LoCITY Fuels in Action helps freight operators understand market for alternative fuels

By Christopher Walton and Colin Barnett

A Fuels in Action event at Kempton Park in Surrey last week (20 March) was the culmination of a year of activity from LoCITY featuring roadshows on gas, electric and hydrogen.

It brought together operators, manufacturers, fuel suppliers and policy experts to explore the multitude of options on the market.

Up for discussion were the latest developments and operational impacts across all alternatives to diesel, as well as the effect of legislation such as ultra-low-emission and clean air zones on freight movements.

There was also the latest in alternative fuel technologies on display, from the likes of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Scania and Iveco – including an early outing for the FUSO eCanter.


The infrastructure and vehicle options for the widespread adoption of gas-powered commercial vehicles is there, delegates heard, but there is more to it than simply swapping diesel for gas in the tank.

In comparing the multiple options of gas fuels on the market, from LPG to LNG and CNG, James Westcott, business development director at Gasrec, said that the different types of gas would have different applications depending on the type of work the vehicle conducts.

For 3-axle artics, he believed LNG would be the best option “because that offers the range over long distances”.  For refuse vehicles and the mid- to lower-rigid range that encompasses elements such as back-of-store deliveries, “CNG will have a greater impact”.

Westcott said that with major manufacturers bringing on 13-litre engine options, “this is almost parity with diesel, particularly when it comes to torque,” while 450hp gas vehicles will provide near parity when it comes to torque.

Fuel options also make a substantial difference to the total cost of ownership, explained TRL gas expert Tim Barlow. Citing the example of £600,000 to run a 36-tonne rigid averaging 10,000 miles annually over a seven-year period – including costs such as licencing, congestion charge, taxes, fuel, maintenance and depreciation – the use of CNG would reduce that cost by £80,000, LNG see £40,000 of savings, while LPG would see a saving of £8,000

Justin Laney, fleet manager, John Lewis – which runs a fleet of 53 gas-powered trucks – said that the legislative environment was also there to encourage take-up: “Fuel duty uncertainty was a big risk. If the Treasury increased the fuel duty [on gas] it would destroy the business case, but that is now fixed until 2024.”

Equally, on the John Lewis home delivery fleet, he said that the proposed 4.25-tonne arrangement for alternatively fuelled vans offered 50% extra payload and gives a business case straight away for the use of such vehicles.

In a separate session on gas, Adrian Heath, national accounts manager – transport, at Calor, discussed the possibilities for regional distribution into urban environments

He said that the concept is about to become reality in the shape of a 16-tonne rigid being built for Calor by Dutch specialist EMOSS on a Daf base, for use in delivering the firm’s bottled gas products.

The truck’s only direct drive is from electric motors powered by a battery pack giving a 40-mile range. Obviously this isn’t enough for serious operations, and that range is extended to 250 miles by the use of a range-extending power unit. That unit is 2.0-litre Toyota engine running on LPG and designed to be used at a constant speed for maximum efficiency. It has no connection to the driveline, though, and is used solely to generate charge for the batteries.

Compared with a conventional diesel truck, the range-extended 16-tonner will initially cost 2.0 to 2.5 times as much, but Heath calculates that based on a seven-year service life, it will have a payback after four or five years, without accounting for any grants or incentives.

Using bio-LPG, which Calor is just beginning to supply, it combines ultra-low emissions with a CO2 reduction up to 94%. It will operate out of Calor’s Coryton depot covering London and the south-east, and if successful, could be the first to replace up to 100 such vehicles on the Calor fleet.

Renewable fuels and retrofit options

Martin Brower, which handles McDonald’s logistics in the UK, has a target of reducing its fossil fuel usage by 80% by 2020, and believes its use of biodiesel – based on waste product from the restaurants it delivers to – will help it hit that target.

Speaking to delegates, Tony Winterbottom, GM – Operational Support, at Martin Brower said that when they set the reduction target back in 2007 they initially believed it would come from elements such as  route optimisation and reducing fuel consumption caused by bad driving.

Servicing 1,369 McDonald’s locations in the UK and Ireland from four distribution centres, Martin Brower delivers some 70 million cases a year – and that is a volume of goods that has risen from 40 million cases a year back in 2007. As a result its fleet now runs 27 million km a year.

“We started a process in 2007 where we were bringing back waste from restaurants. We return 20,000 tonnes of cardboard, that was originally collected by waste contractors, but we do it on behalf of the restaurant. We also collect 3,500 tonnes of organic waste, 4,000 tonnes of grease trough waste and 4.2 million litres of used cooking oil.

