Meet the New FedEx Efficient Containers. Lighter design. Less fuel.

Meet the New FedEx Efficient Containers. Lighter design. Less fuel.

By Dave Lee, Manager Global ULD Planning FedEx

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Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 11:15am

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Taking weight off a jet isn’t a new idea. It’s a problem aviators have tried to solve since the early pages of aviation history. Extra weight equals extra fuel. When you find the right balance, you can fly farther, use less fuel and reduce emissions. But it’s how you take the weight off that gets interesting.

Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic using a plane covered in lightweight linen. Today, this same mindset is inspiring a whole new generation of innovations and I’m happy to say much safer than some of those early ideas.

One of our newest EarthSmart Innovations, the FedEx Efficient Container, takes this mindset to heart. These unit load devices (ULDs) are the containers that keep packages safe during loading, transit and unloading of our aircraft. Efficient containers, which begin service with our maiden 767 flight later this month, will be significantly lighter than the models currently in our network. For example, our largest container used on the 777s will weigh almost 150 lbs. lighter.

In fact, once we finish retrofitting or replacing about 23,000 older-model ULDs, Efficient Containers will remove more than 1.6 million pounds from our air network. This equates to saving approximately 2.8 million gallons of fuel each year and reducing our CO2 emissions by 77.8 million pounds.

For the past three years, I’ve collaborated with our strategic projects and air ops teams and our manufacturer to bring this idea to life. On the outset we all agreed to a few simple principles. Make it lighter, make it safe, make it use space more efficiently and make it 100 percent recyclable.

After countless Cad drawings and tests, three years of planning are paying off: 100 hundred test units on 21,000 flight cycles saved more than $200,000 in fuel costs. Now we’re about to bring four new models online consisting of a total of 38 new parts.

These containers join a host of weight-reducing efforts at FedEx from re-distributing weight in the cargo hull to streamlining galley equipment. Together with our new fuel-efficient aircraft like the 767s, and 777s, we’re making a significant impact on our goal to reduce aircraft emissions intensity 30 percent by 2020.