Fuel distribution – a lifeline of our modern society – is undergoing a remarkable transformation. The journey from the extraction of raw resources to the moment we fill up our tanks or power our industries encompass a range of opportunities and challenges for sustainable practices.
To address climate change and the pressing need to reduce our carbon emissions, the fuel distribution sector is actively investigating inventive approaches. These approaches must balance the escalating demands for energy while mitigating the environmental consequences. Embracing sustainable fuel distribution transcends a moral obligation; it emerges as a savvy business strategy, presenting opportunities for heightened operational efficiency, lower operating costs, and a more eco-conscious future.
Strategies can not only promote environmental responsibility but also hold the key to capturing value. And to capture value, you first have to capture data. This involves embracing technologies that will serve as your roadmap towards a more sustainable, resilient, and profitable future.
1. Optimising your logistics
Optimising logistics involves tapping into technologies. This is not merely a process improvement endeavour; it's a strategic approach that simultaneously creates value and enhances sustainability within businesses and supply chains. By meticulously fine-tuning the management of goods, information, and resources, organisations can streamline operations, reduce costs, and minimise environmental impact.
Cloud-based industry-specific software can collect data at every stage of the fuel distribution process, including routes, deliveries, inventory levels, fuel consumption, and driver performance. This data collection enables accurate tracking and reporting of various aspects of the distribution operation. It ensures that the quantity of fuel loaded matches what is delivered, minimising discrepancies.
By collecting and analysing this data, companies can spot areas for improving efficiencies. The more efficient your operations, the less fuel consumed, and emissions generated – and the more companies save on operating costs. The right software for fuel distribution delivers:
- Route optimisation: Powerful planning algorithms tailored for route planning within the petroleum industry. By optimizing routes, operating costs, including mileage and time, are reduced, resulting in fewer miles driven, which reduces fuel consumption and emissions.
Resource scheduling: Resource scheduling and route planning are performed simultaneously. The system considers driver and vehicle availability based on their qualifications, working hours, capacity, and geographical allocation. This efficient approach simplifies the allocation of resources to orders, providing the option for automated or manual assignment, offering flexibility in resource management. Improved resource allocation ensures that vehicles are used efficiently, reducing the fleet’s wear and tear and overall emissions.
- Resource optimisation: Drivers can accept new orders and transmit status updates, location information, and reports electronically. This reduces paperwork, streamlines administrative tasks, and enhances resource allocation. As a result, the fleet operates more efficiently, requiring fewer vehicles for the same workload.
- Enhanced customer service: Providing customers with visibility of estimated time of arrivals (ETAs) through a Customer Portal improves service levels. Customers can plan and prepare for deliveries more effectively, reducing the need for multiple delivery attempts and associated fuel consumption.
- Data-driven decision making: Real-time information flow and data exchange enable data-driven decision making for both drivers and dispatchers. This results in better route planning, load optimisation, and resource management, all of which contribute to sustainability by minimising waste and emissions.
- Real-time monitoring via status messages and GPS: Dispatchers track the progress of deliveries in real time. They can make necessary redirections based on traffic conditions or other factors, leading to optimised routes. By collecting data from trucks, this real-time monitoring promotes efficient use of resources, reducing unnecessary mileage, and fuel consumption. Sustainability is enhanced by minimising emissions associated with idling or inefficient routing.
- Efficient loading process: The right software generates loading details and schedules for each delivery, ensuring accuracy, and timely loading. When the loading process is completed, drivers update the status in real time through a mobile web app. This confirmation of completed loading enhances efficiency, reduces turnaround time at terminals, and minimises unnecessary fuel consumption during waiting times. It also prevents overloading, which can affect fuel efficiency and vehicle wear and tear.
- Geofencing technology: Geofencing technology tracks the truck's location and automatically updates the status to 'Arrived' when the vehicle enters the predefined delivery site area. This automation reduces manual input, streamlines operations, and ensures accurate tracking of delivery progress. By enabling drivers to focus on driving instead of administrative tasks, it enhances safety and fuel efficiency. Reduced idling at delivery sites contributes to lower emissions and fuel savings.
