A seminar on freight and logistics organised by the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum heard the industry was facing challenges because road congestion was predicted to increase by 121 per cent between 2010 and 2040, while 30 per cent of HGVs were “running empty”.
Among the solutions put forward was greater collaboration in the sector, changing the timing of deliveries and more use of rail freight.
Andrew Traill, principal consultant for logistics and freight at Transport Systems Catapult, said firms needed to put sustainability “at the heart” of their business because currently it was not an imperative. “If everything else is equal, sustainability starts to come into the equation,” he said.
“There is an awful lot of green wash out there. A lot of companies will claim they have reduced CO2 emissions but when you drive into the facts there are gaps, there are a lot of questions. How are they measuring it? Is it a standard way? How does it compare?
“What we need is a paradigm shift in our attitude to efficiency, to put sustainability of transport at the heart of our business. The key will be technology: more visibility of what we are doing and what can be improved.”
One way to cut fuel consumption presented by DAF Trucks was “platooning”, where up to four HGVs are linked together by telematics and radar. The driver in the front vehicle drives as normal, controlling the other lorries and allowing the drivers to do other things.
Ray Ashworth, managing director at DAF Trucks, said the company was testing the technology but there were issues to address around insurance, public perceptions and joining and leaving motorways. “The first truck does the driving, the second driver reads the paper,” he said. “They can drive 10cm apart.”
Philip Roe, vice president of innovation, strategy and business development at DHL, said logistics made up 15 per cent of the cost of delivered goods and services and “empty running” and insufficient collaboration were the sector’s key challenges.
He said changing the timing of deliveries was crucial and finding customers who wanted afternoon deliveries would be “the panacea”. “Everybody wants their deliveries in the morning,” he said.
Chris Rowland, director of MDS Transmodal, citing UK government figures, said there were 52,500 premature deaths each year due to air pollution. “Poor air quality is a big issue,” he said. “We think rail freight is part of the solution. More capacity will be required and we need more strategic multi modal interchanges.”
Rowland also suggested firms “switch to low emission vehicles for last-mile deliveries”.