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How SmartWay works with small truck carriers
The EPA’s SmartWay program debuted in 2004 with the goal of improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions in the transportation industry. Road King spoke to Jim Blubaugh, Deputy Director of the Transportation and Climate Division, about what owner-operators can expect if they join the program.
Q What are the advantages for an owner-operator who gets certified as a SmartWay business?
A Members get immediate access to a lot of information concerning efficiency gains in the industry. We provide webinars, we stage events and we publish educational materials designed to assist small businesses in transporting goods within the SmartWay program guidelines.
Q What is the investment and what are the potential savings?
A There is no cost to join the program. The only investment is a few hours once a year to fill out some information online regarding their company’s environmental performance. It includes questions of fleet makeup, the age of their truck, how much fuel they use, what routes they use. Once that is submitted, the company is automatically registered on our SmartWay Partnership website.
Cost savings depend on the strategies that the owner-operator ultimately employs. We provide them with a lot of low-cost and no-cost ways to save money and reduce emissions, such as maintaining proper tire air pressure, reducing top speeds during highway driving, using cruise control whenever possible, reducing idling. Or if an owner-operator is in the market for a truck, we help them learn how they can spec it with fuel efficiency in mind.
Our information can also influence any potential purchases or upgrades. They can look at our website for information about fuel-saving-verified equipment or tractors.
Q Can you offer an example of SmartWay success as seen in a small trucking business?
A West Marine is a small business that operates eight trucks. By taking advantage of the tools and technical information that SmartWay provides, it was able to improve its fuel economy from 6.1 to 8.8 mpg. That is significant savings when you do the math on all the miles that these trucks drive.
Q How would a one-truck business use SmartWay?
A An owner-operator wears a lot of hats — driver, maintenance manager, salesperson, fuel buyer, logistics and so on. Because of that, it is challenging to find time to differentiate their business from the competition, or to research the technologies and strategies that cut operating costs, or to track performance over time. We help them overcome those obstacles with tools that provide critical business intelligence on how their company is performing over time, but also relative to their competition. They can see how they stack up — not one company to one company but in their specific freight category — refrigerated freight, LTL and so on. It’s like hiring their own efficiency expert to do industry research.
Q How can a SmartWay designation improve business?
A Owner-operators can use their participation to express their commitment to sustainability or energy efficiency. Our program gives partners a way to be identified to shippers looking for greener, more efficient carriers, and there are lots of shippers looking for just that.
Once an owner-operator joins SmartWay, we list them on our website (www.epa.gov/smartway/). So without spending any money they are within reach of thousands of top-notch shippers who look at our list when they decide who they want to contract with to move their freight.
Increasingly shippers care about their carbon footprint, and when it comes to moving freight, that footprint depends on their carriers. Each shipper will have their own questions and requirements of the carriers they use and an owner-operator would likely not have the time to figure out what each shipper needs. Our Environmental Performance Report, makes it easy for the owner-operator to organize data and respond to potential customers.
Their environmental performance is ranked against other companies in the same market, and since SmartWay carriers rank higher than non-SmartWay carriers in these rankings, they can really differentiate themselves. There are a good number of retail shippers that will only use carriers in the SmartWay program. Carriers that are top performers and meet our criteria can access our logo for their website or display it on their trucks and that lets the public know their freight is being delivered in the cleanest, most efficient trucks. That’s a real selling point that can help them obtain more business.