“The used cooking oil we recycle. We turn it into biodiesel for our fleet and that is where the challenge started. We bring it back from all the restaurants and that 4.2 million litre produces 3.8 million litres of biodiesel,” Winterbottom added.

“Our projected biodiesel use is 7.7 million litres in 2018 – 8 million would be our target for an 80% reduction in fossil fuel use.”

The ultimate measure of carbon reduction though is CO2 output per cage delivery. For the optimum result, the best vehicle for carbon reduction is an artic, which has a CO2 output per cage delivery of 0.65. This is a result of the trailer capacity being 42 cages. A van can only carry four cages, so it takes 11 vans to do the work of one biodiesel-powered artic. For one van the CO2 output per cage delivery comes in at 5.24.

“We hear it all the time about these big vehicles entering the city causing air pollution, but maybe they are not quite as bad as you think,” he told delegates.

“We have actually set another target, now looking for a 51% reduction in CO2 emission reductions from our 2012 base by 2025. That is a stretching target but we will continue to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”

This approach will be encapsulated in a new livery on the fleet: ‘We recycle all our cooking oil to power this truck’.”


Improved collaboration between electric vehicle operators and electricity distributors will see a substantial increase of battery-powered vehicles on the roads of London.

Steve Halsey, distributed energy resources development manager at UK Power Networks – which owns, operates and maintains the electricity distribution in London, the east of England and south-east of England –  said: “We predict we could end up with 8 gigawatts of electric vehicles on our network by 2030, that is about half of our current peak time demand.”

While he conceded that bus and taxi operators were leading the way in overall adoption, he did say that commercial vehicle operators were looking at innovations, citing the example of UK Power Network’s collaboration with UPS, which has seen it increase the number of vehicles running from its Camden depot from 65 to 170 on the back of improvements to recharging capabilities.

“The Camden UPS depot,” he said, “is the largest electric vehicle fleet in the UK. It required intelligent network analysis to release capacity.”

The move to electrification is being seen elsewhere in the capital and Vince Dignam, business improvement and performance manager at the City of London, said that the corporation was already trialling electric vehicles against diesel for refuse collection.

“We have just put our waste and cleansing contract out for tender, due to start two days before the ultra-low-emission zone comes in. It will be interesting to see what kind of technology they come back with,” he said.


Hydrogen is, in theory, one of the best solutions for sustainable transport. However, progress towards widespread acceptance is slow, amid concerns over its availability and, more crucially, the environmental impact of the current manufacturing process.

A LoCITY Fuels in Action Roadshow session discussed the limitations of hydrogen as a fuel, as well as its benefits.

Hydrogen’s use in commercial vehicles is as an energy storage medium, which is normally utilised as a complement to diesel in an internal combustion engine, or by reacting with a fuel cell to create electricity to provide motive power. It’s relatively simple to manufacture and as easy to transport as diesel.

The only tailpipe emission of fuel cell vehicles is water, they have fewer moving parts, hence lower running costs and a hydrogen tank’s 20-year life is only limited by legislation.

C6543 UlemCo Company vehicles at Matalan

However great the benefits, though, you have to find the hydrogen. The investment in creating a private hydrogen producing facility is high, and the publicly accessible infrastructure is still in its infancy.

More significantly, the process of extracting hydrogen requires energy, and its overall environmental credentials are only as good as the source of that energy.

If electricity from truly renewable sources, such as the wind-powered installation of leading supplier ITM Power, at Rotherham, is used, the overall CO2 footprint is negligible, but most production still uses fossil fuel as the source.

Looking much further ahead, TRL’s hydrogen specialist, Dr Anthony Velazquez, predicted a possible situation when the existing national gas supply network could carry hydrogen when fossil fuels are outlawed, but don’t count on that just yet.




ATE UK to showcase Wheel Sentry range at Freight in the City Expo

ATE UK is exhibiting at the Freight in the City Expo for the first time this year, where it will showcase its full range of Wheel Sentry products.

Wheel Sentry, says ATE, is the only combined wheel nut indicator and retainer system on the market and has been well received across a number of sectors, including the commercial vehicle industry.

The range is available to any on-road vehicle on a commercial fleet. Suitable for both retrofitting and fitting to new vehicles, Wheel Sentry comes in kit form and can be fitted through most main service providers.

