Hushing it up

Out-of-hours deliveries were introduced for the London Olympics and, while not without challenges. were so successful that several firms have continued them. Louise Cole reports

There are many reasons why urban deliveries should be conducted between late evening and early morning. Traffic levels are at their lowest, so the largest vehicles on the road can move without contributing to or being delayed by congestion. Some 80% of road fatalities in London are vulnerable road users, with cyclists the most affected by HGVs – yet 75% of London cyclists cycle during the day. Parking is also less of an issue at night.

The London Olympics & Paralympics compelled many logistics firms to give a powerful demonstration of how out-of-hours urban deliveries could be carried out. According to Transport for London, 15% to 20% of the commercial vehicles typically driving in London between 6am and 6pm disappeared from the roads – 10% of these went to night time deliveries (source: FTA Logistics Legacy).

Many of those who delivered out of hours during the Olympics have carried on doing so – but challenges remain. The London Lorry Control Scheme is still too rigid; logistics firms must often seek individual agreements with local authorities over parking; there is widespread education needed – and hearts and minds still to win –among local authorities, residents and customers.

The key message that needs to be communicated is that HGV deliveries, even of noisy goods, are rarely disruptive – and that out-of- hours deliveries serve all our other policy priorities such as clean air, less congested roads and safety.

DHL Tradeteam

Like many logistics companies, DHL Tradeteam was forced by the 2012 Olympic Games to reschedule as many deliveries into central London as possible. It first ran an out-of-hours trial with Transport for London, the FTA, Noise Abatement Society and Southwark Council, bringing forward deliveries of beer kegs and other drinks to the Swan at the Globe, a central London restaurant. Normal licensing restrictions mean the Swan cannot take delivery of alcohol before 7am, so special dispensation was needed for the trial.

The major problem was identifying and eliminating sources of noise. “Rolling an empty beer keg is like rolling a bell,” says Tradeteam regional operations manager John Crosk. “But a lot of the noise residents hear is the vehicle pulling up, idling engines, talking and so on. So we looked at the whole process and not just the delivery.”

Crews were taught to communicate without speaking: “Eye contact is the important thing,” says Crosk. Radios are turned off on approach, engines on parking. The team tried rubber mats to suppress keg noise but this was only partially successful, so they switched to barrows with pneumatic tyres.

The Swan takes consolidated deliveries, including up to three tonnes of beer (approximately 40 kegs) at each drop. Throughout the whole trial, only one noise complaint was lodged.

Despite the success of the trial, the Swan cannot maintain out-of-hours deliveries. “It doesn’t have any benefit for us as a customer; we are restricted by licensing legislation to post-7am deliveries and earlier drops would require us to pay our teams for an extra hour,” says Carol Dean, project and facilities director at the Swan.

It is important to note the customers for whom this kind of change is untenable long term. However, DHL Tradeteam has continued to service hundreds of accounts between 5am and 7am in London, with 20 routes running out of Enfield (as well as two very late routes) and up to 15 out of Gatwick.

Crosk says the major obstacle is the London Lorry Control Scheme, which forces unnecessary mileage on fleets, wasting fuel and 
raising emissions. “It needs reviewing urgently,” he says.

DHL Supply Chain for JD Wetherspoon

DHL Supply Chain runs a 24-hour operation for JD Wetherspoon, with over one-third of 
all deliveries made before 6am or after 6pm. DHL services more than 900 sites across the UK and Ireland.

It had already identified problems with conventional roll-cages, both in terms of noise and safety, when the pressure for out-of-hours deliveries increased during the Olympics.

“There are a lot of injuries with roll-cages on this kind of high street delivery. The standard security cage also makes about 100dB of noise,” says John Anderson, national transport manager for the Wetherspoon account at DHL.

Anderson and his team started to redesign their cages, adding operator safety features and taking out 5kg in weight by replacing steel elements with low-noise polymers. Wheels became rubber and hinges became plastic, and the six places where metal clanged against metal when nested were identified and modified. The cage now makes 77dB of noise, which Anderson notes is a huge achievement.

Anderson is confident that DHL and its supplier will now make DHL’s ‘Olympic cage’ the first full-security cage to meet the Piek standard for ambient noise, which is 66dB.

The Olympic cage has become standardised across DHL accounts globally, so that kit can be transferred across accounts easily. The Olympic cages also have longer lifespans, improved from three-to-four years to 10, due to the use of high-﷯tensile steel and the plastic/polymer components, which can be easily and economically replaced.

