When I first met Buddy Polovick he was handing out bananas. They were free to anyone willing to listen to his discourse. His stand was next to a fellow giving away bottles of water. I was a guy in need of lunch.
What caught my ear, as Buddy explained the facts of life to another hungry passerby, were the words, "... a smarter way to manage your shipping." Finding a way to mix bananas with shipping management might have appeal for readers, I thought.
"This is a voluntary program," explained Polovick, "that aims to help freight shippers, be they manufacturers or retailers, match up with purchasers of goods, for the purpose of identifying efficient carriers."
I made a closer inspection of Polovick's tradeshow name badge and discovered he was with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ah, ha! Starvation now at bay, the nutrients of the banana were beginning to help me see things more clearly.
The idea is simple: Improved fuel efficiency saves fuel and money, reduces carbon dioxide emissions (a greenhouse gas) and improves air quality. I began to realize this guy was no ordinary banana huckster.
Here's how the program works: A company that joins the partnership commits to increasing the percentage of goods it transports using efficient carriers who have also joined the partnership. A company can also pledge to improve the fuel efficiency of its private fleet.
When Polovick launched into the do-gooder part of his talk-reducing fuel consumption contributes to a healthier environment—I wanted to tell him we tried that approach in the last century with other transport packaging issues and few people listened. Before I could swallow an oversize bite of banana and say, "show me the money," he was into the economic benefits.
"Improving fuel efficiency reduces fuel consumption and cost," Polovick told his growing audience. "And it promotes energy security by reducing oil imports. These actions contribute to a strong economy."
I envied his way of wrapping the program in red, white and blue. Maybe the bananas were actually symbolic of things that don't grow in the desert, or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This guy was slick.
As it turns out, there's more to this worthwhile program than just saving fuel and dollars. There's also the positive public relations bump a company gets by joining the partnership.
SmartWay Transport Partners are published on the U.S. EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership Web site. This listing generates positive public recognition for participating companies.
Ever the pitchman, he said, "As an added incentive, shippers or receivers that move at least 50 percent of their freight with SmartWay Transport carriers are eligible to use the SmartWay Transport Partner logo."
Earning the right to use this logo tells the world that your company is among the "greenest" in freight transport, as recognized by the U.S. EPA! Now why would anyone be swayed by that old celebrity-endorsement line?
As I checked my official Lance Armstrong model Nike wristwatch to see how close it was to my next appointment, Polovick, who knew his audience, quickly moved into the close-the-sale part. Apparently it's easy to join. Shippers and receivers simply have to assess the current proportion of goods shipped and received with Smart-Way Transport Partner Carriers (using the FLEET Performance Model), then sign a partnership agreement committing, within three years, to:
- Ship and receive at least 50 percent of its goods with SmartWay Transport Partnership carriers. The more efficient the carriers, the easier it is to reach the 50 percent goal.
- Reduce the transportation emissions within its facilities, which includes lift trucks, loaders, generators, trucks idling at docks, etc.; and then improve its facility transportation emissions within three years.
Because setting internal goals is tough to regulate, each partner decides for itself what its facility emissions improvement goal will be. Each year, partners send in updated fleet performance models showing progress toward achieving its goals.
When I asked, Polovick said the banana gimmick was made possible by one of the more than 115 partners in the program. As he looked at the cases of fruit surrounding his crowded booth, I could see that he was thinking about how the cost of carrying inventory can eat you up.
If you missed his performance at ProMat and would like more information on the SmartWay Transport Partnership, including details on how to join, the FLEET Performance model, participating carriers, logo use and other benefits, visit EPA's web site at www.epa.gov/smartway.
Sorry, no free bananas come with this offer.
Clyde E. Witt