Moving Our Products

Inbound Freight

We continue to push for increased efficiency and reduction in energy use in our logistics from the starting point of our suppliers' facilities.

We currently manage more than half of our inbound suppliers' shipments, enabling us to better create efficiencies and reduce energy usage. In doing so, we arrange pickup and delivery ourselves, rather than taking receipt of shipments from suppliers at our warehouses. This allows us to maximize the efficient use of our carrier resources and consolidate product from multiple supplier locations which aids in lowering our costs and reducing fuel consumption for inbound freight.

In FY2016, we announced a new organizational structure that links our inbound and outbound distribution under our new end-to-end supply chain organization. We believe this change will result in increased efficiencies and productivity. One of the key objectives of Sysco’s inbound logistics team is to continue building strategic relationships with our carrier and supplier partners to reduce our shared energy consumption while improving service to our customers.

Intermodal Shipping

Sysco continues to be an industry leader in the use of rail and intermodal shipping for our foodservice distribution. In FY2016, we moved approximately 1,600 rail boxcars within our distribution network and shipped more than 14,000 intermodal loads. Using rail and intermodal shipments allowed us to avoid the use of 4.7 million gallons of fuel, 25.3 million road miles and 139 million pounds of carbon emissions. This is the equivalent of taking nearly 20,000 trucks off the road for one year. To attain fuel efficiencies, we continually review opportunities to shift transportation modes, moving over-the-road trucks to railroad or intermodal whenever possible.

Sysco also strives to increase its use of SmartWay-certified providers. SmartWay is an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that reduces transportation-related emissions by creating incentives to improve supply chain fuel efficiency for all parties engaged in the movement of goods.

Truck Load Fill Improvements

Filling our trailers remains a top priority for the logistics team. Reducing the total number of loads each year through optimization efforts helps to improve efficiency across our supply chain and reduce emissions. Our truck load fill rates in FY2016 – a measure of how full inbound truckloads are -- increased slightly as a result of focused optimization efforts with low-performing carriers. Primary areas of focus include:

  • Expanding our backhaul network by utilizing empty trucks in our owned fleet that are returning from customer deliveries to pick up and deliver product from suppliers. Increasing backhaul deliveries reduces “empty” miles for our trucks and reduces costs paid to third party carriers;
  • Leveraging cross-docking which allows us to combine regional supplier shipments destined for one or more of our operating locations;
  • Co-loading shipments across our operating companies to increase our inbound truckload fill rates from single and multiple suppliers whenever possible. Additional benefits include more efficient unloading at our operating companies and decreased congestion at our warehouses.


We look for ways to make the delivery of products to our customers more energy efficient by focusing on fleet improvements, more efficient routing and the behavior of our delivery associates.

Fleet Improvements

Seeking cost-saving opportunities in our large fleet of trucks, we replace 10 to 12 percent of our fleet annually and have a policy of ensuring replacements are more fuel efficient.

During FY2013, we added 16 low-emission liquid natural gas (LNG) trucks to our fleet, bringing the total to 180. Since January 2010 we have purchased more than 6,300 EPA-approved diesel trucks with low emission engines. We have also built new LNG fuel stations at some operations to help with our transition to LNG vehicles; and we are evaluating 5 low-emission compressed natural gas units.

Our fleet of hybrid/electric single-axle trucks represents 1 percent of our total fleet. Each of these vehicles consumes 40 percent less diesel than a standard engine.

We use biodiesel for trucks at 25 operating companies, although a reduction in government subsidies for biofuel producers makes securing available supplies a challenge.

Our fleet also is equipped with auto-idle shutoff timers that shut down truck engines after three consecutive minutes of idling.

In addition to testing engine and fuel options for our trucks, we continue to look for the best ways to power the refrigeration units used by most of our vehicles. In FY2013 we also began installing lighter, automatic rollup doors onto our trucks to increase safety for our delivery associates, enhance product integrity and driver efficiency, and reduce refrigeration loss during deliveries.

Delivery Routing and Utilization

Optimized delivery routing is an important method we utilize to save fuel and curb emissions. We use specialized technology to map the most efficient delivery route to our customers. This technology now also helps our marketing associates reduce time on the roads.

We continue to introduce enhancements to our routing technology and processes to further improve delivery efficiencies. Since 2015, we have delivered more cases to our distribution centers, while driving less miles. We will begin the next phase of our routing initiative in FY2017, which aims to further optimize deliveries to our customers, reduce the time our drivers and trucks spend on the road and increase efficiencies.

Delivery Associate Education

Educating our delivery associates also helps save energy. Technology installed on all of our trucks limits their speed to 65 miles per hour, reducing fuel use and improving delivery associate safety. All Sysco delivery associates are trained on the SMITH (defensive driving) System, and educated to drive safely and efficiently. Sysco drivers are always taught to maintain proper following distances in all driving situations. On-board computers monitor and improve individual vehicle and delivery associate fuel efficiency. Delivery associates who work with manual transmissions are trained in progressive shifting techniques to ensure maximum fuel efficiency. Automatic transmissions are calibrated for maximum fuel economy, and engines are set to turn off automatically when unattended.

We have also installed devices on our fuel tanks and our fueling nozzles at our operating companies and redistribution facilities (where most of our truck refueling takes place) to precisely track fuel use per vehicle and account for all fuel dispensed.