How can the logistics industry reach zero emissions?


The logistics sector is determined to meet the government’s target of becoming a zero-emission industry within the next few decades, but needs certain things to happen first. Rebecca Kite, environment policy manager at FTA explains further

The logistics sector is determined to meet the government’s target of becoming a zero-emission industry within the next few decades, but this cannot be achieved without the right support. With a newly-formed government in place, FTA, which represents the sector, is renewing its calls for politicians to design their decarbonisation policies with the needs of logistics businesses in mind. The post-election period provides FTA with an ideal opportunity to highlight the value of logistics to every constituency and region of the UK; in the opinion of the organisation, businesses operating within this sector deserve a decarbonisation framework that is effective and sustainable, while fostering growth and opportunity.
In this article, Rebecca Kite, FTA’s environment policy manager, shares the business organisation’s three key ‘asks’ of the government, which include: supporting the development and use of alternatively-powered vehicles; agreeing a definition of an Ultra-Low Emission Truck (ULET); and igniting a mode shift to rail.

Ultra-low emission definition

FTA is calling for the government to actively support and develop the alternatively fuelled vehicle market so that it becomes a viable option for businesses of all sizes. And the first step, according to FTA, is to develop a definition of an Ultra-Low Emission Truck. This would incentivise manufacturers to invest more resources into developing these vehicles; testing new technology can be expensive but a ULET definition would provide clear parameters and stimulate demand. And with local governments across the UK implementing low emission zones, a clear definition would provide authorities with a criterion that can be applied consistently across the UK, preventing the patchwork of standards we are seeing emerge in places such as Oxford and Hackney.
FTA will continue to assist the authorities in developing a single, clear and workable definition for ultra-low emission truck and vans.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles

In the view of FTA, the road transport industry can only reach zero-emissions if commercial vehicle operators successfully shift to greener alternatives, such as electric vehicles (EVs), from their current diesel or petrol run counterparts.
In August 2019, FTA conducted a survey for the Department for Transport (DfT) to identify the challenges operators face when introducing EVs into their commercial fleets. Research for the report revealed that businesses’ principal concerns are ‘range anxiety’, a lack of charging facilities across the road network and limited grid capacity; respondents are also frustrated with the limited choice of vehicle types.
To address these concerns, FTA is calling for the government make substantial, swift investments in infrastructure, including the installation of fast charging stations across the road network and a nationwide upgrade of the National Grid to cope with the increased demand from the sudden uplift in electric vehicle use.
In addition, FTA is asking the government to support the development of a broader range of vehicles; design a regulatory regime that is consistent; and subsidise the second-hand market for alternatively fuelled vehicles.

Meanwhile, businesses within the logistics sector have not rested on their laurels, devising and implementing emissions reduction strategies through the Logistics Emissions Reduction Scheme (LERS). Run by FTA, LERS is free to join and open to all companies with at least one commercial vehicle. With members achieving an impressive four per cent average reduction in their GHG emissions in one year alone, the success of the scheme demonstrates real change is possible for all of us. Further information about the voluntary scheme, and how to join it, can be found here:

Support mode shift to rail

Businesses can also significantly reduce their carbon footprint by transitioning from road transport to rail wherever possible. Rail freight is, per tonne/km, the lowest environmental polluter when compared to other forms of surface transport. And with every freight train able to carry the same amount of cargo as up to 60 HGVs, in the view of FTA, the government should incentivise businesses to shift to this more environmentally-friendly mode of transport as an urgent priority.
By electrifying the network, rail can become almost completely decarbonised; FTA is calling for government to prioritise this electrification at the earliest possible opportunity. With many freight diesel locomotives now approximately half-way through their life cycle, rail freight operators need a clear, long-term electrification strategy to be able to make informed decisions about locomotive replacements. This is an ideal time for the government to adopt a refreshed electrification strategy.
According to FTA, it is also vital that the government implements a transparent system for bidding to unlock rail capacity; it is vital for the future success of logistics movements on the rail network that capacity already allocated to freight is not promised to passenger franchises.
FTA’s additional policy asks of the newly formed government include: the protection of the seamless movement of goods post-Brexit; investing in road and rail infrastructure; the provision of sufficient driver facilities; backing for the Heathrow expansion plan; changing the Apprenticeship Levy to a Skills Levy to release much needed funds and train the workforce of tomorrow; making longer semi-trailers a permanent fixture; and granting continued access to European workers post-Brexit.

Vital to the UK

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.  With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.