Jane Marsh, Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co, highlights ten ways to build fuel efficiency into the supply chain.

Fuel efficiency is a crucial consideration for any supply chain. Higher efficiency minimizes fuel costs and makes supply chains more sustainable — an increasingly important factor in today’s eco-conscious market. However, it’s not always clear where to begin.

Organizations can reduce their fuel consumption in many ways. Here are ten such strategies to capitalize on for greater efficiency.

1. Reshore or nearshore

One of the most effective ways to improve supply chain fuel efficiency is to shorten the distance vehicles travel. Reshoring or nearshoring key suppliers does just that. This may also be a fairly easy strategy to implement, as many businesses are already planning on it. Roughly 950 manufacturers have reshored from China to the U.S. in the past decade.

2. Optimize vehicle maintenance

Vehicle maintenance is another key area to address, as poorly maintained trucks tend to burn more fuel. Predictive maintenance is the best way forward, as it eliminates unnecessary inspections while enabling condition-based repairs to keep vehicles performing well. Regular preventative maintenance is sufficient in smaller businesses without the resources for PdM.

3. Know when to upgrade vehicles

Even with the most reliable maintenance strategies, repairs eventually hit a point of diminishing returns. Consequently, organizations must monitor their vehicles to recognize when maintenance issues are becoming too frequent. Replacing older models with newer, more efficient ones will ensure maximum fuel economy when fleets can afford it.

4. Consider EVs

When it comes time to upgrade, fleets should consider electric vehicles (EVs). Electric long-haul trucks aren’t widely available yet, but today’s EVs can handle last-mile deliveries. While they’re more expensive than diesel alternatives, they often carry lower lifetime ownership costs and produce no direct carbon emissions.

5. Train drivers for efficiency

Fuel efficiency is also a matter of driving behavior, so thorough driver training is crucial. Idling wastes 6 billion gallons of fuel annually, so ensure drivers know to turn the engine off when waiting for extended periods. Slow acceleration, shifting at lower RPMs and avoiding speeding will also help.

6. Right-size truck loads

Shipping and logistics companies can also improve efficiency by not overloading or underloading trucks. Too much weight will lead to increased fuel consumption, but if trucks don’t carry enough, they’ll need multiple trips to accomplish the same work. Carefully calculating weights and delivery routes will help fleet managers correct loads for each trip.

7. Use AI route planning

Artificial intelligence can make that kind of planning more accessible. AI route optimization tools can also find the shortest paths between destinations, taking real-time factors like traffic and the weather into account. Using this software instead of planning routes manually will lead to significantly faster trips and, as a result, less fuel consumption.

8. Incentivize efficiency

Since supply chains are so complex, minimizing fuel consumption will require cooperation from partner organizations like 3PLs and suppliers. Businesses can encourage these third parties to join them in becoming more efficient by incentivizing participation. That may include highlighting how sustainable supply chains reduce costs or offering more efficient 3PLs more lucrative contracts.

9. Make up for unavoidable emissions

Even after following these other steps, supply chains will likely have some fuel consumption and waste. When this isn’t avoidable, organizations can compensate for it by investing in efficiency in other areas. Buying carbon credits, installing renewable energy in manufacturing facilities and using additive manufacturing to minimize waste are all potential solutions.

10. Monitor fuel efficiency trends

Regardless of what other steps a business takes, they must monitor their fuel consumption and emissions. Ongoing data collection and analysis can reveal larger trends that suggest needed areas of improvement. This will also help gauge the efficacy of other solutions.


Fuel efficiency isn’t the only sustainability or cost-saving measure supply chains should target, but it’s a big one. Following these ten steps will help supply chains reduce their ongoing expenses and minimize carbon emissions. Doing so is key to remaining competitive in the long run.