Considering September gave us the hottest day of the year so far – and the warmest September day since 1911 – it’s hard to dismiss the idea of global warming. Of course, there’s more to it than the odd warm day; July 2016 marked the fifteenth consecutive month in which the departure of global land and sea temperatures from average was the highest recorded – that’s the longest streak since records began in 1880.
The scientific consensus is that the primary cause of global warming is human activity – specifically the production of greenhouse gases, and mainly CO2 released by the burning of fossil fuels. Governments worldwide are taking action to curb the effects, and in June the UK government announced an ambitious new carbon target, to reduce carbon emissions by 57% on 1990 levels by the year 2030. This is the fifth carbon budget aimed at reducing greenhouse gases set by the UK.
If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable because you believe hauliers are a big part of the problem – breathe. Hauliers are very much part of the solution. According to Road Haulage Association director of policy, Jack Semple: “The road haulage and logistics industry is constantly innovating, although that is often overlooked. Large lorries are not only the most productive vehicles on our road, but the latest Euro 6 trucks are also ultra-low emission, quiet, and have the most advanced safety systems on the road.”
There are a number of initiatives being employed in the drive to reduce the industry’s carbon impact, for example fitting vehicles with aerodynamic kits to reduce drag. Eddie Stobart’s WR Aerokit is said to cut drag by a third for a standard truck, which they claim is 10% over other air management systems.
Aerodynamic systems also have proven advantages for those using trailers, but arguably the biggest impact can be made by optimising the use of space. This can reduce both the number of trips made and the number of vehicles on the road. DHL, for example, bundles deliveries from large suppliers. They have also established regional operating centres to allow them to ensure trailers are filled, which they assert has been a major success in reducing carbon emissions.
When it comes to chilled distribution, trailers capable of converting kinetic energy from the wheels to electricity that powers the trailer’s refrigerator are having a huge impact – Fowler Welch claims this has halved the cooling system’s CO2 emissions. Bibby Distribution, meanwhile, credits the use of dual-fuel vehicles for high-mileage contracts, eco-themed driver training programmes, and the use of longer trailers with reducing its total CO2 emissions for three years running.
Electric vehicles are theoretically a great idea, but for hauliers the realities of miles covered and load carried per charge have so far proved restrictive. However, Mercedes have just revealed a new electric truck that could prove to be a game changer.
The Urban eTruck has a range of 200 km (125 miles) and a load capacity comparable with that of diesel. Stefan Buchner, head of Mercedes-Benz trucks, believes it’s conceivable that eTrucks could be in production as soon as the 2020s.
At June’s LowCVP Conference, then transport minister Andrew Jones announced a new Green Truck Fund of £15m, plus a further £4m for infrastructure. The initiative will be headed up by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has said it could lead to “a step change in emissions reductions”. The new fund follows the government’s Low Carbon Truck Trial, which helped put over 300 gas-powered HGVs on the road.
In a previous blog we discussed how Sadiq Khan’s emission changes for London would affect UK hauliers. There’s no doubt that the industry faces challenges nationwide and that it will take time and money to overcome them. While the FTA’s climate change policy manager, Rachael Dillon, acknowledges the importance of the Green Truck Fund, she has also urged OLEV to seriously consider introducing grants to the freight sector, similar to those available to the car and van sectors. However, having seen just some of the initiatives that are underway, it’s clear the industry is not only up to delivering what is being asked of it, but in some cases is already ahead of the game.