“The roll cage itself is more expensive,” says Anderson. “But the 5kg weight saving gives us an extra 225kg payload on a standard 13m trailer or 370kg on a double-decker.”

Having a cage manufactured in and then imported from China creates 120kg of CO2. The DHL cage, however, can be refurbished to give an extra five years of life, with a carbon cost of 20kg and for half the original purchase cost.

FM ConwayFM Conway Tipper

Infrastructure services company FM Conway routinely repairs London’s roads at night, and demonstrated its skill at doing so quietly when tasked with lifting 34 pedestrian islands to facilitate the Olympic cycle road race. These islands through Hammersmith and Fulham had to be lifted each morning of the two-day race and then re-laid for night-time traffic control.

Since London 2012, FM Conway’s night-time work has steadily increased, almost doubling as a percentage of its overall workload. “We are currently doing a lot of work on Putney Bridge, where we have a high concentration of equipment in an extremely small area,” says Richard Carson, plant and transportation director at FM Conway.

The company made large modifications to its fleet before the Olympics, with rubber linings in the cargo bay for quiet loading and unloading, rubber seals on tail-lifts to stop banging, and hydraulic clamps that compress the body to stop rattling when the vehicle moves. The vehicles are also fitted with white noise reversing alarms and electric sheeting systems, both for noise reduction. It has also invested in driver training for all its employed drivers and subbies, which includes education about noise control.

Its quiet delivery measures won it the Noise Abatement Society’s Enterprise in Quiet Transport Award in 2012.

Since then the company has invested in Euro-6 vehicles for quieter running. “In some instances they cut noise by 10dB against the Euro-5s,” says Carson.

Night-time road repair is essential to prevent huge road congestion during the day. Carson says there are two more crucial benefits: the first is that road repair is extremely dangerous for operatives, and his men are much safer at night when there is little surrounding traffic. And, second, they get 30% more work done when traffic levels are low.

“The public response to night-time working is much more positive since we have focused on communicating with the public, our ‘macro’ client, and not just with our immediate client,” says Carson. “If people understand the benefits, and we in turn understand their needs, it becomes a positive experience for everyone.”
Carson urges TfL and London borough councils to review the London Lorry Control Scheme, both on the grounds of safety and efficiency. “We want our people to be able to work in maximum safety. Plus we often have to do three times the necessary distance to collect asphalt because we cannot drive through central London. This creates more pollution and makes public road repairs more expensive.”

Clean Linen Services

Laundry service Clean Linen Services supplies more than 500 restaurants and hotels in London, and 3,000 nationally. Its fleet travels approximately two million miles a year using more than 600,000 litres of fuel.

During the Olympics, it anticipated higher volumes of product and traffic, so brought morning deliveries forward by three hours 
and pushed late afternoon services back by three hours.

While not without its challenges, the Olympics experience was so positive that the company has continued running out-of-hours deliveries in the capital wherever possible. Group transport manager Peter Cox says: “Overall this is making our business more efficient. We now estimate 40% of our deliveries in London are outside peak hours.”

Cox says the benefits for the company include improved customer service, journey times, turnaround of goods and fuel economy, as well as altogether smoother operation and parking, and savings from Congestion Charge exemptions. The benefits to the city are less pollution, congestion and noise, and improved road safety.

Since its successful Olympics trial, Clean Linen has invested in quieter, more fuel-﷯efficient Mitsubishi Fuso Canter diesel-electric hybrids. Quieter tail-lifts and the addition of rubber strips to roll-cages also help.

There are still challenges. The capital has shrinking kerb space and unforgiving parking rules. Noise abatement orders can be raised from a single complaint, regardless of the hundreds of non-disruptive deliveries that are carried out. “We have recently had to amend our methods again in one road where we have five long-term clients, in response to a single complaint,” says Cox. “There are also still curfew issues and problems that local authorities could address. We want to carry on with what we are doing and it would be helpful if the restrictions in London were lifted.”

Delivering in stealth

The Quiet Cities global summit, to be held in London on 25-26 November, will bring together a wide range of products specifically designed to reduce noise during deliveries in urban areas.

One of the biggest issues when making out of hours retail deliveries can be the rattle of roll cages as they are pushed to and from the vehicle.

