GS1 Canada Web tool cuts

GS1 Canada is behind an online collaborative tool to help the transport industry improve supply chain productivity and reduce environmental impact.

The Toronto-based supply chain standards organization worked with its American counterpart GS1 U.S., and the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association (VICS) to launch the site in Canada in February 2010. (The U.S. site launched in January 2009.)

Shawn Porto, industry manager with GS1 Canada, said the traditional issue plaguing the transport industry is “dead head freight,” or when a truck travels a leg of a journey with no cargo yet must bear the cost of the driver, fuel and other resources. “That has been an eternal issue in the transportation sector,” said Porto.

Called VICS Empty Miles, the service allows a manufacturing company for instance to input the amount of empty miles on the site along with other data like trailer size and drop-off times. The system matches this to another manufacturer in the system with cargo that needs transporting. The two manufacturers can then negotiate outside of the system to make the transaction happen.

“We ultimately facilitate the match so they would operate status quo,” said Porto.

While there do exist third-party broker boards to facilitate exactly this sort of exchange, Porto said they are not designed for anything beyond a one-time transactions, nor are they designed to be collaborative.

Given the Canadian site is relatively new, Porto could not yet provide customer success statistics north of the border. But he did say U.S.-based trucking company Schneider National Inc. has eliminated 61 tons of CO2 emissions, 147 tons of particulate matter and 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel using the service.

The service even provides a return on investment calculator so companies can determine whether a match will render them the best return.

In August, Markham, Ont.-based Supply Chain and Logistics Association Canada (SCL) announced its endorsement of the VICS Empty Miles service. SCL’s president Bob Armstrong said the service “successfully addresses a perpetual challenge in the transport supply chain network, namely reducing empty backhauls.”

Particularly with ongoing market pressures in Canada, Armstrong said the online tool is “imperative to increasing productivity, achieving savings and realizing environmental sustainability goals.

Return on investment aside, Porto said the online tool gives the transportation industry a voice. A steering committee meets annually to determine how site functionality will evolve based on user feedback and industry needs.

Currently, the system works at an “optimal level,” said Porto, having already undergone four enhancements including allowing users to mass upload empty miles from Microsoft Excel and then sit back and wait for matches to be made.

“We’re really looking forward in Canada to further adoption of the tool and further participation cross-border to make this truly work as a North American service,” said Porto.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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