On the road to combat carbon

Road freight operators are being invited to join a consortium, involving Heriot-Watt, which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of road freight and meet Government targets to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.

The Centre for Sustainable Road Freight Transport

The Centre for Sustainable Road Freight Transport, a joint collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and the University of Cambridge, combines logistics and technology expertise to explore ways to make road freight economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

They need road freight operators of all sizes to join a consortium established last year to help drive forward and test new research. The consortium already includes the Freight Transport Authority (FTA) DHL, John Lewis Partnership, Tesco and Wincanton and vehicle industry partners such as Firestone, Goodyear, Haldex and Volvo.

The Centre is particularly interested in recruiting freight operators in the retail and specialist freight sectors, such as bulk liquid transport, to ensure they can address the needs of the whole of the UK industry and is holding a recruitment and information event at Cambridge University on 14 January 2014.

Minimising fuel consumption

The UK's freight transport industry consumes around 33% of UK diesel fuel delivering 3.9 million tonnes of freight daily.

With fuel representing, on average, 45 per cent of operating costs, UK traffic congestion predicted to worsen and aggressive emission-reduction targets (see note 1) the road freight industry has substantial incentives to improve operations and minimise fuel consumption.

Membership of the Centre offers operators the chance to define and participate in leading edge research and be among the very first to trial new technology or operations systems that could make dramatic environmental and financial savings. Research covers:

  • optimising long haul transport through the design of vehicles, tyres and the management of logistics in cities, driver behaviours and alternative fuels. This includes a decarbonisation tool to quantify accurately the benefits of carbon interventions and find the most carbon friendly and cost effective way to transport goods around the UK
  • sustainable urban freight where a combined approach from technology and innovation could revolutionise online deliveries from supermarkets to consumers' homes. Congestion data will be used to develop routing strategies and minimise fuel consumption. Ultimately this will lead to the creation of a mobile phone App to assess and reduce diesel consumption and improve vehicle performance
  • data management, scenario analysis and decision support tools including a new Single Logistics Assessment measure, backed by the Freight Transport Association, to measure the efficiency of the UK's freight transport and allow comparisons to be drawn across operators for the first time
  • future mapping to create a carbon reduction roadmap for the road freight sector up to 2050

Integrating management approaches with technology
We've been really pleased with the support from road freight operators for our work so far. But we need more operators to join our consortium so that we can get a true representation of the UK's freight movements across all sectors
Dr Maja Piecyk, Heriot-Watt University

Funding of £5.8 million for the first five years is being given to the Centre to carry out the research. Heriot-Watt's Logistics Research Centre is focussing on the organisation of supply chains while Cambridge's Department of Engineering is working on vehicle design. Together they are looking at ways to integrate management approaches with technology to deliver greater efficiency and sustainability.

Dr Maja Piecyk, Principal Investigator at Heriot-Watt, said, "We've been really pleased with the support from road freight operators for our work so far. But we need more operators to join our consortium so that we can get a true representation of the UK's freight movements across all sectors. We're very keen to hear from retailers, tankers and 3PLs."

"There have been some significant early developments in the work of the Centre including an update to the decarbonisation tool to allow cost savings to be made and the first study towards creating a roadmap of road freight transport in the UK. Becoming a member would open up a world of research and information to operators that could significantly change the way they do business."