Leading roll cage manufacturer K Hartwall plans to show a range of products at the Quiet Cities summit designed to minimise noise disruption when transporting goods to retail outlets, pubs, and restaurants, including its Piek-certified roll cages – the Classic Silent A-frame and the European standard Classic Silent Compactainer.These have been designed for 24/7 deliveries with plastic floors, quiet wheels and other noise reduction features that make them some of the quietest cages on the market at 60dB (A).

It will also be demonstrating its new ‘lean’ retail solution with Piek-certified Euro dollies, developed to eliminate waste and manual handling of dollies. These plastic quarter-pallet dollies can support plastic crates of different sizes and used to store, transport and display bulk products.﷯Fitted with rubber wheels, they achieve a noise level of 55dB (A).

K Hartwall worked closely with DHL Supply Chain during the London Olympics and using its A-frame Classic Silent roll container on JD Wetherspoon deliveries, noise levels were reduced by approximately 15 dB (A).

John Anderson, national transport manager at JD Wetherspoon, said: “The new cages were used for night-time deliveries to Wetherspoon pubs during the Olympic Games between the hours of midnight and 6am. The lower noise levels were well received by staff and appreciated by local residents to such an extent that we didn’t receive a single complaint during the entire period of the Games.”

Noisy refrigeration

Noisy fridge units can be another major source of complaints from residents, as they are often at upper floor level where they cause maximum nuisance for sleeping residents.

Carrier Transicold will be using the Quiet Cities event to highlight its City range of low-noise refrigeration units for rigid trucks and trailers. The City range includes two trailer fridges – the Vector 1850 City (Multi-Temp) unit and the Vector 1550 City (Mono-temp) unit – plus the Supra City for rigid trucks (mono and multi-temp options are both available). All of these are Piek compliant, meaning they can operate at or below 60dB (A). Both the Vector 1850 City and the Vector 1550 City units have won John Connell Awards from the Noise Abatement Society.

The City range also includes a Supra City Z, which is an engine-less unit for rigid trucks. It takes its power from a hydraulic pump directly connected to the truck engine’s power take-off. Whilst not Piek-compliant, it is significantly quieter than a standard fridge unit.

Quieter safety alerts

Although a clear aid to health and safety, reversing alarms have also been a source of complaints. Reversing alarm pioneer Brigade has developed a ‘white noise’ alarm, however, that warns those close to a reversing vehicle without disturbing sleeping neighbours. It is now phasing out the traditional ‘beeping’ alarm in favour of these less intrusive alternatives.

It will be showcasing its bbs-tek white sound reversing alarm, which is the only reversing alarm approved by the Noise Abatement Society. Certain models are also Piek-approved.

Now widely fitted across the full range of vehicles from large plant to airport baggage buggies, the bbs-tek is fast becoming the reversing alarm of choice, it says. Unlike beepers, which can be heard in an area at least 30 times wider than the hazard zone, a white sound alarm is only heard in the hazardous area behind the vehicle. White sound is also more likely to be heard by someone wearing ear defenders yet is less likely to cause hearing damage.

The SMART bbs is able to adjust its sound levels to compensate for ambient noise so it is always just 5dB (A) louder – loud enough to be an effective warning but not loud enough to be a nuisance.

Brigade will also be featuring its latest Backeye 360 camera monitor system. This eliminates blind spots around a vehicle by linking four cameras together to give the driver a bird’s-eye-view of their vehicle and the surrounding area.
Presenting all-round visibility in one image means the driver can focus on a single display rather than having to constantly scan windows, mirrors and rear-view camera monitors to get a complete picture of what is around the vehicle.

The intelligent control unit blends the images from the four wide-angle cameras, automatically compensating for distortion caused by the 187-degree lenses and any overlap in the view from the cameras.

The camera system is compatible with Brigade digital recorders so footage can be used to defend false crash-for-cash claims and to detect vandalism or theft.

The Backeye 360 is being trialled by Marks & Spencer, and Sainsbury’s is using it on one truck in London.

Tyre noise is another significant factor in night-time deliveries, when the absence of other traffic makes every sound produced by a truck sound relatively louder to local residents.

Michelin will be exhibiting its new X Multi D drive axle tyre, which is available in 17.5in and 19.5in sizes for trucks under 16 tonnes. It has been specifically designed for use in urban and suburban roles in all weather conditions and delivers a notable 5dB (A) noise reduction.That might not sound a lot but is in fact 50% quieter than the previous generation, and according to Michelin represents “a major technological breakthrough, particularly given the number of vehicles in this sector which are used extensively in urban environments.”

