Interview: DHL Express UK


Sustainable transport needs to be considered as a long-term investment for your business and the planet, believes Richard Crook, director of fleet at DHL Express UK, who shares the company’s own work to decarbonise its fleet

What are the sustainability plans of Deutsche Post DHL Group as a whole, and what are DHL Express’ green plans in the UK?

As the world’s largest logistics provider, sustainability is a driving force at Deutsche Post DHL Group. In 2008, we launched our GoGreen programme and became the first logistics company in the world to set a measurable climate protection target, aiming to improve CO2 efficiency by 30 per cent by 2020. This goal was achieved in 2016, four years ahead of schedule, thanks to a diverse range of measures to optimise the Group’s vehicle fleet, buildings and logistics networks.
In 2017, we took GoGreen one step further, introducing Mission 2050 – our ambition to reduce all logistics-related emissions to net zero by 2050 and globally we are investing more than €7billion to support this commitment. The funds will be heavily focused towards electrification of last-mile delivery fleet, sustainable aviation fuels and climate-neutral buildings.

How many electric vans do you have and how are they used?

We now have 60 electric vans operating in cities across the UK. A further 50 will be introduced before the end of the year, with 220 more in its UK-wide fleet before the end of 2022. Every new courier vehicle purchased will be electric, resulting in 100 per cent of the UK-wide fleet being electric by 2030.
At the moment our electric fleet is being used in city centres where there is a need for deliveries to be quieter, as they pass through built-up areas, but also greener to combat higher congestion. In rural areas the greater distance between deliveries presents different challenges, electric vans need considerable range as well as greater charging infrastructure needs to be available. But the technology is moving fast and vehicle range is increasing so we can already see the opportunity to electrify around 60 per cent of our routes.  

What is the charging infrastructure like at DHL sites?

Our electric vehicles are charged overnight on site for deployment on routes where the mileage is within range, we have a commitment that any new site has to have a provision for charging infrastructure.
We’re working closely with manufacturers and authorities to discuss how nationwide charging facilities could support commercial vehicles as this will be key to enabling full electrification – particularly when it comes to serving less densely populated areas.

How are you greening the ‘last mile’ of deliveries?

Providing an efficient last mile delivery service requires a careful balance of cost, speed and environmental impact.
Recent growth in e-commerce means a high number of deliveries, but often a lower number of parcels per delivery, which increases the need for last mile solutions that are cost effective, but also minimise their impact on the environment.
Our GoGreen products allow customers to offset the carbon footprint of their shipment through external, certified Gold Standard climate protection projects, such as our climate protection project in Lesotho. Through packaging labelling consumers know they are getting a carbon neutral service which is a really differentiating point for retailers. We also offer retailers GoGreen reports to give them visibility of their carbon footprint.  
We have expanded our portfolio of Service Points and lockers across the UK where parcels can be collected or returned at the convenience of customers. This enables deliveries to be consolidated while enabling recipients to collect their parcels at a convenient location.
As well as electrifying our fleet, we recently launched a riverboat parcel delivery service on the Thames, supported by power-assisted bikes which transports documents and small parcels into central London. This reduces the number of vehicles on the road by replacing them with an environmentally sound alternative which is also fast and efficient.
For a networked operation like DHL Express, sustainability has to go beyond the last mile element, it’s about creating a completely green solution from the moment a parcel is collected to the moment it is delivered to the end recipient. This means looking at every aspect of our operation, from our facilities to our aircraft. In 2019 we opened our first carbon-neutral Service Centre and earlier this year we announced the purchase of 12 fully electric Alice eCargo planes, which will provide the first step towards an electric air as well as road fleet.

Are you using, or investigating, any other alternative fuels?

We’re constantly reviewing options for decarbonising our entire fleet, as part of this we’re regularly reviewing and trailing alternative fuel options for our heavy commercial vehicles to assess the viability for our operations. In addition, our investment in eCargo planes is a really important step in our decarbonisation journey and a major step forward for the industry as a whole.

What advice would you give to other companies that are looking to switch to electric vehicles?

Sustainable transport needs to be considered as a long-term investment plan for your business and the planet. My advice is to review your options carefully, make sure your choices are fit for your purposes but also look to adapt if you can, don’t be afraid of the technology. Embrace the change positively and be sure to engage correctly with both your customers and your employees; both need to be positively engaged on the journey for it to succeed.