Bike lanes could be increasing congestion, says MP

Labour MP Rob Flello questioned whether bike lanes are partly responsible for rising urban traffic congestion, during a transport select committee hearing this week.

Speaking at the committee’s Urban Traffic Congestion hearing, the  Stoke on Trent  South MP questioned why road users “have been driving fewer miles yet their journeys are taking longer.”

He suggested the “loss of tarmac” from building bike lanes, pavement improvement schemes and road works is a factor in causing traffic delays and argued that giving vehicles more road space “does more for air pollution in places such as London than getting people on to pushbikes”.

The MP asked the panel of experts attending the review: “Surely if traffic is being slowed down because some of the available tarmac is being removed and put to other purposes, or some of the tarmac is not available because of roadworks, surely one of the answers is to reinstate some of the tarmac that has been removed.

“It speeds up the traffic and perhaps does more for air pollution in places such as London than getting people on to pushbikes.”

Flello also questioned the use of “nudge” factors, such as bike and bus lanes to encourage motorists to switch to other forms of transport. “The load of steel and cement delivered to a site on a just-in-time basis, now that’s not going to be nudged onto a push bike,” he said.

Transport Committee member Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley and Broughton, also raised concern about using journey times to measure the effectiveness of bus lanes on traffic congestion.

“It’s not very helpful if you have an empty bus going more quickly,” Stringer said, and called for a better methodology which would measure passenger use as well as journey times and punctuality, “to assess whether they should remain.”

In a statement clarifying his stance on bike lanes this week, ahead of the committee hearing, Flello pointed to TfL research which shows  average traffic speeds in the centre of the capital fell to 7.8 mph last autumn.

“My fear is that a lot of it might be because of an increase in the impact of roadworks and the loss of tarmac for vehicles from the introduction of cycle lanes,” Flello said, and added: “Currently there’s a row going on between bike users who say they’re making things better, and road groups who believe cycle paths are crowding other vehicles out.

“I want to know if anyone’s done any credible research on the subject so we can get to the truth rather than constantly slinging mud.  It’s in everyone’s interests to know what’s really happening.”

What is the future for gas-powered HGVs?

With dual fuel trucks proven to pump out more greenhouse gases than diesel trucks, what is the future for gas-fuelled HGVs?

Dual fuel gas trucks are on the ropes. Recent research following the DfT-sponsored Low Carbon Truck Trial has shown that greenhouse gas emissions from the 217 dual fuel gas trucks in the trial rose between 50% and 127%, due to the incomplete combustion of methane, as the engine switched from one fuel to the other, a process known as “methane slip.”

This analysis was conducted by academics from Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge and Minnesota State University ahead of the release of the official final trial report – expected anytime – from DfT.

The trial’s results confirm RHA’s long held concerns about the technology, says RHA policy director Jack Semple.

“It comes as no surprise to us,” he says. “Methane slip was always one of our concerns along with the general direction of government policy in this area.

“Gas powered HGVs are only relevant to a very small number of operators. The trial has led the industry up the garden path and wasted £25m of taxpayers money.”

So is this the end of the road for gas powered HGVs?

Ben Sawford, CCO of liquefied natural gas supplier Gasrec, argues to the contrary. He sees the use of dual fuel as a valuable staging post to the adoption of dedicated gas powered trucks.

“Dual fuel was a great enabler for the alternative fuel market. It was never going to be the answer but it got the market moving,” he says.

“This time last year there were 800 dual fuel LNG and CNG vehicles on the road and we were fuelling around 550 a day. That’s a significant amount of vehicles moving heavy goods around and I believe it seeded the opportunities around dedicated gas powered HGVs.”

Iveco product director Martin Flach echoes this view.

He says: “These research findings only reinforce Iveco’s position. We never felt dual fuel was the right technology.

“However dual fuel filled a gap in the market at a time when there were no dedicated gas powered HGV vehicles available. It also created a legacy of around 40 gas stations, paving the way for the next generation.”

