Traffic light monitoring app to help HGV drivers reduce emissions

A new smartphone app, Greenwave, that enables HGV drivers to monitor traffic light signals and drive more efficiently as they approach them, is to be trialled in Birmingham.

By being aware of when traffic lights will change, it’s hoped drivers will be able to adapt their speed to ‘ride the greenwave’ and minimise stops and starts at traffic lights.

This should reduce both fuel use and emissions, as vehicles will spend less time idling at red signals.

The 12-month Greenwave pilot, which started in April, forms part of the government’s £20m Low Emission Freight and Logistics trial.

It is being run in a consortium led by Idox Transport, which includes CheckedSafe, Amey and Birmingham City Council.

Birmingham is one of a number of UK cities mandated to introduce a clean air zone by 2020 and the council said it welcomed projects like this that were “creating innovative, practical solutions to improve air quality.”

Civils firm Amey will be using the new app on 12 Masternaut-equipped refuse trucks over a six-month period on its Birmingham Highways utility contract to monitor the impact on MPG and emissions.

The aim is to deliver a 10% reduction in monthly fuel costs and emissions.

Tony Matthews, Amey’s transport manager for Birmingham, said: “Amey is involved in a number of initiatives which support Birmingham City Council’s drive to improve air quality and we are delighted to be piloting this technology.

“All of our vehicles are GPS tracked so we can monitor how driving styles impact fuel consumption, and we are excited to see how this trial will help our drivers adapt even further to limit the environmental impact of these essential journeys,” he added.

How does it work?

The app is fully hands-free and uses audio and visual methods to relay data to the driver.

It uses traffic signal data to transform fleet driver behaviour by encouraging them to drive in a more efficient manner via gamification.

Drivers are awarded a green score each time they drive, based on both their driving style and how they approach traffic signals. Points accumulate over the month with a monthly league board rewarding the driver with the highest score.

CheckedSafe (winner of a Commercial Motor Award for Workshop Innovation of the Year in 2016) will be delivering the app that drivers will use to monitor traffic signal timings, working with Idox Transport which manages the Urban Traffic Monitoring Control (UTMC) system that controls the traffic signal timings, on behalf of Amey and Birmingham City Council.

Anthony Burgess, head of projects at Idox Transport, said: “There is no known solution of this type in existence – which uses data feeds from existing infrastructure to provide drivers with live updates enabling them to change their driving style.”

 

Ford opens smart mobility research hub in London

Ford is opening a Smart Mobility Innovation office in London to enable a 40-strong R&D team to be closer to top academics and technology firms based in the capital.

Located at the Here East innovation hub at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the new team will work on “cutting edge trials” in London including the plug-in hybrid Transit fleet project launching later this year.

“Basing our rapidly growing team here in the heart of mobility innovation in London is critical to accelerating our learning and development of new technologies,” said Steven Armstrong, group vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Ford.

“The location at Here East will allow us greater collaboration and the out-of-the-box thinking needed to tackle the urban transport challenges of tomorrow.”

The Olympic Park’s private road network may also be used for vehicle testing in the future.

Here East is also home to teams from Loughborough University, Advanced Propulsion Centre and UCL Robotics.

 

TRL publishes white paper on tackling transport emissions in urban areas

TRL has used National Clean Air Day (15 June) to publish a new report about tackling road emissions in urban areas.

Through its new white paper – A Breath of Fresh Air: A Holistic Approach to Reconcile Future Transport with Improved Air Quality – TRL examines the problem of poor air quality in towns and cities and actions being trialled today to reduce pollution.

Drawing from discussions at TRL’s annual symposium in November 2016, the report aims to provide an unbiased resource that provides clarity on the many different streams of work already taking place to tackle urban air quality.

TRL director Nick Reed said: “At TRL, we believe that the sheer scope of these approaches necessitates the involvement and cooperation of an equally wide range of key stakeholders in forging a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to tackling the problem.”

Speakers from national government, TfL, academics from Kings College London and TRL provide insight for the white paper.

 

 

European H2Share project to build and test 27-tonne hydrogen fuel cell rigid truck

A European project to help build a market for zero-emission, long-distance distribution trucks using hydrogen fuel cell technology has been launched.

