter after delivering your load.  

In order to lower that truck’s carbon emissions, the carrier representative must be proactive in finding a load for the carrier within a certain area.

For example, let’s examine a load going from Denver, Colorado to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

As a carrier representative, you are mildly excited because the outbound market of Denver is more in your favor. While this load is not going to the best market, it does improve the chances of the truck finding a better paying load than its current location.

Before working this load, you want to be an environmentally responsible employee and to eliminate the deadhead the driver might encounter driving from Fort Wayne to a better market.  

As Ohio is known for its inconvenient lower speed limits (but great for lowering emissions) you decide a load from Fort Wayne to Ohio can help everyone – reduce deadhead miles, help with capacity optimization, help the driver earn more revenue, increase your loads booked and help your Fort Wayne clients cover their loads.
This is a perfect example of how we can lower carbon emissions and improve carrier capacity.

Lower wait time or idling

Wait time and detention are always areas of concern for drivers. These “time-wasters” can severely impact drivers’ hours of service and their daily routines.

Also, let’s be honest, waiting for anything is extremely annoying.

While many drivers turn off their trucks during detention, some trailer types like refrigerated units do not have that luxury. Also, many shippers and receivers can be untruthful about the expected wait time, leaving a driver in idle when they could have conveniently turned off their truck.

According to SmartWay, reducing idling time is one of the easiest ways to reduce carbon emissions. It is important that sales and carrier representatives are comfortable speaking with shippers and carriers about reducing idling time so that every transportation actor can work on reducing wait times.

Using the SONAR Wait Time Index, freight broker representatives can measure the average U.S. wait times and speak with customers about reducing these times to optimize capacity and lower their contributions to our carbon footprint.

This index measures the average minutes a truck spends at locations within a 3-digit zip code or Key Market Area (KMA). This measurement is updated each month.

In the SONAR chart below, you can see the average U.S. wait time in blue, compared to the average time of Atlanta in orange, the average time of Chicago in green and the average time of Birmingham, Alabama in purple.

Using this information, your carrier representatives can have informed conversations with shippers or receivers that may be over or underperforming.

For example, if you are delivering a load in Atlanta, you should be asking the receiver how long their average load time is, as data shows the area tends to be higher than most of the country. Let them know you are seeking to eliminate any excess unloading and idling times in order to improve the driver’s carbon footprint.  If they come back and say, “Yes, we do tend to be a little longer than most,” then you know to tell the driver to be sure to check in, park and be prepared for a wait. Therefore, he or she should turn the truck off as soon as possible to lower emissions.

In this situation, if your driver is delivering a refrigerated load, be up front with the receiver and ask if there is a way to decrease wait time. If the facility is first come, first serve, try to discuss making an appointment time so the driver does not need to run the unit while waiting to be unloaded.

These are two simple examples of methods freight brokerages can use to help reduce the impact their operations have on the industry’s carbon footprint. The most exciting part about both of these scenarios is they don’t just lower your footprint, they help lower your operating costs.

I know what you are thinking:

“You’re telling me I can lower greenhouse gas emissions AND make more money! SAY LESS.”