Sawford points to the growth of Gasrec’s fuelling infrastructure as evidence. “We now have 29 stations in strategic locations around the UK, so operators are confident their vehicles have access to gas at one or other end of their operations and as demand grows we can respond quickly with new locations.”

Certainly all the signs point to a surge in demand for dedicated gas powered HGVs. Natural gas fuel supplier CNG Fuels works with Scania and Iveco on the development of dedicated gas fuelled trucks.

CNG Fuels CEO Philip Fjeld says that, based on current order rates, UK demand for dedicated trucks from Iveco and Scania could leap four to eight times next year, up from around 25 this year to 100-200 trucks next year.

Flach backs up Fjeld’s claim. He estimates there are around 100 dedicated gas powered HGVs on the UK’s roads right now, adding: “I would be very surprised if we don’t add another 100 dedicated gas trucks to the UK’s roads next year.

“I believe we will see a doubling or tripling of the total number of gas powered trucks in the UK next year. There’s a real head of steam building with quite significant volumes on Stralis artics and 400hp 4X2s.”

Iveco is also developing a dedicated gas powered 6×2 artic which Flach says will offer horsepower above 400hp, which the manufacturer is aiming to launch in the UK sometime next year.

Whilst much of the interest in Iveco’s gas powered HGV range comes from supermarkets and parcel delivery firms that already run fleets of 4x2s, Flack says rising numbers of operators, whose primary interest is in Iveco’s forthcoming dedicated gas powered 6×2 artic, are taking some gas powered 4x2s “to get their toe in the water” (pictured right, its refuse truck variant).iveco-eurocargo-refuse

He also says many dual fuel operators remain faithful to alternative fuels and are looking to switch their fleets to dedicated gas powered trucks.

Plans to bring a demonstration model of Iveco’s 400hp 4×2 Stralis NP to the UK in January next year is also attracting significant interest, says Flach.

Launched in August this year Iveco claims this is the first gas truck designed for long haulage, offering the same payload as an equivalent diesel truck and a range of up to 1,500km.

The increasing price of diesel is also fuelling demand for gas powered HGVs, according to Scania GB UK truck sales director Andrew Jamieson. “As diesel prices increase, so the payback time for gas-powered trucks reduces,” he says. “It’s inevitable that more people are starting to think about gas.”

John Lewis Partnership is one operator ramping up its gas fuelled fleet.

The retailer is set to add another ten Scania 4×2 P340 tractor units to its Waitrose distribution operation after taking on two units earlier this year, as part of plans to run 100 gas powered units by 2019.

But are dedicated gas powered trucks within the reach of smaller operators?

Fjeld believes that with biomethane fuel retailing at around 40% cheaper than diesel and emitting up to 70% less CO2, smaller operators cannot afford to ignore the technology.

“I know of several small hauliers who are moving down the gas route because it makes them more competitive when bidding for contracts,” he says.

Sawford argues that the widespread adoption of gas powered HGVs will take time but believes large operators will play an essential role in driving that change.

“It’s about scale. This is a new product and it is early days. But as more large operators buy in to the technology so there will be more price parity with diesel vehicles.”

The RHA argues that high entry costs will continue to limit this technology to a handful of large operators. It believes the government could achieve greater cuts to HGV emissions by providing incentives for hauliers to adopt proven technologies such as telematics.

Fjeld disagrees. “Fleet operators understand the benefits of telematics and driver training in cutting fuel consumption but that won’t move the goalposts,” he says, “Whereas renewable gas can cut emissions by 70% and deliver significant savings on fuel costs, and that makes it a real gamechanger.”


Operators moving towards dedicated gas-power over dual-fuel HGVs, says CNG Fuels

Dual-fuel HGVs are not the future for green transport, according to natural gas supplier CNG Fuels.

CEO Philip Fjeld told Freightinthecity that UK operators are switching from dual-fuel HGVs to dedicated gas-fuelled lorries, forecasting an eightfold rise in dedicated trucks next year.

