Car maker looking to rail and water

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There can be few more  stark examples of how environmental concerns are affecting supply chains than Ford’s “Blueprint for sustainability” released last month. This set out the steps it is taking to reduce its carbon footprint.

It is not just the fact that Ford is one of the world’s biggest motor manufacturers: it is also American – road transport capital of the world.

America, those with long memories might recall, is also home to the “Great American Streetcar Scandal” of the 1940s in which streetcar, or tram, systems throughout the United States were bought up and closed down by motor industry interests (not including Ford) to encourage people onto the road.

Now in the 21st century, Ford is looking to move goods off the roads. The Blueprint highlights a number of steps including:

* Reduced road-based freight of parts and finished vehicles by increasing the use of rail and sea transport. (Ford reckons switching from road to rail can save 40 per cent of CO2 emissions.)

* Reduced inland road-based transport within Spain by 29 per cent by expanding from three sea ports of entry to six.

* Introduction of a barge route between Romania and Bavaria and use of the Black Sea for imports into Russia.

In North America, it said, at the beginning of 2010, rail and intermodal rail shipments represented almost 40 per cent of the network distance travelled, while accounting for less than 15 per cent of the network carbon footprint. And it achieved an average of eight per cent fewer miles travelled by delivery trucks than at the end of 2009. The network uses 70 per cent rail miles and 30 per cent road miles.

In addition, it is increasing the use of alternative fuels and fuel-efficient driving practices on delivery vehicles and reducing packing waste.

It has also started to survey its 35 top global suppliers, which represent close to 30 per cent of its $65bn annual procurement bill, on their energy use and estimated greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, there is an element of enlightened self-interest at work here. But the Ford report highlights the fact that real change is taking place that is reshaping supply chains.

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