Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. – John F. Kennedy
It takes only a small group of thoughtful, committed and enlightened individuals to recognize the need for change, wherever that might be at the community level, the national level or even grander – on a global scale.
In 2004, a group of fifteen companies and freight associations came together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do just that – initiate change. The change they sought was to help freight transportation supply chains become sustainable and efficient. They established the seeds of what became SmartWay, a voluntary public-private program of the EPA. From its initial 15 partners, SmartWay has grown to a combination of over 3700 companies and organizations.
The SmartWay program is separated into three classifications of partnership including Shipper Partners (those that ship freight); Carrier Partners (those that move goods for shippers); and Logistics Partners (companies engaged in hiring freight carriers and managing freight shipments on behalf of shippers). There are also a number of participants known as Affiliates. These are nonprofit, professional and trade organizations that want to participate in the SmartWay program by educating their members and other stakeholders in support of the goals of SmartWay. Helping their members learn about SmartWay is an added resource that these organizations offer to members, since SmartWay in many instances has been able to save their members money by reducing costs associated with freight transportation, and by providing free resources that support their members’ sustainability and carbon accounting and reporting efforts.
As populations and economies grow, demand for goods increases. And, given the increasingly global nature of commerce, the distance that raw materials and goods are shipped also increases. Both factors result in increasing freight activity, which in turn contributes to air pollution and climate risk.
There’s no denying that without freight transportation global economies would become stagnant – an incomprehensible reality. SmartWay and its partners understand the need to decouple economic growth from environmental impact.
By 2040 it’s anticipated that freight transportation will double, according to the EPA, and along with this doubling will be substantial increases in emissions. Those emissions that are of concern are particulate matter (PM); nitrogen oxides (NOx); volatile organic compounds (VOCs); and CO2. And globally, it’s the utilization of heavy-duty trucks that are the greatest contributor to these concerning emissions in the transportation sector. But according to its website, SmartWay’s partners have reduced harmful air pollutants by an impressive 119 million tons since 2004.
SmartWay wants companies that are engaged in the production, distribution and transportation of goods to realize that they have a substantial role to play in reducing these emissions so that a cleaner, healthier and greener planet can be realized – that their environmental footprint leaves less of a negative impact.
There are a number of companies that measure their environmental footprint by measuring fuel consumption and emissions as a means to improve their sustainability, but it’s the indirect emissions from supply chains that most often indicate a clear understanding of the size of a company’s footprint.
SmartWay partners, unlike those that are not, have access to pertinent performance data regarding freight emissions, such as those noted above, through the EPA’s emission factors methods that gather comparable data emissions throughout all industries for their freight operations. This data enables companies to assess their progress and further denotes a commitment to responsible practices to help lessen climate change impacts.
SmartWay provides technological solutions and incentives to help address demands for company sustainability in goods movement, and encourages cooperation in achieving predetermined goals from all those involved in the freight transportation sector.
The EPA, through SmartWay, has objectively demonstrated that efficient emission control systems and technologies – such as advanced aerodynamic installations on vehicles’ trailer skirts, front and rear fairings, and low rolling-resistance tires as well as drag-reducing devices under the trailer, for example – can assist in improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions output. SmartWay will continue to explore such innovative technologies and encourage their adoption through its technology program.
Enabling companies to develop and share their emissions data with global organizations involved with sustainability reporting is a large part of how SmartWay assists those with an interest in environmental goals – those interested in adopting the SmartWay program.
By working with other countries, organizations and business partners to implement such programs as SmartWay, SmartWay’s collaborative approach with foreign governments has aided in expanding the adoption of SmartWay’s strategies to other countries. This expansion can prove instrumental in the efforts of other regions to address freight supply chain efficiency, secure energy resources, reduce costs and increase air quality. And, because many large U.S.-based corporations sell and source globally, this helps companies to streamline costs and ensure consistent and reliable reporting across their supply chains.
The development of the Global Green Freight Action Plan is supported by the EPA and serves as a venue for other countries to develop their own programs similar to the SmartWay framework. Announced at the 2014 UN Climate Summit, this Action Plan was launched at the 2015 International Transport Forum (ITF). Governments, the private sector, shippers, carriers and others, participate in supporting the development of new green freight programs that will reduce black carbon (a key component of particulate matter), and CO2 emissions resulting from multimodal goods movement.
SmartWay’s Vision 2020 outlines a plan as to how it will align itself with the future of the freight transportation industry as it evolves and offers a further vision for how emissions can be reduced. This includes all modes of freight transportation including not only trucks, but air, barge, marine and rail. Since publishing its Vision 2020 roadmap, SmartWay has evolved to include all these freight transport modes except ocean marine, which is currently being planned.
SmartWay and its partners have taken a collaborative approach toward the recognition that transportation supply chains need to become more efficient and sustainable and SmartWay 2020 is the result of such collaboration. Included in this vision are recommendations from the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC).
Educating the public and creating smarter consumers is part of SmartWay’s 2020 Vision. This focus serves to leverage growing consumer interest in not only how products are manufactured, but the amount of related emissions that are a result of the manufacturing process. Securing a further stronghold in this interest, SmartWay is active in social media and strongly supports its partners and affiliates so that their own outreach strategies to members, customers and suppliers may lead to realizations of the importance of responsible freight movement to the environment and the economy.
SmartWay and its partners are also aware of the importance of the SmartWay brand within the consumer arena to both showcase and exemplify the importance of sustainable transportation. Many partners have already adopted the SmartWay logo on their trailer fleets, for example, signifying that they are complying with SmartWay’s performance criteria. Manufacturers of commercial trucks and cargo trailers can utilize the SmartWay certified mark as an indication that required performance levels have been met in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. A companion SmartWay mark is also available for passenger vehicles, and is similarly based on vehicle emissions performance and fuel efficiency.
SmartWay expanded into Canada in 2012, through an agreement between the EPA and Natural Resources Canada. Canada’s SmartWay program was launched incorporating SmartWay’s methodologies and quantification assessments to enable performance interpretations. This collaboration enables effective communication among vested stakeholders in both countries and provides a harmonization of information sharing, such as standardized emission calculations, data collection and exchange platforms, and sharing the SmartWay brand recognition. It’s anticipated that agreements with other countries that develop similar programs with shared data collection will ultimately result in a global database for SmartWay.
Along with collaboration with Canada, the EPA has also reached out to Mexico in order to improve North America’s freight transportation efficiency. In 2011, Mexico’s Transporte Limpio (Clean Transportation) program was launched, implementing SmartWay’s initial methodologies and tools. Also a voluntary program, Clean Transportation was established by the country’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT). It’s focused on urban and foreign companies engaged in cargo and passenger transport. The objectives remain the same as those countries to its north.
Mexico is also currently piloting a more updated version of SmartWay for Mexico. Aligning these programs more closely will contribute to a more uniform and consistent North American freight transportation strategy, which will be especially useful for companies operate across North America.
The SmartWay program is one of empowerment – to see the freight transportation industry become one driven by the most clean, energy efficient, environmentally friendly and socially responsible means possible. Indeed there are challenges to be met and it won’t be easy. But through incremental steps, SmartWay’s ultimate goal will see a brighter future for the planet and all those that share it.