Visitors to Freight in the City Expo will have the chance to take a look at the Wheel Sentry Reflector, which allows cyclists to notice and avoid turning vehicles faster.

Product Specialist Ross Bradshaw said: “Wheel Sentry is a unique product because it is the only wheel nut indicator and retainer system in the marketplace that will fit any HGV, Van or towable plant consistently.”

Registrations now open for third Freight in the City Expo in London

Registrations are now open for this year’s free-to-attend Freight in the City Expo on 7 November at Alexandra Palace, London.

Now in its third year, the expo provides a collaborative forum for urban logistics decision-makers from the public and private sector to debate the key challenges and latest innovation to promote quiet, safe and clean city deliveries.

This is complemented by an exhibition hall packed with the latest urban delivery vehicles, technology and services to help city fleet operators keep compliant with air quality, noise and safety requirements.

We are also excited to announce that this year’s event will host the annual LoCity conference, which will highlight work taking place within the TfL-supported programme to help freight operators make the switch to alternative fuels.

Up to 1,000 visitors are expected to head along to the north London event this autumn, keen to hear from our top line-up of speakers and network with industry peers from cities across the UK and overseas.

Details of the full seminar line-up will be posted online later this month, with topics including:

Freight in the City urban editor Hayley Pink said: “As city populations expand, then so too do the challenges of congested streets, poor air quality and noise pollution.

“Collaboration is the key ingredient to finding smarter ways of transporting goods into urban areas, and Freight in the City provides the ideal platform for local authorities and the logistics sector to start the dialogue needed to make a change.”

Make sure to secure your free place at this must-attend event and keep up-to-date with the latest urban logistics news by registering today!

Viewpoint: Abbey Logistics asks are gas-powered HGVs now a realistic alternative?

Abbey Logistics Group fleet engineer David Batty aims to find out whether extended range compressed natural gas trucks offer a real alternative to diesel…

One of my most important roles at Abbey Logistics is to analyse and trial new vehicles and associated technology.

Before selecting any vehicles for our fleet, I take a highly-detailed approach to understanding the vehicle’s whole-life cost, taking into account everything from mpg performance, maintenance costs, kerb weight, specialist equipment fitting and aerodynamic drag.

Having trialled many gas-powered vehicles in the past, including dual fuel, LPG, LNG, CNG and many more, trials have usually shown the same results: promising technology, easy to maintain, zero emissions and reduced fuel costs.

However, and crucially for a company like Abbey Logistics, who count every penny of its fleet costs, and rely on the flexibility of our network; the vehicles have always been too expensive to buy and their mileage range has always been too low to be a viable alternative to diesel.

That was until now.

Innovative new technology from Scania and Iveco means that LNG (liquid natural gas) and CNG (compressed natural gas) can now be used in vehicles that can achieve almost the same miles per tank as their diesel equivalents.

Abbey Logistics is now working with CNG Fuels, the UK’s leading operator of CNG, to run trials on new CNG vehicles. The trucks from Iveco and Scania will be put through their paces in a two-month trial, operating on the same routes carrying the same loads as their diesel counterparts to give us a clear picture of how they are performing.

One of the key benefits of conducting real-world trials of new vehicles, especially ones which use new technology, is that our drivers have the opportunity to feedback how they are performing. Are they comfortable? Is safety and compliance impacted in any way? Are there any other concerns that only emerge once the vehicle is out on the road?

We conduct in-depth interviews with drivers to get their feedback, which is vital as it is our drivers who will be working with these vehicles every day.

Drivers involved in the trial will be trained to use the new refuelling pumps, which use a traffic light system that tells the driver when fuelling is complete and it takes no longer than filling up a diesel tank.

Refuelling is also inherently safe and clean due to zero spillage and the driver doesn’t need to stand next to the vehicle during the process.

Additional benefits are obvious, minimised emissions and reduced fuel costs and because the engines themselves are much simpler than modern diesel engines, maintenance costs should be reduced too.

While the latest CNG developments are exciting, we are reserving judgement until a full evaluation of the gas-powered vehicles is complete.

Whilst I’ve known about the potential benefits of gas power in HGVs for a long time, it is only now through these new engines that there is a real alternative to diesel emerging.

I’m excited to understand how these trucks perform in the real world as the potential benefits to the environment and our cost base is significant.

We will test them objectively and if we find that they perform as well or better than our current fleet, that will be a real game-changing moment for Abbey and the wider industry.