Fjeld pointed to the performance of dual-fuel HGVs in the recent DfT-sponsored Low Carbon Truck Trial as a factor.

He said research found that greenhouse gas emissions from the 348 dual-fuel trucks in the trial rose between 50% and 127%, due to the incomplete combustion of methane as the engine switched from one fuel to the other, a process known as “methane slip.”

Fjeld said: “There are no more dual conversions being done because of the problem with methane slip. Operators are decommissioning their dual-fuel vehicles –  so there’s only a handful of dual-fuel trucks on the roads now.”

CNG Fuels works with Scania and Iveco on the development of dedicated gas-fuelled trucks. Based on current order rates, UK demand for dedicated trucks could leap four to eight times next year, up from around 25 this year to 100-200 trucks next year, said Fjeld.

The Solihull-based firm, which already supplies biomethane to John Lewis, Waitrose, Brit European, Argos and Howard Tenens, is also seeing a rise in interest from smaller hauliers.

“Using gas gives them a unique way of winning new business as they can run a close to carbon neutral fleet, save on fuel bills and so bid lower than their competitors,” said Fjeld.

Last week CNG Fuels launched a renewable biomethane fuel, which it claims is 40% cheaper than diesel and emits 70% less CO2.

CNG biomethane, the result of processing food waste, will retail at 65p per kg, which includes fuel duty but not VAT – the equivalent of 49p a litre for diesel.

CNG Fuels is also expanding its refuelling infrastructure, with plans to open between four and six new stations a year.

RHA policy director Jack Semple said the finding from the Low Carbon Truck Trial showed that “government measures to advance dual-fuel HGVs has hit the buffers at great cost to the public purse.”

Semple questioned whether the govenment was innovating in the right direction with methane at last month’s Freight in the City Expo at Alexandra Palace in London.

Gasrec calls on government to back gas-power for HGVs to meet emission challenge

Gasrec is calling on the government to cut HGV emissions by making the use of natural gas as a low emission alternative to diesel a central plank of its air quality plans.

In a written response to the government’s Clean Air Consultation this week, Gasrec argued that if the state is to meet targets on clean air it will need to place much greater focus on reducing emissions from heavier vehicles, since these vehicles produce 20% of road transport-derived CO2.

The written response points to the increasing use of natural gas as a transport fuel in European cities including Paris and Madrid, and calls for measures to help encourage the faster uptake of environmentally beneficial natural gas vehicles in the UK.

Gasrec’s call comes as pressure mounts on the government to improve the UK’s air quality.

Last week the High Court demanded the government produce improved National Air Quality Plans by July next year to meet agreed legal pollution limits, following an earlier ruling.

In the same week a report from the European Environment Agency noted the UK has the second highest number of deaths in Europe from NO2 pollution.

Gasrec CEO Rob Wood applauded government support for the development of electric cars and lighter vehicles, but urged it to “place emphasis on tackling emissions from heavier vehicles, which carry a disproportionate responsibility for our country’s poor air quality”.

“The government should recognise the immediate benefits of switching the heavy vehicle fleet to natural gas. Natural Gas is the only currently available, low emission solution for vehicles at the heavier end of the transport spectrum,” he said.

The expansion of natural gas fuelled vehicles would improve air quality immediately, reduce the costs of transport to fleet operators and the cost of goods in the shops, he added.

However, RHA’s policy director Jack Semple has questioned the effectiveness of developing alternative fuels as a way of cutting emissions.

Speaking at the Freight in the City Expo, Semple criticised the government’s decision to give £25m of funding to develop methane as an alternative fuel, and called for greater funding for technology such as telematics, which has been proven to cut emissions through their application and resulting reduction in road miles.

He said: “For a fraction of what the government has committed to methane in the last few years, we could really move things forward. So it’s good to innovate. But are we innovating in the right direction?”

Khan sets out congestion-reducing measures for London roads

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is to introduce a host of measures to tackle the city’s road congestion.

