Truckin': What Goes Out
In 2008, we sold over 200 million pounds or over 6,000 truckloads of delicious organic yogurt, smoothie drinks, frozen yogurt, and ice cream. Our products are shipped all over the United States to approximately 375 customers. These customers then ship the product to your local grocery store. We ship mostly by refrigerated tractor trailers, but read on for more about our innovative work transporting yogurt by train (yes, really!).
Transporting products to our customers is a major part of our carbon footprint. Our team has been hard at work to reduce delivery-related GHGs. Between 2006-2008, we reduced transportation CO2 emissions by over 40% while also growing our business. That’s equivalent to taking over 1,700 cars off the road for a year. But by no means is our work done. Admittedly, it’s going to get even harder, since we tackled some of the more straightforward challenges first.
Here are some highlights of our exciting journey so far:
Improved data collection: you manage what you can measure!
One of our first steps eliminated paper billing and implemented an electronic freight invoicing system. (Huh? I thought this was going to be exciting?) Basically, this means that we got access to a whole bunch of data we never had before (and in doing so, saved a lot of trees by going electronic!). By having accurate data on every single delivery leaving our factory, we could identify ways to be more efficient.
Increasing efficiency of loads
Next major step: Efficiency! We eliminated 95% of our “less-than-truckload” (aka “LTL” in Logistics World lingo) shipments by re-routing deliveries. Here’s how it used to work: We’d arrange for a truck to pick up a group of small orders from our warehouse. By “small,” we mean a single customer might have ordered, say, 1 to 2 pallets of product (or about 400 cups of yogurt). We’d fill the truck with all the orders and send it on its way. Because the truck was carrying product for multiple customers, often located in very different places across the U.S., it couldn’t drive straight to a customer destination. Instead, the truck would travel to a terminal where all the freight would be unloaded and then re-loaded—this time on many different trucks, along with other companies’ refrigerated freight—to head to its final destinations. A single shipment of Stonyfield yogurt would travel many more miles than simply the distance from Point A (our warehouse) to Point B (our customer) doing it this way. (This whole process is what’s called LTL shipping.)
But that’s where all the electronic data enters the story. Once we had all that data in hand, we were able to take a hard look at our delivery points and shipping schedules. We identified opportunities to add stops to our existing truck routes so that trucks could deliver straight to our customers (no intermediate terminal). Doing this eliminated nearly all of our “less-than-truckload” shipments! Now all the trucks leaving our doors either head straight to a single customer (if it’s a really big order that can fill the truck!), or they make multiple stops delivering orders to many customers in the same region. In other words, we found ways to ship the same amount of product to the same network of customers while using far fewer trucks and traveling far fewer miles. Doing this also goes hand in hand with better customer service, since yogurt now gets to our customers even faster—another win-win for business and the environment!
At the same time we were analyzing our electronic data and scouring our truck routes for efficiencies, we were looking for ways to report our transportation-related GHGs and track our progress. We decided to become a certified EPA SmartWay Transport Shipper and measure our GHG impact with SmartWay’s FLEET Performance Model. Not only does this partnership help us track our GHGs, it helps us communicate to our trucking partners that we mean serious business about reducing GHGs. In fact, we now require that all trucking companies carrying our products be certified EPA SmartWay Transport Carriers.
Beyond that, we’re staying on top of advances in technology. For example, the trucks that deliver to our New England customers are equipped with on-board computers that regulate top speeds to operate trucks more efficiently and help drivers improve their fuel efficiency.
In a move that even we were once skeptical of, in 2009 we started to ship a portion of our cross-country loads by train. It requires 11 times less energy to carry a ton-mile (i.e., a ton of freight moved 1 mile) by rail than by truck. Railway routes that make sense for us are currently limited, but since we’ve had such great results, we’re looking at how we can transport more of our product by refrigerated rail car.
To top it all off, we were honored to receive a 2008 Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. EPA specifically for our efforts to decrease GHG emissions from our transportation and logistics operations.
All this work has had significant payoffs not only for the environment, but also for our pocketbooks. We avoided $2.5M in fuel costs in 2007 and 2008 alone.
 Source: “In 2001, trucks required 11 times more energy to carry a ton-mile than rail, and 2.2 times more than ships.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the U.S. Transportation Sector, 1990–2003, p. 26.