Driving Trucks and Sustainability in Colombia

Driving Trucks and Sustainability in Colombia

Truck drivers who joined a sustainability program created by Colombian manufacturer Corona contributed valuable ideas such as adapting vehicle speeds to mountain terrain.
Truck drivers who joined a sustainability program created by Colombian manufacturer Corona contributed valuable ideas such as adapting vehicle speeds to mountain terrain.

Companies often collaborate with suppliers and customers to reduce the carbon footprint of their freight operations. Colombian manufacturer Corona and the Center for Latin-American Logistics Innovation (CLI), based in Bogotá, Colombia, have teamed up with another important logistics player to lower carbon emissions: the truck driver community.

Founded in 1881, Corona is one the largest manufacturers in South America. It has six business units, and 12 plants in Colombia, three in Central America, one in Brazil, and three plants in the US. The company makes products ranging from construction materials to household ceramics.

Six years ago, Corona launched an environmental sustainability program that set goals for improvement in five areas: Climate change (more efficient use of energy and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions), eco efficiency (more efficient use of water and a reduced water footprint), conservation of natural resources, developing sustainable products, and regulatory compliance.

In support of its climate change goals, Corona set a target to achieve a 10% reduction in the company’s carbon footprint by 2020. Over the last five years the footprint has shrunk by 5%, and as part of its efforts to double this figure, Corona has created an initiative called the Eco Driving project to decrease the emissions associated with freight transportation.

Corona owns 50 trucks and employs about 1,000 independent owner-operator drivers to haul its goods. The initial focus of the project is on the fleet of 50 company-owned vehicles in Colombia. A nine-month pilot program managed by CLI was completed recently.

As part of the pilot, CLI quantified truck fuel consumption and analyzed driver´s work patterns using hardware and software that sense engine variables. The data was used to design a driver training program on operating vehicles in accordance with manufacturer specifications, engine parameters, regional environmental and topography conditions, and the company’s sustainability goals. The main purpose was to improve driver performance by teaching best practices in vehicle operation and planned maintenance.

The course was created in collaboration with SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje) the government-run Community College Organization of Colombia. The Universidad Andres Bello, Chile, participated in the teaching sessions, and CIMA (Centro de Investigación en Mecatrónica Automotriz) a research center at Tecnológico de Monterrey University in Mexico, contributed to the project. Colciencias, the National Science Organization of Colombia, provided funding.

“We are partnering with our drivers to help us meet our sustainability goals and increase the efficiency of our fleet,” says Mario Bernal, Chief Executive, Environmental Issues, Corona.

For example, standardizing vehicle speeds, maintaining the correct tire pressures, and optimizing the use of brakes increase the efficiency of trucks, lower fuel consumption, and reduce emissions levels. Streamlining the scheduling of trucks at logistics centers was also part of the pilot.

An analysis of the training program and the project overall carried out by CLI confirmed that the initiative was a success. A 14% improvement in gallons-per-kilometer performance as well as a 6% reduction in fuel costs were achieved. During the project execution, the fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions levels declined by 19%. And the program cut costs by lowering Corona’s fuel bill and enabling the company to operate its trucks more cost-effectively.

The pilot also delivered some important gains for drivers. They benefitted from reduced accident rates as a result of better driving practices. There were quality of life improvements as well, because driving schedules were less variable during the pilot.

Bernal says that one of the most important results “is the change in the motivation of drivers.”  In addition to changing the way they do their jobs, drivers provided valuable ideas for further improvements. For example, they suggested that vehicle speeds should be adjusted to take account of different terrains such as mountainous areas. “The driving culture has changed because drivers now know what a carbon footprint is and how it connects to their jobs. This increases their motivation to make a contribution,” says Bernal.

The project is now being rolled out to Corona’s owner-operator driver community. And there is interest in extending the program to other fleets, perhaps in cooperation with the Colombian government.

“There are over half a million truck drivers in Colombia, and training them to be more aware about sustainability is a relatively easy and low-cost way to reduce the carbon footprint of freight transportation,” says Bernal

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