(Feb. 19, 12:15 p.m.) Joe Andraski said he remembers sitting down for a
business transportation roundtable discussion a couple years ago when
he heard something that shocked him.

“One of the retailers
stepped up and said his company ran 26 million miles a year with an
empty fleet,” said Andraski, president and chief executive officer of
the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association, a
not-for-profit organization that helps companies in retail and
consumer-focused industries to eliminate waste and delay. “I just
couldn’t believe it.”

Andraski’s organization is taking steps
that could eliminate many of those trucks criss-crossing the U.S. with
no loads. The association has teamed up with GS1 U.S. and GS1 Canada to
offer the Empty Miles Service, a computer software program that matches
a company’s trailers that are returning empty with potential loads that
can be collected and delivered along the return route.

“The way
the system works is retailers post empty miles,” Andraski said. “Others
can review when those moments are and match them with their shipping
needs.”

Andraski said he remembers another topic at that
roundtable. He said retailers agreed they could expect increases in
fuel prices, fewer drivers on the road because of those increases,
highway infrastructure to continue to crumble and sustainability to
continue gaining steam as a factor in doing business.

The Empty
Miles Service helps alleviate at least some of those challenges and
brings sustainability to the forefront, Andraski said.

“Our
goals are altruistic,” he said. “It’s all about how to use less fuel,
less (carbon) emissions. The magic isn’t just in spending fewer
dollars, but the efficient use of what we have today. It’s a mindset.”

Andraski
said the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association
provided the software for the program, and Lawrenceville, N.J.-based
GS1 U.S. and GS1 Canada, Toronto, paid for the development of the
enabling technology.

Association members using real data in a
structured pilot program have tested all functions of the Easy Miles
Service. Pilot participants include several heavy hitters in North
American retail, such as Macy’s, Target and Best Buy. Andraski said
they reported the service is easy to use and powerful in terms of
results.

“Macy’s is examining every aspect of our supply chain
to ensure that product arrives at our stores in the most efficient
manner,” Pam Sweeney, senior vice president, systems for Macy’s
Logistics & Operations, said in a news release. “Empty Miles is a
key tool to help us accomplish this goal.”

VICS members can participate in Empty Miles for $1,600 a year. Non-members pay $1,850 a year.

“We had one shipper say he could easily make that cost up with one shipment,” Andraski said.

To
further help companies build a business case for Empty Miles, GS1 U.S.
developed a calculator to measure direct financial benefits and
determine the benefits of reduced CO2 emissions.

Other features
of the program include Web-based access, a secure collaborative
environment between shippers and carriers, user authentication and
real-time searching for available lanes.

“It’s a great win-win,”
said Jon Mellor, director of public relations for GS1 U.S. “It’s an
opportunity to reduce transportation costs and benefit the environment
by reducing the carbon footprint.”