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Claudio Di Ciccio

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Claudio Di Ciccio

Researcher of the Month

Innovation in freight logistics: Less wasted mileage and CO2 emissions

In freight logistics, delayed and diverted flights can result in massive additional costs and organizational hassles for transport companies. The environment pays a price, as well. Often, trucks are dispatched to the wrong airports to wait to collect freight containers and then have to be re-routed. At WU’s Institute for Information Business, Claudio Di Ciccio and his team have developed an early alert system to help inform logistics providers ahead of time about changes in flight plans. Thanks to this EU project, transportation companies will be able to reduce the number of unnecessary kilometers driven, and CO2 emissions in Europe could be reduced by 6.5 million tons.

In Europe and around the world, the effects of the transportation industry on the environment are a huge problem. The volume of transported goods is rising constantly due to increasing globalization, and logistics are a major source of CO2 emissions. One large freight plane can carry between 80 and 115 tons of cargo. Up to 30 trucks can be needed to deliver these goods to their final destinations. When flights get diverted on short notice due to inclement weather or other unfavorable conditions, trucks end up waiting at the wrong airport, creating major problems for transportation companies. Until now, trucking companies have always planned their processes based on flights’ scheduled departure and arrival times, and they are not informed of deviations from these plans until the aircraft has already been diverted to another airport. Aside from the extra costs incurred by the logistics providers, this also causes additional damage to the environment, because trucks are driving extra kilometers and producing even more emissions. Studies have shown that around 20% of the distances driven by trucks are “empty miles.” As part of the EU-funded GET service project, Claudio Di Ciccio from WU’s Institute for Information Business and a team of international colleagues have developed an algorithm that can predict deviations from scheduled flight plans and optimize logistics processes. The system is intended to help companies avoid “empty miles” and make processes much more efficient.

Real-time data

In their work, Di Ciccio and his team used only data that is publicly accessible and available to transportation companies, like planes’ current position, speed, altitude, time stamp, and more. Based on this data, they developed a self-learning algorithm and “trained” it using global flight data – both on-schedule flight routes and deviations from scheduled routes. “With the help of our algorithm and by processing real-time data, transportation companies can now use software to get early alerts in the event of aircraft diversions and other irregularities,” explains Di Ciccio, continuing, “The sooner logistics providers are informed of deviations, the faster they can react and adjust the logistics process accordingly.”

Protecting the environment, lowering costs

The new software brings numerous advantages both for transportation companies and for the environment. “First, CO2 emissions can be efficiently reduced because unnecessary trips and empty miles can be minimized. Second, both fuel use and transportation times will drop, and these are money-saving factors for companies,” says Di Ciccio. Long term, the GET Service project is expected to lower fuel use in transportation by 2.3 million liters of diesel fuel while lowering CO2 emissions by a total of 6.5 million tons.