Countless 21st-century technological inventions have transformed how we live, work and shop. From the first smartphone to the widespread accessibility and use of the internet to the beginnings of a self-driving car, innovation and creativity are pushing the bounds of technology and fundamentally changing consumer behavior. And technology has had a profound impact on the evolution of sustainable supply chain solutions.
As online and e-commerce popularity continues to skyrocket, businesses are also facing increasing pressure to choose environmentally responsible shipping solutions. As a result, innovative developments are emerging that could dramatically reduce the environmental impact of worldwide shipping.
Here are three groundbreaking transportation trends you'll want to watch out for.
New alternative fuel sources are helping large commercial vehicle fleets reduce emissions and their impact on the environment. Simply stated, the larger the fleet, the greater the opportunity for making improvements.
UPS recently set a goal that, by 2020, one in four vehicles purchased annually will use alternative fuels or advanced technology. UPS currently operates more than 8,500 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles worldwide and since 2009, has invested more than $750 million in alternative vehicles and fueling stations globally. The company’s fleet – often referred to as the UPS Rolling Laboratory – includes electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), propane and lightweight fuel-saving composite body vehicles.
In addition to other alternative fuel sources, UPS uses millions of gallons of renewable diesel and renewable natural gas (RNG) in its fleet each year. This fuel type has the added benefit of repurposing waste materials that would likely have ended up in landfills.
Hydrogen fuel cells, which generate electrical power from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, offer another cutting-edge alternative fuel source that can be combined with sustainable transport methods to drive efficiencies that help the environment. Instead of running electric motors powered by batteries that can take hours to charge, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be fueled up in a matter of minutes, similar to conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles. UPS plans to deploy 17 hydrogen fuel cell vans by the end of 2018.
According to The Road to Sustainable Urban Logistics study, 58 percent of companies surveyed have expressed concern about city air quality, and 53 percent are concerned about traffic congestion. And while 95 percent indicated concern about the impact of urbanization on business growth and sustainability, only 47 percent feel prepared to address the associated business challenges.
A growing number of cities around the world are working to find solutions. Surprisingly, some of the answers are coming from a technology that dates back 200 years – the bicycle. Electrically powered bicycles (or more accurately, tricycles, as they generally have three wheels), can provide a sustainable transport option in busy city centers, reducing the congestion, noise and emissions associated with traditional vans. Through collaborations such as UPS’s work with the city of Hamburg, Germany, and a growing number of cities worldwide, government and private companies are working together to create a more livable urban space.
Other advances include alternative delivery locations that allow for more flexibility and convenience, the ability of recipients to control the shipment – including changing the delivery date and location.
As technology continues to evolve, the use of data to drive logistics efficiencies is also having a positive environmental impact. Techniques such as supply-chain optimization and delivery consolidation can have a measurable effect on cost and efficiency – as well as a reduction in carbon emissions.
Efficiencies can be created all along the supply chain, including the final delivery mile. That's why UPS developed the On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION) platform, a proprietary technology that analyzes possible routes for package delivery and identifies the optimal route for the UPS driver in real-time. With the completion of the U.S. deployment of ORION, UPS is saving 10 million gallons of fuel and 100,000 metric tons of emissions each year.
What's next for sustainable transport? The clean, blue sky's the limit.
Learn more about the latest sustainability advances and solutions
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