Orange truck flanked by grey trucks

Demands to achieve an 80% reduction in 1990-level CO2 emissions by 2050 has left the UK road freight sector facing increasing commercial and environmental pressures. A bespoke course has sought to appease the targets by offering an eco-driving course that places individuals firmly behind the wheel of responsibility.

The UK transport sector is currently trying to negotiate the glare of very aggressive emissions targets. It is especially challenging because the demand for freight is increasing exponentially – not least from ubiquitous online retailers and the booming building industry. Following an eco-driving ‘best practice’ review conducted by Heriot-Watt University and Hargreaves Logistics, a course specifically focused on eco-driving has been developed. Driver training generally has among the highest potential for reductions, and lowest barriers to adoption of any sector, fuelling considerable optimism among the creators of the course.

Drive times

The one-day package includes a presentation on key eco-driving information, an accompanying handout, an eco-driving knowledge questionnaire, guidance for training and a vital checklist of learning objectives. The work has been disseminated among the large industrial stakeholder group, comprised of leading national and international logistics companies at the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight.

The Centre is a pioneering collaboration between Cambridge and Heriot-Watt Universities, as well as several organisations in the freight and logistics sectors. A vital feature of the facility has been its close links with the freight industry and core purpose of researching engineering and organisational solutions. The ultimate aim of the centre and the course is to realise a road freight industry that is at once economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

Rewarding journey

The impact of the course – which is a recognised Driver Certificate of Professional Competence qualification – has been felt in a number of critical areas already, with participating logistics operators able to achieve demonstrable fuel and emissions savings through the principals of the course. Furthermore, newly upskilled drivers have used their new techniques to consistently save fuel and reduce emissions.

Data has also been collected in order to track driving style changes after the delivery of the one-day training course. This included 44 weeks of measuring weekly distance, Scania driver support scores, fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions, while also monitoring driver behaviour such as coasting, idling, speeding and harsh braking. Preliminary analyses indicate that participation in the training programme reduces CO2 per mile by 3.16% and raises fuel efficiency – in miles per gallon – by 2.92%. If multiplied by the number of drivers and intensity of operations, these environmental and economic benefits accumulate very rapidly.

A study of the control group of non-participants demonstrated that scores worsen during the same period, suggesting that benefits, over time, might be even greater when compared to untrained drivers. The eco-driving course was recently certified by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, through the Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training, and is now commercially available to drivers and being delivered by an industry partner. The new development allows ‘real’ truck drivers throughout the country to undertake eco-driving training and make a positive difference to the environment.