The range will be extended before November to include the X Multi Z, a multi-position fitment suitable for steer axles.

Fleets of the future

Enabling the logistics sector to schedule flexibly acceptable delivery times within urban areas is also key to successful out of hours deliveries, and here Route Monkey is well-placed to help.

Route Monkey says quiet deliveries are about the ‘fleets of the future’. These will use routeing and scheduling technology to optimise how and when the job gets done and will also use electric vehicles (EVs) to allows them to achieve their duty cycles almost silently, it suggests.

At Quiet Cities, Route Monkey will demonstrate how technology and multimodal transport solutions can work well to achieve quieter deliveries. It will be showcasing a web-based scheduling platform which is UK government-backed and can be accessed by fleets across both public and private sectors. This platform solves a real problem as it is a pay-as-you-go model that instantly delivers a return on investment. It’s accessible and easy to use and will host all the fleet’s data in one place, saving on administration and time.

At present, about 95% of fleets do not have scheduling technology as it can be expensive and often difficult to use. Similarly, a large percentage of fleets would not consider that an electric or other ultra-low-carbon vehicle could replace a conventional delivery truck because of the significant barriers to their adoption. They are considered to be too expensive and the range of electric vehicles remains limited.

Route Monkey’s online scheduling platform can be used by truck operators to create the fleets of the future, however, in modelling and scheduling and writing the business case for the procurement of electric or other ultra-low-carbon vehicles.

“Our aim is simply to convert those expensive miles to electric miles,” the company says.

DHL: Collaboration is key to enable quiet deliveries

DHL is at the forefront of the revolution in out-of-hours deliveries, but Christopher Walton discovers why it believes there is still a long way to go until it becomes the norm. By Christopher Walton.

Every day DHL has between 1,100 and 1,700 vehicles going into London. The UK’s largest (non-mail) operator of CVs has approximately 8,000 vehicles, roughly, so that proportion reflects London’s 22% share of the UK’s GDP.

Because deliveries into the capital account for a significant chunk of its Supply Chain business, DHL is at the forefront of the changes taking place in out-of-hours deliveries in London and it led the way during the Olympic Games in 2012.

Philip Roe, MD, innovation, strategy and business development (UK & Ireland Transport) at DHL Supply Chain, told MT that it strives to be the safest, most efficient and customer-focused operator – and if it wants to hit those targets in a quarter of its business, it has got to be leading the way. “If there are things that are changing how that business runs, you have got to be at the forefront of that,” he said. “The Olympics experience and legacy proved that things can be done, and that collaboration can work well.”

Now TfL is making strides in bringing the issue back to the forefront of operators’ business models. Three new out-of-hours delivery trials are to start in London, the first of which includes nine retail stores, four in inner London and five in outer London, and will involve deliveries earlier or later in the day than those being made.

Roe said DHL has had a strong response from customers, and it has a number of customers that want to be involved. “All different shapes and sizes of customers, in different sectors too, not just retail, some in automotive for example,” he said.

Standard practice

All of which begs the question: if there is so much enthusiasm from authorities, operators and customers for out-of-hours deliveries, why aren’t they standard practice? “The case has not yet been made,” said Roe. “Most supply chains are established and designed against a cycle of order, receipt and stock. To disrupt that cycle and to change it means either a big event, such as the Olympics, or a big motivation. That’s why the case has to be made.”

That is why the industry needs the Quiet Cities global summit, Roe said. He wants the summit to be the spark that sees the industry rise to the challenge, and operate out-of-hours in an urban environment in a safe, clean and quiet way. That would mean regulators rising to the challenge of relaxing some restrictions. If this happened, Roe said: “Then we could create a case that is efficient as well as safe, and also meets customers’ needs. Only when we get to the point will we see significant change.”

Operationally, one of the biggest barriers is receipt of goods and how to conduct this out-of-hours.