Led by Belgian hydrogen association WaterstofNet, the H2Share project will see a 27-tonne electric, fuel cell-extended rigid truck built by Dutch vehicle manufacturer VDL.

Alongside this, a low-energy, mobile hydrogen refuelling system will be built by German firm Wystrach.

The zero-emission truck and mobile refuelling technology will be put on trial in six locations across Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

H2Share’s ambition is to deliver proof of readiness of hydrogen technology for heavy duty applications in real-life operations.

Based upon the trials and cooperation with sector-related associations, a joint roadmap for zero-emission HGVs in north-west Europe will be developed and cooperation with other EU regions initiated.

The project, which runs until March 2020, wants to promote knowledge sharing between regions and stimulate technology and market development in north west Europe.

California has also announced plans this week to build the business case for hydrogen HGVs through a new modelling tool.

Clocs rolls out pilot scheme to help HGV operators assess delivery site conditions

A tool to show HGV operators the ground conditions they will encounter at construction and waste sites has been developed for Clocs by consultancy Aecom.

Announced at last week’s Tip-ex and Tank-ex shows in Harrogate, the new website tool grades all sites with a five-star rating (see box, below) to show which vehicles will be able to access them.

The aim is to help operators confidently order low-entry-cab models (LEC) and N3 (on-road) trucks as opposed to traditionally picking N3G specification HGVs for operations that never face the true off-road conditions they are designed for.

The site assessment is based on four ground-condition categories: approach angle; materials; rutting and bumps; and water. These four categories have been identified as the most important factors in determining which vehicle types can operate on sites safely.

Weather can considerably effect site conditions and alter the outcome of the rating, so assessment ensures to take this into consideration.

Clocs on-site ground conditions rating
• 5 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for all vehicle types including LECs (in all weather conditions)
• 4 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for all vehicle types including LECs (weather permitting)
• 3 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for most vehicle types including on- and off-road capable HGVs (not LECs)
• 2 Star: Site ground conditions suitable for off-road capable HGVs only (in all weather conditions)
• 1 Star: Site ground conditions only suitable for plant machinery and weather permitting, may be suitable for off-road capable HGVs

In the first stage of the pilot, all sites across the South East – as the project has been funded by TfL – have received a provisional rating based on satellite imagery.

The next stage will see the rollout of a guidance handbook, also available online, to all sites, with owners encouraged to verify their rating through a simple assessment procedure.

“Should we then start rolling this out across the UK? Are the categories right?” asked independent logistics consultant at firm AtoH Glen Davies, who encouraged feedback from operators. “This is a pilot and is the first time it’s ever been done.”

Speaking to Tip-ex visitors at the Clocs seminar session, Davies said the logistics sector had already stepped up to the challenge of making vehicle movements as safe as possible in an urban environment.

However, he added as London mayor Sadiq Khan’s political aim is to remove “dangerous trucks” from the capital’s streets, it was essential that site conditions were of a good standard to avoid contributing to the issue.

“There is a real balance of need to make sure the physical conditions are right,” he said. “We need to improve the sites to make sure vehicles aren’t damaged and remain fit for the road.”

Davies added: “In Scandinavia they do it really well. Trucks never have to leave the hardstanding, so only need N3G specs when working on a site and never leave it; demonstrating a segregated approach to the use of their vehicles.”

 

Business case for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and vans to be modelled in California

The business case for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and vans, and the number of refuelling sites needed to support commercial operation is to be mapped out in California.

It will be carried out through a partnership between Ricardo Strategic Consulting and the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP).

Ricardo’s total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator can be used to analyse a wide range of alternative fuel technologies – such as natural gas, battery electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell.

It provides a detailed report of both upfront and operating costs incurred over the ownership period of the truck or van, including benchmarked vehicle prices, duty-cycle based MPG, itemised scheduled and unscheduled maintenance costs, future fuel prices and required infrastructure investment.

This is complemented by economic modelling of refuelling infrastructure to provide a picture of installation and operational costs for new sites.

Ricardo said it enables vehicle manufacturers, operators, transport authorities and urban planners to make informed decisions about the rollout of new technology.

