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Benefits of the Road Less Traveled

June 24, 2015

“Fortune favors the bold” – Virgil

As a society, we want cleaner air. We want a more vibrant economy. We want safer roads. But to have those things, we have to change. We have to chart a different course and take the road less traveled.

In the post, Revising Another FedEx Sustainability Goal, I detailed an element of our progress to change by reporting on our vehicle efficiency goal. Since it’s been two years since that post, and we recently released our 2014 Global Citizenship Report, it seems timely to update our progress on that revised goal of 30% improvement in fuel efficiency by 2020 from a 2005 baseline.

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How have we done this? Through our Reduce, Replace and Revolutionize strategy:

But, we also did more with respect to public policy:

  • FedEx was the first transportation logistics company to push for commercial vehicle fuel economy / greenhouse gas legislation, subsequently enacted along with new passenger vehicle standards in the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007.
  • And, the Heavy-Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, with whom we participate, created a set of principles with the goal of helping to inform and support the first-ever national greenhouse gas / fuel efficiency regulatory standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which went into effect in 2014.

We’ve also continued to focus on the next phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reduction standards (Phase 2) that the U.S. Government is currently working on by again being a stakeholder to help inform and create more fuel-efficient and lower-emitting commercial vehicles. We do so for the same reasons that we focus on improving our own fleet of vehicles – because we feel there is the opportunity to obtain even more fuel efficiencies and lower greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles – but doing so at a national level so that we have a comprehensive, harmonized approach that applies to all commercial vehicles, rather than a “patchwork quilt” of differing standards for individual states or regions which could result in limited availability, higher costs (and, therefore, limited adoption/purchase), and, ultimately, less environmental, economic and energy security benefits.

In addition, we have focused on more than technological solutions for public policy by addressing operational improvements that are possible.

Currently, FedEx is advocating to bring new efficiencies to less than truckload (LTL) freight carriers by extending the length of twin 28-foot trailers to 33 feet. This would enable about 18 percent more freight to be hauled on the same trip, improving road safety and reducing emissions by significantly reducing the number of trucks on the road. Just five more feet would:

  • Prevent 912 accidents per year
  • Reduce congestion by 6.6 million truck trips per year
  • Reduce truck traffic by 1.3 billion miles per year
  • Reduce carbon emissions by 4.4 billion pounds per year

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It’s an interesting dilemma society faces – cleaner air, a healthy, growing economy – a better life. And, yet, some fear changing the status quo when it comes to making transport more productive, safer and more environmentally friendly. I get it – change can be unsettling – change means initially traveling a road less traveled. But, then again, the Roman poet, Virgil, had it right, I think.

*Follow Mitch Jackson on Twitter: @mitch_jackson


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