The mayor’s plans include faster repairs to London’s roads; lobbying government for greater powers to manage the city’s roadworks; a review of 200 traffic signals’ timings to reduce delays and the use of cameras at pedestrian crossings to cut the time traffic is held at red lights.

The mayor also aims to give buses greater priority, improve information for road users via using social media and smart technology, and cut the cost of public transport.

The plans will run alongside other more long-term strategic approaches being developed as part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, due to be published in spring 2017.

Khan said cutting congestion was vital to London’s future prosperity.

He said: “We need to be much smarter in how we use our roads and tackle the causes of congestion head-on.

“Today I’m setting out practical and immediate steps we can take to reduce disruption, including better prioritising buses on our streets, better information for road users, and substantial improvements in how roadworks are coordinated.”

Natalie Chapman, FTA head of policy for London said: “FTA strongly welcomes the mayor’s focus on managing congestion, and hopes that this approach will produce benefits for Londoners.

“The capital needs more than 360,000 tonnes of goods moved on its roads every day – construction materials to build new homes, food and drink to restaurants, clothes to shops and of course the waste to be taken away – so, it’s in everyone’s interests if these goods can get where they need to be efficiently.”

Simon Moore, CBI director for London & South, said businesses will welcome the measures but warned that “in the longer term, bolder solutions will be required to increase our deteriorating road capacity”.

Jack Semple, RHA director of policy, said: “It sounds good. London, and central London in particular, have faced a significant worsening of severe congestion and if these measures recognise that essential vehicles such as lorries and buses have to move about the city more quickly, that is a good thing because previous measures over many years have resulted in slowing traffic.

He added: “There is a great deal to be done. Scrapping the London Lorry Control Scheme would help as far as goods movement is concerned. I was recently at a freight Forum meeting in London at which one of the boroughs called for more lorries to be used to deliver, rather than vans, as a way of cutting congestion.”

Transport Committee to investigate congestion in towns and cities

The Transport Committee has launched an inquiry into how effective integrated traffic management strategies are at cutting congestion in towns and cities.

Strategies under the inquiry’s spotlight will include bus priority measures; local road pricing; parking schemes;  cycling and walking infrastructure;  tram and trolley-bus systems; intelligent transport systems; and telematics.

The committee will also consider the impact of the schemes on communities and businesses during construction and operation.

It will also study the cost of construction and the operation of the schemes, the sustainability of bus services and road user safety, with particular regard to pedestrians and cyclists in regards the latter.

Written submissions to the inquiry must be sent to the committee by Friday 9 December.

DfT must do more to encourage ULEV uptake

DfT must do more to incentivise the use of Ultra Low Emission (ULEV) vehicles, according to a House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report published this week.

The report, which raises concerns that DfT is failing to meet its target to develop the UK’s ULEV market, recommends a number of measures DfT needs to take to encourage the take up of ULEVs in the commercial sector.

These include incentivising manufacturers to make ULEV light vans by changing the license to allow the additional weight of a battery or hydrogen tank; supporting ULEV fleet procurement by underwriting risk or by guaranteeing buy-back; helping workplaces invest in charging points; and working with Treasury to introduce changes to company car tax and vehicle excise duty, which will incentivise ULEV market development.

The report said: “DfT has yet to articulate how it will develop the ULEV market in the medium term.

“With the department’s central scenario forecasting a market share for ULEVs of 5% by 2020, we have no confidence that the UK will achieve 60% market share by 2030.

“This issue, important before the EU referendum, has been given added urgency in light of the result. Investors crave stability and certainty, and one way the department can provide this is through policies that signal to industry its intention to incentivise ULEV uptake.”

The report also turns its spotlight on the Volkswagen emissions scandal. It calls on the government to ensure Volkswagen speeds up its recall programme to replace cheat devices and to look at taking legal action against the manufacturer.

The report said: “We recommend that the Competition and Markets Authority, the Serious Fraud Office and the transport secretary expedite their investigations into the carmaker to determine whether legal action can be taken against it.”

