Carbon emissions and climate change are never far from any industry’s discussions these days, especially those of an industry so deeply associated with the internal combustion engine. Road users, courier drivers among them, pump out enormous quantities of greenhouse gases every year, and as average temperatures and sea levels rise, it’s in everybody’s interest to bring emissions down. |
Additionally, courier drivers and firms are under unprecedented scrutiny where the environment’s concerned: whether it’s from prospective clients or regulatory bodies, it seems that everyone’s interested in the industry’s carbon dioxide emissions. A cleaner company is therefore not only doing its bit for the environment, but will also attract more clients, fewer legal obstacles and be justified in charging higher rates.
What Is a Carbon Footprint?
The term “carbon footprint” is frequently thrown about without any sort of definition. Ordinarily, what is meant by the term is the net carbon dioxide production for a particular activity, company or individual. This includes both their direct activities (e.g. a courier driver’s exhaust gases) and other processes that must be carried out in order to support another activity (e.g. the carbon dioxide made during production and transport of spare parts in order to maintain a courier driver’s vehicle). As a net value, it can also be offset - for example by certain companies that plant new trees in order to offset their carbon footprint.
What Is My Carbon Footprint?
As an individual or an organisation, it’s relatively straightforward to calculate an estimate for your carbon footprint. As a driver, by keeping track of how much fuel your vehicle uses, you have all the data you need to provide a rudimentary estimate. If you’re part of a larger organisation with offices, garages and/or warehouses, you’ll also want to keep an eye on your gas and electricity meters for the relevant information.
Calculators are available online: such as the National Energy Foundation’s calculator. However, factoring in other aspects of your carbon footprint, such as those incurred through the food or other products you buy, is more complicated - especially when not all companies publish their emissions.
How Can I Reduce My Carbon Footprint?
Much carbon footprint reduction can be done in the form of ordinary energy efficiency practices. As a courier driver, avoiding stop-start driving and unnecessary drains on the battery (e.g. excessive use of the vehicle’s climate control) are the main ways of improving. Additionally, ensure that your motor is in tip-top condition, as issues such as a poorly tuned engine and deflated tyres can really do a number on your fuel consumption.
If you work with a courier firm, things get a little more complicated. Implementing guidelines for your drivers to the effect of those above is a great way to start, but you can do a lot outside of the vehicles as well. Start by planning to minimise the time any of your fleet spends driving without a load, and use freight exchange systems if necessary. Ensure that your offices run as energy efficiently as possible, in all the usual ways (sparing use of climate control, properly insulated buildings, timed light switchers where appropriate, etc.). Also, digitise as much as possible: paper and ink are big contributors to anyone’s carbon footprint, and digital files don’t have to be driven around. From a courier driver’s point of view, this can also save a good deal of time.
As for innovations such as hybrid and electric vans - which may be on our roads sooner than we think - their carbon footprint depends on a number of factors. For example, what their manufacturing process is like. As for those that charge on the National Grid, do they make efficient use of their power? For the moment, the National Grid is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, so until we have a greener infrastructure, courier drivers’ moving from petrol or diesel to electric vehicles is, to some degree at least, simply moving the problem from one place to another.
The nature of coming changes to the legal and social landscape of the courier industry has yet to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: it’s good preparation to start cutting your emissions as soon as you can.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier driver work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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