- Flock Freight will purchase carbon offsets for “shared-truckload” shipments in 2021.
- The startup raised $113.5 million from Softbank and others in December.
- The offsets will fund electric charging stations at truck stops to reduce engine idling.
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Flock Freight, a startup using technology to consolidate truck freight, is following up its $113.5 million Series C round in December with a move to make its hallmark “shared” truckload shipments carbon neutral — at no cost to customers.
Founded in 2015, Flock Freight bundles shipments that don’t fill a full truck, known as less-than-truckload (LTL), to fill a trailer. LTL shipments often take convoluted paths, with several stops along the way adding time and increasing the odds of cargo damage. Facilitating “shared” truckloads (STL), where shippers can put their freight together to hire full truckload service straight from origin to destination, offers shippers a better option, according to CEO and founder Oren Zaslansky.
It’s for these shipments that Flock Freight will be purchasing offsets for through Carbonfund.org. They account for more than half of the freight that transacts through Flock Freight, according to a spokesperson.
The startup did not disclose the estimated price of the offsets for 2021, but it has raised a total of $184 million in funding, including a $113.5 million Series C round led by Softbank in December. The company’s goal is to offset 20,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2021.
Flock Freight, which achieved B Corp certification in June, says its STL shipments are already up to 40% more emissions-efficient than traditional LTL loads. Sustainability has been part of the company’s mission since the beginning, Zaslansky said.
Bundling freight to ensure trucks don’t haul empty space is the main part of that mission, but the offsets can give Flock Freight’s customers a somewhat more tangible — and perhaps more marketable — option for communicating with customers and end-consumers.
Shippers, the companies that hire Flock Freight to orchestrate the movement of their goods, are increasingly concerned with emissions for varying reasons, Zaslansky said. Some have an existing culture and reputation for sustainability that Flock Freight can help them further. Some have compliance concerns or public emissions-reduction goals to meet.
“We’re growing our customers’ wallets month over month over month. They’re staying, they’re coming back, they’re buying more, but there isn’t anything better than a certificate or a plaque or a badge or something that you can point to that says, ‘We have definitively proven that we as as a shipper have embraced and are supporting sustainability initiatives,'” Zaslansky said.
Flock Freight’s idea of offering offsets was inspired by Tesla’s sale of zero-emissions regulatory credits to automakers that produce many fewer EVs. Those credits bring in hundreds of millions for Tesla each quarter and are a key contributor to the company’s profitability.
Flock Freight couldn’t make the same play since it’s not a manufacturer, but looking into the possibility led the team to see offsets as a value-add — though they come at no cost to shippers.
Offsets can be problematic in that they create a false sense of impact, said Anad Gopal, climate program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. They work best when the funds they generate go into the technologies that can help the relevant sector decarbonize.
The money generated by Flock Freight’s offsets will go toward the Truck Stop Electrification Project, which funds the installation of electric charging stations at truck stops, so drivers need not burn diesel to heat and cool their cabs, and charge their phones and laptops.
The EPA estimates that long haul trucks idle between five and eight hours more than 200 nights per year. Eliminating this idling could reduce carbon emissions by 9 metric tons per year per truck.
Since Flock Freight doesn’t own trucks, the best option for the future, Gopal said, is to give preference to carriers that electrify first and set rates to encourage their success. Electric and lower-emissions trucks are slowly making their way into trucking fleets. Zaslansky, in turn, sees offsets as one step on the path to actual zero-emissions freight movement.
“This industry is not switching over to electric vehicles tomorrow. It is going to take a lot of time to roll out. Until then, can we support a strategy that, in the near-term, creates a more sustainable environment, simply by Class 8 tractors not needing to have the motor on idling, burning a half gallon per hour of diesel fuel to do something as simple as charge a laptop,” Zalansky said.
“We think of them as growth hacks,” he added. “These intermediary steps to ultimately get to where we can really fulfill our true vision of disruption.”