Pointing to the absence of any specific recommendations for HGVs in the report, RHA national policy director Jack Semple said: “The main point is that Euro-6 engines are already delivering on vehicle emissions.”

Geodis UK launches out-of-hours service for Scottish retailers

Logistics and supply chain operator Geodis UK is targeting Scotland’s fashion retail market with the launch of an out-of-hours delivery service, following a successful roll out of the service in France.

The new proposition will be on offer in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee and Aberdeen with “a leading European fashion retailer,” already signing up for the service, the company said this week.

Under the out-of-hours service, stock arrives at the Geodis UK depot in Stirling, Scotland, in the evening where it is loaded onto three trucks for delivery to stores before 7am.

The logistics company, which has a strong presence in the fashion retail sector, takes responsibility for prioritising deliveries, planning routes, liaising with store security, unloading pallets, removing packaging and organising returns.

Geodis has also spent around £80,000 on a new IT and security system at its Stirling depot.

Kevin Huskie, Geodis regional manager for the North and Scotland, said: “We are always looking to develop new solutions that can be tailored to our customers’ requirements.

“By developing our out-of-hours offering we have the ideal logistics solution for the retail sector which enables Geodis to be a growth partner for customers.”

London operator picks Volvo Tridem FM-410 for manoeuvrability around town

Garden supplies firm Thompsons of Crews Hill has taken delivery of its first Volvo Tridem FM-410, with another set to arrive at the Enfield-based firm in July.

The family firm, which delivers to landscaping firms and private homes in and around London, chose the Tridem FM-410 for its manoeuvrability and payload.

The eight-wheeler tipper has a brick grab and has been modified by bodybuilders Webbs of Sudbury in Suffolk to include a drop-side. It also comes with a rear-steer lift axle.

Thompsons of Crews Hill, which is a Fors member, also had Volvo fit the tipper with a nearside door window panel and a four-camera Brigade System to increase driver awareness of vulnerable road users.

Supplied by Volvo Truck and Bus in Brimsdown in north London, the Tridem FM-410 has already been put through its paces by David Hatton, the firm’s transport manager.

He told Freightinthecity: “We did a lot of research before we decided on the Tridem FM-410 and it hasn’t disappointed us. It gets into anywhere a six-wheeler can get into, including all those really tight spaces, but it also has a much better payload and the same return on MPG.”

The company, which has a fleet of 10 trucks including some Mercedes and Dafs, took on its first Volvo two years ago.

Hatton added: “We like the Tridem so much we have ordered another one, which is arriving in the UK in July.”


Cornwall Council opens new ECO Stars scheme for regional operators

Cormac, Lorne Stewart, TNT and WJ South West are the first firms to join Cornwall’s new ECO Stars Fleet Recognition Scheme.

The free voluntary scheme, which provides recognition and support on reducing fuel costs and environmental best practice to fleet operators, will be operated by Transport and Travel Research (TTR), on behalf of Cornwall Council.

Firms joining the scheme are given a star rating out of five, with personal guidance on how to improve upon this initial score and drive further efficiencies in their fleet operations.

Welcoming the four firms to the programme, Geoff Brown, Cornwall Council’s communities officer, said: “Cornwall ECO Stars scheme is a great opportunity for operators in the Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth area to get free advice on improving their fleet efficiency.

“Congratulations to our inaugural members – we hope that many more businesses will follow their lead, join the scheme and contribute to improving air quality in the area, whilst also improving their bottom line,” he added.

Jason Gallop, Cormac fleet technician, said the firm  was delighted to join the scheme. He added: “The evaluation process was entirely straightforward and I would have no hesitation in recommending that other fleet operators should join the scheme. Obviously we look forward to working with TTR again, with a view to achieving a five-star rating in the future.”

ECO Stars Fleet Recognition scheme was launched in South Yorkshire in 2009 and has expanded across the UK to areas including York, Edinburgh, Manchester and Warrington and has more than 500 members with 14,000 vehicles.