- Streamlined communication: Efficient communication of loading details enables real-time updates on the process. This enhances visibility and coordination between the office and drivers. Improved communication ensures that loading processes are optimised, preventing delays and inefficiencies that create unnecessary emissions.
2. Implement efficient storage and distribution systems
Manual planning in fuel distribution is time-consuming and error-prone, leading to inefficiencies and safety risks. Challenges such as complex tanker configurations, prohibited fuel combinations, and the need for precise loading and unloading further complicate the planning process. A robust fuel planner offers an automated solution to tank level forecasting and volume deviation handling, ensuring efficient and safe fuel distribution – but it should also let you work manually when that makes the most sense. Let’s take a closer look.
- Efficient use of resources: Assuming you implement a best-in-class fuel planner, you can automatically balance the weight and volume of fuel within each storage tank. This ensures that tankers are loaded optimally. Efficiency like this minimises the number of trips needed to deliver the same amount of fuel, reducing fuel consumption, vehicle wear and tear, and emissions.
- Prevent overloading: By evenly distributing the load, the system helps prevent overloading of vehicles. Avoiding overloading not only reduces fuel consumption but also contributes to road safety and minimises road damage, which can have long-term environmental benefits.
- Minimise underloading: Underloading, where vehicles carry less than their capacity, is wasteful in terms of both fuel and resources. Your fuel planner should help ensure that trucks are efficiently filled to their capacity, reducing the number of partially filled trips. This optimisation reduces fuel consumption per unit of delivered fuel and minimises the environmental impact associated with unnecessary trips.
- Avoid cross-contamination: When various fuel types are loaded into a single vehicle's compartments, there’s a risk of cross-contamination, where one fuel type mixes with another. Cross-contamination is a significant concern within the fuel distribution industry due to its potential to compromise product quality, pose safety hazards, and raise environmental issues.
The right fuel planner meticulously calculates the appropriate quantity of each fuel type to load into individual compartments. This loading approach serves to minimise the likelihood of cross-contamination, thus ensuring that incompatible fuel products remain separate during transportation. This precision in loading helps mitigate the risk of cross-contamination, thereby preserving the quality and integrity of the transported fuels. This not only ensures customer satisfaction but also reduces the need for costly and ecologically detrimental cleanup procedures in the event of contamination.
- What-if scenarios: The ability to simulate different planning scenarios allows petroleum companies to also explore strategies for reducing emissions. By evaluating various scenarios, they can identify the most environmentally friendly approaches to distribution.
3. Use alternative fuels
Sustainable fuel options have emerged as a promising avenue to address sustainability concerns. These eco-conscious fuels are from renewable origins, giving the logistics industry a unique opportunity to curtail its environmental footprint, while fortifying the resilience and consistency of its operations.
- Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO): HVO represents a biofuel capable of seamlessly substituting diesel in conventional internal combustion engines (ICE). It offers logistics companies a practical way to lower greenhouse gas emissions while preserving compatibility with existing diesel infrastructure. This makes it an appealing choice for enhancing stability in logistics, allowing for a gradual shift towards cleaner fuels without necessitating extensive equipment or infrastructure modifications.
- Synthetic fuels (Synfuels): Synthetic fuels such as ammonia and methanol derived from renewable sources. They provide credible alternatives to traditional fossil fuels, particularly for heavy-duty road transport, reducing emissions reduction and increasing operational stability.
- Sustainable aviation fuels: Logistics don’t just take place on the road. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) are pivotal for curbing greenhouse gas emissions within the aviation industry. When blended with kerosene, SAFs can be employed in standard aircraft engines. Given the limitations of alternative propulsion technologies in aviation, SAFs remain a dependable choice for enhancing stability and sustainability in aviation logistics.
- Renewable fuels from non-biological origin (RFNBO): Carbon dioxide (CO₂) and hydrogen (H₂) are feedstocks for synthetic fuels. These renewable fuels sourced from non-biological origins can be produced using renewable energy resources. They offer a stable, low-carbon energy source for logistics applications, especially in scenarios where other feedstock options may be restricted.
- Lignocellulosic materials: Sustainable fuels can also be derived from lignocellulosic materials, which encompass various biomass sources. These materials can serve as feedstocks for biofuels and synthetic fuels, diversifying the sources of sustainable fuel production and presenting an additional avenue for improving stability within logistics.