Demand for urban logistics facilities set to soar

Demand for urban logistics facilities is likely to increase fast in the next few years to meet the delivery requirements of urban populations.

But suitable property is often needed most in major conurbations such as Greater London, where it is hardest to find.

Cushman & Wakefield director Simon Lloyd said that there is already a shortage of sites in some locations.

When land does become available developers often want to maximise its use by creating denser developments with fewer, larger buildings with limited yard space.

“That does not always suit urban operations which can often lend themselves to smaller buildings,” he said.

Another problem with new development is predicting what a fast-changing market will demand in future.

Savills director Richard Sullivan, said that this is vital for the property industry to remain flexible and consider new solutions – this could include small facilities in the basement of new apartment blocks, for example.

“It is definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution and crystal ball-gazing is impossible – who knows what the next innovation will be that will affect customer expectations?” he said.

Knight Frank partner Charles Binks agreed that the exact nature of the market is yet to be established and that there will be a need for inventive thinking.

“Developers are starting to look at ‘sheds-and-beds’ schemes, for example, where residential and logistics schemes are co-located,” he said.

Segro is taking this approach and has joint plans with Barrett to redevelop a former Nestle factory in Hayes, West London, to create more than 1,000 homes and around 230,000ft2 of industrial space.

Alan Holland, Segro’s business unit director for Greater London, said:  “Logistics and residential ought to go hand-in-hand and could become a vital part of London’s infrastructure.”

Segro recently published a report called Keep London Working, which predicted that the Greater London Authority’s expected loss of former industrial land to other uses by 2031 could be reached this year. It called for an urgent review of London’s industrial land supply.

The company is working with the GLA to develop 86 acres of land in East London and recently signed up DPD for a 45,000ft2 building in Newham.

Last month Paris unveiled a scheme to enable freight operators to occupy centrally-located city hubs at affordable rates.

By Simon Jack

Tranzaura to showcase KATE compliance platform at Freight in the City Summit

Enhancing driver safety will be the key focus for Tranzaura when it heads to the Freight in the City Spring Summit next week.

The group will have a preview of its new safety and compliance platform KATE – Knowledge, Awareness, Training & Education hub – on display.

“It is designed to complement and enhance current training processes,” said Tranzaura chief executive Mike Price.

“As the third column of the Tranzaura Safety Hub, with vehicle and driver compliance being the other two, the platform will keep safety at the forefront of every employees mind.

“Tranzaura believe if safety is at the centre of everyday life for transport companies, operations and business excellence will follow,” he said.

The company will also have its Vehicle Compliance product on display. This replaces the traditional paper-based vehicle walk-around check with a real-time, web based product that has been adopted by the likes of Travis Perkins.

Price said integration of Vehicle Compliance at Travis Perkins into its business systems had helped it reduce vehicle downtime and cost per defect by up to 15%.

Driver Compliance, another Tranzaura product, will also be at the summit.

“Driver Compliance helps meet the ever changing legal, regulatory and compliance obligations with software that is easy-to-use and provides the insights to help you minimise infringements and get the best out of your drivers and fleet,” said Price.

By David Craik


Vision Techniques to showcase anti-runaway and cycle safety vehicle tech at summit

Vision Techniques will be heading to the Freight in the City Spring Summit next month to showcase its vehicle runaway prevention technology.

The group will be highlighting its multiple award-winning and British built VT BrakeSafe safety system.

It has been developed to automatically prevent vehicle runaways by applying the handbrake if a driver forgets when leaving the vehicle.

The system, which is active whether the ignition is on or off, also monitors air braking pressure to prevent tractor trailer coupling rollaway.

It won five industry recognised awards last year including the Best Innovation Award at the Motor Transport Awards.

“We are very excited about attending this year’s summit. We are also showcasing enhanced cyclist detection this year with our VT TurnAware system, which eliminates the need for unreliable ultrasonics,” a spokesman said.

“This new technology uses video analytics to recognise any approaching dangers. By combining a blind spot camera with a CPU that looks for light, movement and pixel density, the TurnAware system can detect an approaching cyclist whilst ignoring objects moving in the other direction, including road furniture. It effectively prevents false alarming.”

Vision Techniques will also be demonstrating VT Record, its DVR video recording system.

“VT Record gives fleet managers peace of mind with 360° footage around the vehicle capturing any event to provide evidence and prove liability, saving money on claims and insurance policies,” said company sales manager Steve Smith.

