Christopher Snelling, FTA: ‘The role of road freight is irreplaceable in urban areas’

Christopher Snelling, head of national and regional policy at the Freight Transport Association, will be speaking at the Freight in the City Expo in London later this month about the crucial role that road freight plays in servicing the UK’s towns and cities, and why banning HGVs from built-up areas is not a viable option. Read his viewpoint on the topic below.

“Urban areas depend on freight. Businesses and homes, hospitals and schools all rely on fast and efficient logistics to deliver goods and services they need to operate and live, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The economic health of our town centres is under particular threat from internet shopping and out-of-town retail and entertainment options. To remain competitive, city centre businesses need many things, one of which is a cost efficient and effective way of getting their goods to them. Increased costs increase the disadvantage they face.

“The role of road freight is irreplaceable in urban areas – alternative modes such as rail and water are of some but limited use here. Very few final destinations are actually on a river or by a rail terminal.

“And the HGV is crucial within road freight. As an example, in London every day over 360,000 tonnes of goods are moved by lorries . That’s 15,000 tonnes picked up or dropped off each hour. These goods are for shops, restaurants, offices and worksites, and without them our cities would cease to function overnight. Any increase in freight costs increases the cost of living in the city.

No method other than the lorry is capable of delivering the scale of goods that are required everyday by our society. A medium sized HGV can carry the same as 10 vans, a large one more than 20. Furthermore many loads cannot be broken down into small enough packages to be moved in vans, or the goods being transported – such as concrete – simply cannot be carried in a van.

“The congestion and pollution implications of utilising a larger number of smaller vehicles are obvious. However, cost of living increases and the loss of service for the businesses and residents of cities, as well as the potential safety implications of bringing many more vehicles into already congested areas, must also be taken into consideration.

“We must acknowledge that HGVs do have social impacts on urban areas. Primarily these are road safety, emissions and congestion.

“As far as the HGV itself is concerned the best routes to managing the first two are design and technological improvements, as well as robust enforcement of the high levels of regulation the industry is subject to. This needs to go hand in hand with infrastructure improvements by public authorities.

“For congestion, the best route forward is to ensure that freight loads can be consolidated into the largest appropriate vehicle – minimising the number of commercial vehicle movements needed on the road. To achieve this authorities need to work with the logistics industry to support and improve HGV operations, not go down the dead-end route of trying to ban them.

“If our city centres are to flourish as we would wish, we need the goods to get through, and we need it to be done efficiently. All sides should work together so that ours roads can fulfil all the functions that are required of them in an increasingly safe, efficient and sustainable fashion.”

  • Freight in the City Expo is a free-to-attend event taking place on Tuesday 27 October at London’s ALexandra Palace. It comprises a full seminar line-up of industry experts in the field of urban logistics, as well as an exhibition of the latest vehicles, equipment and software designed for city deliveries. Sign up today for your free ticket and join more than 500 of your industry peers already registered to attend.