There are some solutions that have been around for a while, for example, driver deliveries can be made into lock-ups or specified delivery areas (which is how most catering deliveries are done, said Roe). Increasingly some delivery locations in London are operating 24 hours, either for trade, replenishment of goods or for security reasons.“There is certainly not a silver bullet on any of this, but there are different solutions that could be employed. If the hours of operation can be extended, so you are running a vehicle over multiple journeys, then the efficiency case goes a long way towards supporting those extra costs,” Roe added.“Also, it is undoubtedly safer, because it encourages segregation between freight and other road users. It improves fuel economy because you are not standing in traffic, you are moving, and you are not burning fuel unnecessarily.”

Fuel economy is key in a city that is not just congested, but sucks in freight with very little manufacturing output going out of the city in return. Reducing empty running is critical to efficient urban deliveries, Roe said: “One of our customers requires an average of five or six deliveries a day into London, but we collect five or six deliveries’ worth of waste and bring it back and recycle it.That makes that lorry mega-efficient because it is full most of the time.”

However, the success of out-of-hours deliveries will ultimately come down to one thing, according to Roe: collaboration. That means collaboration between regulators, operators, the owners of the goods and the receivers of the goods. “It is fundamental. It is key to making this happen.”

Working to keep the noise down

Ian Wainwright
Christopher Walton talks to TfL’s Ian Wainwright to discover why the industry needs to embrace out-of-hours deliveries.

There have been several milestones in the evolution of logistics: privatisation; the curtainsider; containerisation; palletisation. Then there has been primary and secondary distribution and, more recently, multichannel distribution. Now the industry is on the cusp of the next step change. Out-of-hours deliveries need to become the norm in the very near future, and the evolution is under way.

Ian Wainwright
Ian Wainwright, head of freight and fleet at TfL

MT spoke to Ian Wainwright, head of freight and fleet at TfL, to get a better understanding of why rescheduled deliveries will be the industry standard, and not the exception, and why London is leading the change, not just in the UK but around the world.

“During the London 2012 Olympic Games we proved that it is possible to do out-of-hours deliveries, that they do not necessarily disturb people,” said Wainwright.

“There is often a lack of understanding between the different parties. Operators frequently do not challenge their customers because they are not in the position to; they need to explain ‘we can do this more efficiently and we can save you money’.”


Wainwright believes that TfL has a role to play in squaring the circle. Although the two weeks of the London Games created an urgent need for retiming deliveries, there is an even more pressing concern for out-of-hours deliveries. “Lots of people understood that there was a burning platform [during the Games]. It had to be different. We are now in a situation where, by 2031, we will go from 8.3 million people in London to 10 million; another 1.7 million people – a 15% increase.

“If everyone is to have the same standard of living, freight activity has to go up by 15% and the internet accounts for 20% of orders. So more stuff is coming in. And it’s coming in between 7am and 11am,” Wainwright explained.

“Retailers are making decisions about properties on a footfall basis,” he said. “Nobody usually cares about the logistics, and they pick the site and logistics thinks ‘how are we going to deliver to that?’”

To that end, TfL has confirmed three new out-of-hours delivery trials are to start in London. The trials will focus on three distinct areas: the possibility of a long-term change in delivery behaviour; options to change the delivery conditions imposed through the planning process; and demonstrating the use of various pieces of quiet delivery equipment. The first of the trials includes nine retail stores; four in inner London and five in outer London, and will involve deliveries earlier or later in the day than those currently being made.
“There is a lot of misconception in London that you cannot deliver out of hours, which is wrong. There are individual sites where you cannot deliver because of a planning condition, or a noise abatement notice, or a tenancy agreement, and a range of things about the technical aspects of delivering to that site. However, London is open for business overnight and we want to enable that to happen in a way that doesn’t disturb residents,” said Wainwright.

“The London Lorry Control Scheme only applies to vehicles over 18 tonnes and it is only a routeing scheme. So while you may have to go a different route to get around it, it won’t stop the delivery. There is still this feeling, because the scheme was introduced in 1986 as a ban, that it bans deliveries. It does not ban deliveries. So we have got to work on perceptions,” he conceded.

Best practice

When TfL revealed last autumn that it was launching out-of-hours delivery trials, it also created an Out-of-Hours Consortium, comprising: three London boroughs, two retailers, the FTA, the RHA and London Councils. The group aims to demonstrate best practice and offers guidance on collaboration and new ways of working. Regular progress reports will be published.

“We want to look at how we can potentially move some supermarket activity [to different times of day],” Wainwright said of the consortium. “Supermarkets want flexibility in terms of delivery times and a lot of the stores they have, such as convenience stores, are not sites you would do 24/7.