The Freight in the City Spring Summit takes place 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium. Reserve your free place today.


By David Craik

Disc-Lock to demonstrate fleet safety systems at Freight in the City Birmingham

Disc-Lock will be reinforcing its safety message when it spins down to the Freight in the City Spring Summit next month.

The Wrexham-based group provides vibration-proof fastening systems used in a variety of industries worldwide from trucks, trailers and buses to rail engineering and heavy equipment manufacturing.

The three main products produced by Disc-Lock include the Safety Wheel Nut, which is a free spinning, vibration and shock-proof wheel nut designed to eliminate the risk of wheel loss from commercial vehicles.

“They are a leading solution to prevent the loss of wheel nuts and wheel detachments used throughout the transport industry,” a spokesman said.

The other two main products are the Disc-Lock Locking Nut, which is a double hex, free spinning, vibration-proof lock nut and a Disc-Lock Washer, which is a heavy duty self-locking product to prevent loosening caused by shock or vibrations in high-stress applications.

“Safety matters, with every commercial fleet and transport manager looking to make their commercial vehicles safe on the road for today, tomorrow and for the future,” the spokesman added.

Noise app could help freight operators build better relationships with local residents

RH Environmental will be hoping to make some noise – though not too much – when it arrives at the Freight in the City Spring Summit in Birmingham next month.

It will be displaying its Noise App technology, which it hopes hauliers and delivery firms will use to foster better relationships with neighbours and city residents and businesses.

Free to download, the Noise App helps the user record instances of noise nuisance on their phone, record a diary of recordings to prove long-term effects and allow the user to report the incidents to local authorities or enforcement agencies.

“The app is transforming how noise problems can be reported and resolved,” said Michael Fennessy, sales & support at RH Environmental. “By cutting the significant costs associated with following up noise complaints, it is being widely adopted in the UK.

He added: “For businesses operating in noise-sensitive inner city environments, the app improves community engagement and helps resolve complaints quickly and efficiently.

“Because it is hassle free, with no expensive or specialist equipment needed, it is popular with residents and the professionals investigating noise problems.”

Since it was launched in 2015, the app has processed more than 50,000 noise reports and is used by 100-plus organisations including police forces, councils, housing associations and construction companies.

“We’ve designed the app using an intelligent case management facility enabling our clients to deploy it easily to filter genuine cases and maintain contact with local residents quickly and efficiently through a secure infrastructure,” said Fennessy.

“By using the app around noise-sensitive sites, businesses and stakeholders can be assured that noise is being reported reliably and that genuine cases are picked up.”

There are no road haulage or freight customers as yet, but Fennessy is confident that will soon change.

“The idea around us being at the Spring Summit is to potentially get delivery companies to take on the app as a direct line to their surrounding resident,” he said.

“So instead of residents complaining straight to the local authorities and having to engage in large investigations, residents can complain directly to the delivery companies and they can offer simpler solutions and police their own noise nuisances.”

Find out more by coming along to the Freight in the City Spring Summit held on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium. Make sure to reserve your free place today!

By David Craik

Truckminder Worldwide to bring its tool theft defence systems to Freight in the City

Tackling tool theft will be on the agenda for Truckminder Worldwide when it lines up at the Freight in the City Spring Summit next month.

Truckminder Worldwide, which aims to help reduce fuel theft and fuel spillage across the fleet and haulage industry, is now striving to protect tools through its new product ToolDefend.

“We know that tool theft is currently a huge problem in the industry and a real threat to businesses. Indeed, the cost of replacing tools can run into thousands of pounds,” said a spokesman.

“Thieves can override car and van alarms, disarm the locking system and simply help themselves to all the tools. We can help you combat this by installing the ToolDefend alarm system which will immediately kick in if there is an attempt to steal your tools.”

The system works by an accelerometer in the sensor that detects vibration and waveforms that are associated with drilling and other forms of tampering.

Once detected, it will sound the alarm with users also able to have a GPS option which will send a text warning that an attack is taking place.

Truckminder specialises in technology specifically designed to prevent catalytic converter theft.

Its customers include commercial fleet owners, van rental and van owners and motorhome dealers and owners.

“We strive to keep your business running by providing an alarm system that will deter thieves from targeting your vehicle. Our aim is to keep insurance premiums down as well as avoiding the costly headache of vehicles being off the road and in the repair shop,” the spokesman added.