In an effort to reduce its carbon output, Nashville, Tenn.-based Ingram Barge Co. is taking part in the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership program.

“We strive to set the industry standards of excellence,” said Craig Philip, chief executive officer of Ingram, “and one of the ways that it shows up is in our environmental stewardship.”

The SmartWay initiative was launched exactly a decade ago and helps shippers understand the amount of carbon produced by their regular supply chains.

“Before we came on the scene, if a shipper or a third-party logistics company cared about their carbon footprint, or corporate sustainability, they could select a carrier or mode of routing based on time or price or sustainability,” said the EPA’s Cheryl Bynum, the national program director for SmartWay, “but as far as what was the environmental impact, that was a black box.”

But by adopting SmartWay technology, that same shipper, using a variety of measures developed by the EPA, “can figure out what their carbon footprint is and make choices using that factor, along with all of their other business choices,” said Bynum.

Over the past decade, SmartWay has worked with any number of trucking and logistics companies, rail carriers, retailers and commercial manufacturers, as well as state and federal agencies, to find the best ways of moving goods efficiently.

Aspects of the program help carriers track fuel consumption or assists them in looking at equipment technologies and strategies to save fuel emissions. The program additionally reduces emissions created through transportation by offering incentives to improve supply chain efficiency.

Studying the equipment procurement process and freight operations network, said Bynum, “We found that not only was some information lacking in terms of what worked, but also a common platform for all those tens of thousands of individuals making up the goods movement network, for them to communicate with one another using a common frame of reference and understanding.”

That SmartWay has had an impact is seen in numbers crunched by the EPA. In the last 10 years, the program has eliminated 51.6 million metric tons of carbon, while at the same time saving nearly $17 billion in fuel cost expenses.

Ingram signed on as one of the first marine transportation company partners in the program about four years ago. The company, said Philip, continues helping SmartWay to “develop its barge tool so that it would be available for others in the industry.”

Bynum, who expects to see other barge companies become a part of the program, said Ingram’s participation has been vital. “We said to them, ‘Help us to understand your work, so that we get it right.’ ”

Philip said that Ingram’s full participation in the SmartWay program has been worth the effort. “Our nation’s rivers are an incredible resource that bring stability to our economy,” he said, “and we make every effort to be the best stewards of this resource.”  

— Garry Boulard