“We are having some local successes but it is slow and we are not going into any details about that until the Quiet Cities global summit [see box] because we need to get the relationships right to know which boroughs and supermarkets need to talk. Be it about parking, driver behaviour, or planning.”

Back to normal

Wainwright said that after the Games a lot of operators and customers reverted to what they knew. All the success of out-of-hours deliveries during the Games was congratulated as a job well done as normal working practices resumed. “There was a willingness with the Games to challenge customers and tell them they were not going to receive goods for two weeks [unless they were retimed]. Now we are saying that within 20 years the need for retiming deliveries will be every day,” said Wainwright.

Change for the better

But customers and operators – be it hire and reward or own-account – do not want to hear that their way of doing business is wrong. “It isn’t wrong, but it can change for the better,” Wainwright said.

“We have to give people enough information so they understand what is coming, so they can make the right investment and recruitment decisions to enable them to deal with how cities are in the future. And, yes, this is London today but increased densities in terms of residential developments will happen in Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, and any other city. People will have to get used to that.

“A lot of the solutions that exist will make Barnstable or Bury St Edmonds or Burton-on-Trent nicer places too if people are doing things at different times of the day,” he added.

Out-of-hours urban deliveries will be the focus of summit

quiet-cities-400MT has partnered with TfL and DHL to launch a global summit to enable quieter deliveries of freight in urban environments.

Quiet Cities will take place on 25 and 26 November 2014 at Twickenham Stadium. The two-day event will feature a full conference programme, a networking dinner, exhibition, and live demonstrations of the latest quiet logistics equipment.

TfL will share London’s best practice on retiming deliveries and showcase its work on facilitating out-of-hours deliveries, while representatives of overseas cities will discuss the work they have implemented to allow off-peak deliveries.

“Transport for London is proud to sponsor the Quiet Cities global summit,” said Ian Wainwright, TfL head of freight and fleet.

“Freight in London relies on the capital’s road network but the demands placed on it are changing.

“Our role at TfL is to ensure the logistics industry can sustainably serve London’s growing economy and population.

“Moving deliveries out of the morning peak is central to TfL’s Delivering a Road Freight Legacy. We know that with the right level of support deliveries can take place at different times and still suit customers, residents and operators.”

DHL added: “Being able to deliver off-peak and retime deliveries as required is essential for the long-term health of the logistics sector.”

For more information and to register your interest, go to or email

Europe to see more electric vehicle recharging/refuelling points

The European Parliament has approved rules forcing the establishment of more electric vehicle recharging points and alternative fuel stations on the continent.

In a vote on 15 April, it agreed to implement a new directive that will oblige member states to submit minimum proposed levels of refuelling and recharging stations, with EU-wide standards including the use of common plugs for electric vehicles and standardised refuelling equipment for hydrogen and natural gas.

Under EC proposals, just under 800,000 publicly accessible electric vehicle recharging points, all using a common plug, will need to be established before 2020 – including more than 120,000 in the UK. EC figures show there were just 11,749 points across the Union in 2011, including 703 in the UK.

The EC also wants LNG refuelling stations to be installed every 400km along the roads of the Trans European Core Network, and for CNG refuelling points to be available Europe-wide at maximum distances of 150km by 2020.

EC vice president Siim Kallas said: “This is a milestone in the roll-out of clean fuels in Europe. This vote sends a clear signal that Europe is putting clean fuels at the heart of its transport policy and the drive to develop a transport system fit for the 21st century.”

The DfT told MT this time last year that it supported the EU’s efforts to harmonise technical standards for alternative fuels but that it was “not convinced that setting targets for the deployment of technology-specific infrastructure is the most effective way of building consumer confidence in new technology”.

Infrastructure is key to low-carbon vehicles

Dual-fuel vehicle usage may increase following the DfT’s £11.5m funding, writes George Barrow

The uptake of gas-powered trucks has increased, with several high-profile operators, including DHL, Howard Tenens and United Biscuits, adding dual-fuel vehicles to their fleets.
Away from the large fleets, uptake has been slow, and that has largely been due to the scarcity of refuelling stations in the UK, where gas road fuels – CNG, LNG and biomethane – are in short supply at retail and wholesale levels. The lack of infrastructure has been seen as a major stumbling block for those unable to house and fund gas filling stations, but seed corn funding is beginning to generate interest in the technology. This has come in the shape of an £11.5m contribution by the DfT – administered by the Technology Strategy Board – to the Low Carbon Truck Trial aimed at encouraging the uptake of low-carbon CVs.