4. Maintain your fleet
Fleet maintenance plays a crucial role in achieving sustainability goals. It's about more than just keeping vehicles running; it's about doing so in a way that conserves resources, reduces emissions, and operates in an eco-friendly manner.
In this context, fleet maintenance software has emerged as a powerful tool for enhancing sustainability. By leveraging advanced features and capabilities, it enables fleet managers to make informed decisions that benefit both the environment and the bottom line. Let’s consider how software for preventative maintenance can transform fleet management practices for a greener and more efficient future.
- Enhance fuel efficiency: Vital elements such as lubricants, air systems, and tyres play a pivotal role in bolstering fuel efficiency thanks to maintenance. For example, meticulous management of oil viscosity serves to curtail friction and, in turn, elevates fuel economy. Furthermore, the regular upkeep of intake and exhaust systems serves the crucial function of ensuring an optimal air supply for combustion, effectively averting excessive fuel consumption.
Tyres are another example. Don’t underestimate the significance of tyre pressure inspections. They have the potential to reveal unforeseen problems and shield your fleet from unanticipated expenses incurred due to excessive tire wear. A mere 1 psi drop in tire pressure can precipitate a 0.2% reduction in gas mileage, whereas adequate inflation can lead to an impressive upswing of up to 3%.¹
- Maintenance planning: Through proactive scheduling of preventive maintenance, fleet maintenance software significantly diminishes the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns. This is crucial to sustainability, when a vehicle experiences a breakdown or malfunctions unexpectedly, it results in emergency repairs. During these repairs, the vehicle may emit higher levels of greenhouse gases due to inefficient combustion, incomplete fuel combustion, or other issues that arise from neglected maintenance.
- Minimising waste: Without efficient inventory management – which fleet maintenance software should offer – fleets may end up overstocking parts, leading to excess inventory. Over time, these excess parts can become obsolete, expire, or deteriorate, resulting in unnecessary waste and disposal challenges. By using fleet maintenance software to track parts usage and needs accurately, managers can reduce the amount of unused or wasted parts, contributing to sustainability efforts by lowering material waste. This aligns with the circular economy's principles of maximising the use of existing resources.
- Reducing rush orders and shipping: Inefficient parts inventory management can lead to situations where essential components are not readily available when needed for repairs or maintenance. Fleet managers may resort to rush orders, which typically involve expedited shipping. This is not only costly but also has a larger environmental impact. Consider the increased energy consumption and emissions associated with expedited transportation. Fleet maintenance software helps ensure that necessary parts are in stock and readily available, reducing the reliance on rush orders and minimising the need for expedited shipping. This not only saves costs but also supports sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint associated with rush deliveries.
5. Monitor vehicle and driver performance
Telematics is all about advanced monitoring and reporting capabilities. With its real-time data collection on vehicle location, health, and driver behaviour, an intelligent telematics solution enhances driver and vehicle productivity, which translates to sustainability benefits.
- Increase fuel efficiency: A good telematics solution monitors engine status, including factors like idling time – and keeps a close eye on the driving behaviour, such as instances of speeding and harsh braking. This enables fleet managers to proactively address issues, whether it involves necessary repairs or providing additional driver training. Taking such targeted actions not only enhances fuel efficiency but also contributes to significant reductions in emissions.
- Promote safer driving: Safety improvements supported by a telematics system have environmental implications. Safer driving practices, such as reducing speeding, can result in fewer accidents and collisions, and with it, fewer hazardous material spills and environmental cleanup efforts. Additionally, telematics plays a pivotal role in ensuring regulatory compliance – whether it's monitoring drivers' adherence to required breaks or other essential safety protocols, providing you with comprehensive insights into your fleet's operational compliance.
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What are the sustainability trends and challenges in the wider world of logistics? And what is the economic impact on businesses adopting environmentally friendly processes? Find out in our whitepaper, 'Sustainability in Transport: Navigating Emerging trends and Economic and Environmental Benefits of a Sustainable Approach'.Get the whitepaper
¹ Keeping Your Vehicle in Shape, www.fueleconomy.gov
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