Consumers and businesses take freight and transport for granted. It an essential part of daily life and keeps the country running, writes Tim Slater, MD of transport, DHL Supply Chain UK and Ireland
While transport is ingrained in our routines – it would be fair to acknowledge that we are not yet close to a perfect system with a number of challenges still facing our industry on a daily basis.
Congestion is a problem that every driver can relate to whether from a commuter or commercial driver’s perspective. And besides the frustration that jams cause, the impact of vehicle fumes on our environment is damaging our surroundings and o
ur health. City centres are particularly being targeted for improvement and this is further enforced by legislation for emissions, with a number of UK cities being vulnerable to heavy financial fines for missing targets.
Safety is paramount
Safety is always a primary concern and top of all of our agendas, especially in urban environments where there are other vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians. Freight vehicles are often bigger, heavier and noisier than the average vehicle, and in densely populated urban centres, noise pollution is a particular concern.
We need to address these challenges, so at DHL we’re aiming to make all our operations, safer, cleaner and quieter. By focusing on vehicle innovation, new urban solutions, increasing collaboration and improving safety performance, we can provide the most sustainable and efficient service for our customers and play our part in addressing some of the key challenges for our industry.
Innovative design and technology within vehicles can simultaneously address a number of the challenges the industry faces, including safety, noise and efficiency.
DHL has invested in redesigning vehicles, reducing the power and fuel needed, for example efficient designs including aerodynamic tear-drop trailers, are now widely-used across our fleets.
Also by including vehicle telematics we have ensured our drivers are aware of how to reduce their fuel consumption. Similarly, we have developed mobile apps that support driver training, make fuel usage transparent and therefore encourage more efficient driving. As a result, our fuel economy has improved month on month for the past two years.
DHL’s global GoGreen commitment aims to reduce C02 emissions by 30% by 2020 and so we need to look to how we reduce our reliance on diesel.
As part of this commitment, we operate the largest dual-fuel fleet in the UK, alongside other innovative technologies including electric and hybrid vehicles to help improve our overall environmental impact.
Electric vehicles are also the quietest type of vehicle, and as such are likely to play a greater role in future urban logistics – especially as government is backing electric and hybrid vehicles with a £40m investment in rapid charging networks and this has the potential to make electric vehicles a suitable city centre transport solution.
New urban solutions
Growing cities are challenged to provide world-class living spaces and passenger transport while maintaining a vibrant economy. Achieving these aims simultaneously requires new approaches to urban transportation.
DHL is establishing consolidation centres throughout the UK to combat urban congestion and reduce vehicle numbers. Consolidation centres, sited outside of urban centres, ensure final-mile deliveries are achieved in the most efficient and safe way, using the most appropriate vehicles. Our experience shows that these operations can reduce deliveries and emissions by up to 65%.
The vast majority of urban customers want their goods in the morning, and at DHL we are increasingly performing out-of-hours deliveries as an excellent method of achieving this while at the same time avoiding peak-time congestions and separating freight transport from other road users. With the correct equipment these deliveries can be conducted in a quiet and sensitive manner. DHL is working with the authorities to create an industry standard for out-of-hour deliveries that will satisfy all stakeholders.
Operating half empty lorries still remains commonplace in the transport industry, despite being a highly inefficient practice. In fact, the most recent figures reveal that 27% of lorries were making journeys with empty loads. Both internal and external pressures are pushing the industry towards improving this rate to 17% by 2050.
One way of driving progress towards this target is greater collaboration between businesses; by sharing transport resources businesses can cut their costs and their carbon footprint.
At DHL, we are continuously seeking to support our customers in achieving their sustainability goals and financial targets. As part of this work, we have identified potential collaborative partners (companies from the same or different sectors) and introduced them to each other supporting this new approach to sharing resources. One great success story from this is our partnership between Nisa and BP. Nisa now shares BP’s journeys for delivering groceries, resulting in £5.5m worth of savings since 2010.
Improving safety performance
DHL has also invested heavily in driver training. We do not settle for basic minimum qualifications, and believe continuous training is vital. In addition to the 35 hours of approved training every five years, we also train our drivers in Smith System Defensive Driving.
This world-leading programme has a proven five-step approach to considerate and safe road use. Our investment in this area has led to a 17% reduction in accidents and collisions over the past two years.
In September, DHL added an additional Driver CPC course called ‘Sharing the Road’. The module was designed by our Training Solutions team and was specifically aimed at raising awareness of vulnerable road users.
At DHL, we’re already making progress on our safer, cleaner and quieter goals. DHL is really excited to be launching a new concept in the coming months as part of our work around the Quiet Cities Summit in November in association with TfL, Route Monkey and Motor Transport.
DHL will continue to invest in innovative vehicle technology, alternative fuels, accident prevention systems and driver training. We are particularly interested in developing new solutions for increasing city populations. This is incredibly important to us as we continue to ensure that DHL is a company both fit for the future and supporting the UK’s future economic and environmental health.