On trial

Thirteen consortia, including hauliers, universities and testing facilities, are involved in the trial, which hopes to generate evidence of the benefits of low-carbon vehicles, increase understanding, and develop the technology. It should also initiate a publicly accessible refuelling network in the UK.
A total of 354 vehicles will be involved in the trial: 339 dual-fuel vehicles, five dedicated gas trucks and 10 powered by used cooking oil. Among the 13 active trials, there are 85 trucks reporting data, covering more than 1m km per month and consuming, on average, 900,000 litres of diesel, 527 tonnes of natural gas, 48 tonnes of cooking oil and 41 tonnes of biomethane. The majority are fuelled at private depots with refuelling stations, but 26 public-access fuelling stations are scheduled to be created, with 18 new sites and upgrades to eight stations.
Several suppliers, including CNG Services, Gasrec and the Gas Alliance Group, plan to increase the availability of renewable biomethane gas, with a number of new plants and refuelling sites. Fifteen biomethane generation projects are scheduled for this year by CNG Services with 20 planned for 2015, while LNG specialist Gasrec – which liquefies methane from anaerobic digestion in landfill – has six open access sites planned this year and four for 2015. These are in addition to its 10 refuelling sites in operation and will help supply the 60kg of biomethane used on average by each truck per day. “A year ago we were fuelling about 40 vehicles,” said Ben Sawford, Gasrec commercial officer. “Now we are fuelling about 500.”
Ed Carter, National Grid commercial relationship and development manager, said supply is key to the growth of gas-powered trucks. National Grid’s Isle of Grain LNG facility is the largest terminal in Europe, with a 15 million tonnes/year capacity. “LNG has potential as a clean, cheap fuel,” he said. “Qatar is a main source of LNG, and the quality of the methane is well within the requirements for the truck market. Next year looks like a turning point, with potentially a large supply coming from Africa, Australia and the US.”
Availability and infrastructure in the UK transport sector is set to expand as the trial continues. The last trial will finish in early 2016, but the government’s decision in December to maintain the duty differential between diesel and gas road fuels for 10 years will add a financial argument to the increasing practicality of running dual-fuel or gas-powered vehicles for the long term. However, Jon Horsley, lead technologist for low carbon vehicles at the Technology Strategy Board, said the differential should not be seen as a permanent crutch, but that the more evidence gathered in the trial, the more likely it is to inform future interventions.

Compliant vehicles

If dual-fuel vehicle usage takes off, converters and OEMs will have to create Euro-6-compliant vehicles as supplies of Euro-5 units for conversion dry up. Dual-fuel conversion suppliers Hardstaff and G-volution will have Euro-6 compliant versions this year, while Iveco and Mercedes-Benz are working on products, with a range of CNG/LNG Iveco products expected this year.
Nick Blake, Mercedes-Benz sales engineering manager, said while it is the role of manufacturers to develop technologies, legislation will govern policy. “We develop for a world market, so have to bear that in mind while looking to future legislation.”

Industry reaction

As part of the Low Carbon Truck Trial, a study was conducted by Cenex, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ low-carbon centre of excellence, to gauge users’ reactions to the low carbon vehicles.
The study showed that driver acceptance is significantly higher than their pre-trial perception of gas trucks, with an overwhelming majority believing they were better than they thought they would be. 80% of drivers said they were proud to be part of a fleet exploring new technology.
Operators also noted the wider acceptance of the vehicles by their staff, reduced CO2 emissions and lower operating costs. However, many pointed to a lack of infrastructure and reliability in fuel supply.

DHL gives out-of-hours deliveries the thumbs up

DHL said it would jump at the chance to expand the amount of out-of-hours deliveries it makes in line with customer demand, but London’s councils need to support the move.

In response to the launch of The Roads Task Force (RTF) report earlier this month, Hugh Basham, director of transport strategy at DHL Supply Chain, said if the vision put forward was realised it would help tackle congestion in the capital.

“The Olympics demonstrated the ability for London’s network to cope with change, and the opportunity for shared user dynamic lanes managed by new and advanced technology to play a major part in improving traffic flows,” he said.

