Three months ago, when Convoy launched its Automated Reloads program, it was an extension of what is a core value of the company, “to love problems, not solutions.” Ziad Ismail, chief product officer, emphasized that to FreightWaves when talking about the success that the program has had on reducing empty miles and with that, cutting carbon emissions.
“The problem, in this case, has been around for decades – how do you enable carriers to spend more time driving fully loaded, helping them to earn more while reducing waste from empty miles,” he said. “Machine learning is uniquely suited to solve these types of large-scale data problems by analyzing large complex patterns of carrier and shipper data and predicting the most optimal combination of multiple loads, taking into account the lanes on which that carrier prefers to run.”
Launched in June, Automated Reloads has slashed carbon emissions by 45% in top markets (including Los Angeles, California; Atlanta, Georgia; and St. Louis, Missouri), and reduced empty miles for customers in those markets to 19%, according to Ismail, who said Convoy estimates that overall, 35% of total mileage is run empty in full truckload van and reefer applications.
In some lanes, Automated Reloads has resulted in a greater than 50% of all loads being part of the bundled package option available to carriers and owner-operators.
Automated Reloads presents drivers with a collection of loads that take into consideration criteria such as the carriers’ lane preferences, driver hours of service availability, driver locations and facility wait times.
The idea is to provide carriers with multiple options so they don’t have to spend time looking for backhauls. A “package” of loads is presented with a single price for all the loads, rather than individual prices for each load. Carriers/drivers always have the option to bid their rates on the combinations or simply accept the package. The majority of loads are currently being accepted by carriers, but Ismail said some owner-operators in the Convoy network have benefited.
“For example, we recently spoke to an owner-operator who appreciated the ability to haul multiple drop-and-hook round-trips by bidding on a single job spanning a week and a half. He was able to earn more and get home to rest on his preferred schedule, guaranteeing that he spent less time looking for work or driving empty,” he said.
Angie Slaughter, vice president of sustainability procurement for Anheuser-Busch, said Automated Reloads is fast becoming a part of the beer giant’s efforts to cut its carbon footprint.
“By partnering with Convoy, we have used the benefits of its digital freight network to strategically batch our loads with the most relevant carriers to reduce the empty miles within our routes,” she said. “By reducing these miles, we improve the sustainability of our fleet – taking another step towards our ambitious sustainability goal of reducing carbon emissions by 25% by 2025 – and continue to lead the way towards greater efficiency in the transport market and within our own supply chain.”
Convoy noted that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data shows that medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for 436 million metric tons of CO2 per year, with Convoy estimating that half of these emissions come from trucks in the full truckload sector.
While Automated Reloads was designed to make it easier for carriers and truckers to book multiple loads as a single job, its environmental benefits in reducing empty miles as trucks reposition for the next load is something the company believes deserves equal attention.
“For decades, the miles that trucks run empty have been a seemingly intractable source of waste in the freight industry, unnecessarily emitting millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide,” Aaron Terrazas, Convoy’s director of economic research, said. “More efficient route and schedule planning is the future of freight and has the potential to meaningfully reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.”
Ismail said Convoy is looking at ways to further improve Automated Reloads.
“While we’re excited by how quickly Automated Reloads is being adopted, we are continuously working to grow and improve the program,” he said. “As Convoy’s business grows and more shipments are added to our digital freight network, our machine learning algorithms can identify more shipments to group together and automatically create the most efficient route for carriers.”
That is already happening, Ismail said, noting that initially the system was producing two loads at a time, but the company is seeing more cases where four or more loads are being bundled.