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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's voluntary SmartWay Transport Partnership was set up to help companies reduce their total output of carbon dioxide and other emissions. But the benefits extend beyond a positive impact on the environment, McComb says.
To be sure, SmartWay was intended to lighten the carbon footprint of logistics operations. It has already played a major role in raising the awareness of shippers, carriers, logistics providers and even consumers. But it's about more than being good citizens, according to McComb. From a carrier standpoint, the program helps participants to better manage their fleets, by reducing fuel consumption and encouraging more efficient use of equipment. Truck operators might eliminate vehicle idling at the dock, or convert some over-the-road freight to fuel-efficient intermodal. SmartWay can also lead to a reduction in carrier financing requirements.
Shippers, too, can benefit from a greater reliance on intermodal, which cuts carbon output and fuel consumption by two-thirds. The price is cheaper as well, and the quality and reliability of rail service is far better today than it was a decade or two ago, McComb says. The major railroads have spent billions of dollars on new equipment and infrastructure. "The on-time performance [of intermodal] is faster than ever," he says. "Anybody who hasn't looked at intermodal recently really needs to do that."
In a recession, business might be tempted to pursue what it believes are lower-cost options for logistics. On the contrary, McComb says, many companies remain dedicated to monitoring their emissions and seeking out "green" partners for logistics. And in the end, SmartWay options can save them money. Better planning can reduce a company's reliance on pricey air freight, for example.
Big shippers such as Wal-Mart Stores are already moving beyond logistics to devise green solutions in areas such as water and waste disposal. Government, too, is promoting the concept with ideas such as high-speed rail and solar energy. "[SmartWay] fits in perfectly," McComb says. "This is really something that shippers and carriers need to jump on."
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