Basham added that recognition that spending on the capital’s roads is vital – and Transport for London’s (TfL) subsequent response and promise to spend £4bn on the network over 10 years – is excellent.

One of the RTF’s key recommendations is shifting freight deliveries out of the rush hour peak, and Basham told MT that, as part of a move to further operational flexibility, DHL would love to be able to run more out-of-hours deliveries, something post-Olympics that it has been forced to scale back by the capital’s councils.

“There were a lot of horror stories ahead of the Games about out-of-hours deliveries, but the industry proved this was not the case,” said Basham.

“At considerable effort and expense, we proved they could be done without disruption. There’s a lot to gain in terms of productivity and efficiency, so DHL would welcome the opportunity to do more out-of-hours deliveries. Ultimately, it is a prize worth having.”

TfL said it will commence additional out-of-hours delivery trials in the coming months to build the case for more flexibility in deliveries in a bid to get London’s 33 autonomous borough councils on side.

Quiet kit innovations will aid night-time deliveries

Operators could slash the noise generated by moving roll cages by almost half if they used rubber matting developed by Surrey firm Impactafloor.

Demonstrated in the Noise Abatement Society’s (NAS) Quiet Delivery Depot at Commercial Motor Live earlier this month, the top 2mm layer of the Roll Cage Floor features hard mineral corundum, while the rest is made from used truck tyres.

“Each square metre of matting (costing £100/m2) weighs 24kg and is anti-slip. Tests have shown a noise reduction of up to 44% on empty cages using the mats,” said MD Chris Harrison.

Initially developed for Tesco for permanent use at store delivery points in residential areas, Harrison believes the logistics industry could develop other applications for the product.

“At the show, several firms expressed an interest in using the matting on the floor of trailers, while one company wondered if it could keep several metres of it in a truck for specific delivery points,” he said.

Also on display was Impactawall, the firm’s new product that acts as an acoustic barrier system. The rubber wall panels are formed from a honeycomb structure and are aimed at reducing noise around loading bays and delivery depots.

Harrison said the NAS is planning to put interested parties together to conduct trials using both the Roll Cage Floor and rubber wall tiles.
Another highlight of the Quiet Delivery Depot was Dhollandia Tail Lifts’ ultra low-noise retractable tail-lift.

“Most of the manual operation of a tail-lift is to do with the rear and side ramps, which is inherently noisy,” said Chris Lay, business unit director at Dhollandia.

“We’ve taken the manual elements away by making them hydraulic and electro-mechanically operational. The tail-lift also comes with an ultra low-noise power pack and ultra low-noise platform coating. We’ve reduced the noise rating from about 100dB to 65dB.”

And an intelligent shutter door from CV component manufacturer Albert Jagger generated a lot of interest from visitors.

The second generation of the remote-controlled Centa-drive was demonstrated with a lightweight, composite door and was almost silent as MT watched it open and close.

Following the successful night-time delivery work that took place during the Olympics, Lisa Lavia, MD of the NAS, said: “I am hopeful that quiet equipment for the transport industry is on course to become the industry norm in the near future.”

Drivers breaking quiet nights code

One night last week in London, MT saw first-hand that many deliveries were being carried out as they would during the day, with no attempt to reduce noise.

Operators need to focus on improving driver behaviour if night-time deliveries are to become a permanent way of working after the London Olympics.

“It was disappointing that some deliveries we observed didn’t seem to be happening with more rigour; I was expecting it to be observable that drivers were really taking care and trying to be quiet,” says Lisa Lavia, MD of the Noise Abatement Society, who accompanied MT. “Some of the drivers were actually shouting right below residents’ windows.”

Between 11pm and 3am on 7-8 August, MT visited several areas of London, including the West End, the City and Earls Court Road.

Chris Douglas, director of Transport & Travel Research, who also accompanied MT, says: “It was surprising that some of the drivers we saw clearly either hadn’t been briefed, or had been briefed but didn’t get it, because some of the measures they could have used to minimise noise are very straightforward. Just taking a little more time and not letting things fall into place, for example.”

Douglas and Lavia were involved with the 10 TfL-funded quiet delivery trials late last year, which led to the creation of the TfL Quiet Delivery Code of Practice (CoP), which has been widely publicised. Anyone considering night-time deliveries during the Games was advised to use it.

While there were some examples of good practice, Lavia says some of the noisier deliveries were from firms that had definitely seen the CoP.