Hermes' Nancy Hobhouse: “We’re committed to our investment in CNG”


GreenFleet talks to Nancy Hobhouse, Hermes’ newly appointed head of environmental, social, and governance, who is taking forward the company’s already successful work with alternative fuels, as well as the wider green agenda

You have recently been appointed a head of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) – a newly created role. What does this involve?

I’ve taken up the newly created role as head of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) at Hermes. My first job is to work on developing what will be an ambitious and robust strategy to cover the whole business.     
I’ve already identified several opportunities for key initiatives and there’s lots of great work in this space already happening through the use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles that we can shout about. We want to go beyond what we’re already doing, so watch this space! I have never joined a business and had so many people call me up and say they’re really excited that I’ve joined.
My remit covers every aspect of the business from product development to operational changes around key touch points including alternative fuel usage, industry knowledge sharing and people-centric initiatives. I’ll also lead the company’s reporting on ESG.

Tell us about Hermes’ CNG fleet; why was CNG chosen as a fuel? How many vehicles do you have now and how are they being used?

Hermes was an early adopter of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG); in 2018 Hermes placed the largest ever initial order of CNG vehicles and used the fleet to make collections from retailer distribution sites and in the first mile.     
Since then, the fleet has grown and we’re now adding an additional 70 units to further reduce emissions, bringing our total number of CNG vehicles to 160, making Hermes the largest operator of CNG in the parcel sector with about 50 per cent of the core hub tractor fleet now being fuelled by CNG and servicing more journeys than ever before.

Where do you refuel the CNG trucks?

The majority of our CNG vehicles are based at Warrington and Rugby, two of our national distribution hubs, both are in close proximity to a CNG refuelling station. We have a partnership with CNG Fuels which develops, owns, and operates CNG refuelling infrastructure and sources 100 per cent renewable biomethane or bio-CNG for its stations. The bio-CNG is biomethane sourced from food waste, independently verified and approved by the Department for Transport’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation.
How is the trial of the IVECO Eurocargo, a new 12 tonne vehicle that runs on CNG, going?

We’re always keen to try new technologies that may offer improvements, efficiencies or solutions with emissions or by reducing the number of miles on the road. We’re working with IVECO to provide feedback from our experience, where the vehicle might need adjustments for power, and in turn, the IVECO team are helping to support us to ensure drivers are using the vehicle most efficiently.
What do you do to make the last mile of deliveries greener?

We’re investing a lot in technology that helps us facilitate an increase in first time delivery rates including a focus on ‘Out of Home’ options. At the start of the pandemic last year, Hermes introduced contact-free delivery through the website and app, allowing customers to continue receiving parcels safely first time, with no additional delivery attempts needed. Since then, we’ve also introduced more diversion options including to ParcelShops and lockers as well as diversions so safe places and neighbours. We’re increasing our ParcelShop network this year and recently partnered with Tesco to help move towards our ambitious target of 80 per cent of the population being within a five-minute walk by 2022. With most ParcelShops open late, seven days a week and lockers available 24/7, we can almost guarantee first time delivery and it’s incredibly convenient for consumers, especially as we start to go out a bit more.
Are you using any other alternative fuels, such as electric or hydrogen?

We’re keen to explore other alternative fuels and electric looks like a strong player for the future, although the technology and infrastructure isn’t there yet to support investment from operators. We’re soon going to announce our plans for the future, which includes investment in 168 electric ParcelShop vans to make the ‘Out of Home’ delivery experience even more sustainable.
What advice would you give HGV operators if they wanted to roll-out CNG fuelled trucks?

CNG is a great solution right now; it isn’t perfect but it’s the best solution we have available to us which is why we’re currently committed to our investment in CNG. A couple of pieces of advice would be to look into the fuel source and if you can source renewable biomethane, that’s the best option. Then, consider route planning – if you have teams or technology available to make sure the routes are as efficient as possible and have refuelling on the journey, that makes the whole operation run smoothly.

Nancy Hobhouse, head of ESG, Hermes