It will be used to support California’s aim to enable adoption of fuel cell technology in HGVs and vans, following CaFCP’s strategy released last year: Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric truck action plan.

“Economic modelling and assessment is vital in identifying and overcoming barriers to the commercialisation of advanced technology, and to developing a strong business case against which customers can invest,” said Piyush Bubna from Ricardo Strategic Consulting.

“Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric trucks will play a crucial role in reducing vehicle emissions in California,” said Bill Elrick, CaFCP executive director, “but they are at the beginning stages of introduction.”

He added: “Ricardo’s TCO model provides an enabling toolset that will help CaFCP members develop a consensus as to the potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology, as an alternative to diesel propulsion in truck fleets operating in California.”

California is to be the testbed for Toyota’s Project Portal trial, which will see a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell concept truck hit the roads this summer.

Last-mile logistics report says ‘free delivery’ mentality must be stopped

A new report commissioned by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has found that the general public’s belief that delivery is free is something to be challenged urgently if urban distribution is to remain viable.

ITC director Matthew Niblett said: “People are waking up to the fact that freight produces a large and increasing portion of daily road miles, particularly during the peak hours.

“With online retail delivery volumes increasing by 10% in 2016, we need individuals, businesses and public organisations to break out of the free delivery mindset.”

He added: The government, metro mayors, transport authorities, local authorities and other public bodies need to get on the front-foot to drive change through a combination of actions.

“These include establishing a conducive regulatory framework, interrogating their supply chains, harnessing new technologies, and seed funding consolidation centres until the necessary scale is achieved to allow these to operate independently; all the while encouraging behavioural change from all quarters, including suppliers, customers, the logistics operators and staff employed by public bodies.”

Key challenges cited in the report, How can we improve urban freight distribution in the UK?, include congestion, poor air quality, noise and timing of deliveries, and the last-mile conundrum – all highly emotive factors the haulage industry finds itself both contributing towards and falling victim to.

But what should cities be looking to introduce to tackle them? ITC focuses on three case studies that could help to improve city logistics.

Retiming

First, it looks at retiming deliveries, with a snapshot of a successful shoulder-hour delivery trial (deliveries outside peak hours but not necessarily overnight) carried out by DHL Supply Chain with one of its retail customers in Camden High Street, North London.

The store used in the two-month trial was located on a busy high street with deliveries only possible to the rear of the building, down narrow streets.

Multiple vans per day had to be deployed, parked up some distance from the store on double yellow lines with  roll cages pushed along the street by the driver.

Residents complained about the noise, PCNs were regularly incurred, and – arguably – far more vehicles were used than necessary to meet the store’s stock demands.

The trial saw deliveries shifted to 8.30pm, outside of peak hours, a time agreed with both the retailer and TfL. Deliveries were rerouted to the front of the shop, which allowed larger trucks to be used, and removed the noise nuisance to the residents at the rear, with special dispensation granted to DHL to allow it to park in a bus lane.

As a result of the trial, significant cost savings were made: 13.4% in road miles (delivery vehicles were halved); 13.1% in drivers’ wages; 3.7% in time efficiency; and 32.9% in PCN avoidance.

The operation is now permanent.

ITC concluded the trial had demonstrated clear benefits to urban policymakers and hauliers, such as improved safety, reduction in congestion and vehicle journeys as well as their resultant emissions.

However it said retiming remains a slow process, with many parties involved to make it a success.

ITC urges players to share their experiences with other businesses and hauliers, with a call to government to find new ways of conveying these messages to the wider industry.

Urban consolidation

A second case study explored the successful model of the London Boroughs Consolidation Centre (LBCC), still in operation today, managed by DHL following a competitive tender in 2015.

By streamlining deliveries to council-owned sites, major supply chain savings were made as well as a reduction in congestion.

The ITC believes urban consolidation centres can offer an important opportunity to reduce freight movements, however the widespread take-up of such models face the challenge of scale and cost.

Local government subsidies are often needed – for example the LBCC still receives around £65,000 from the mayor’s Air Quality Fund – yet with increased volume such models should become self-sustaining.

Procurement is seen as a valuable tool to driving volume, as are local authority incentives or, on the flipside, penalties for non-use.

Alternative modes

You have no doubt seen recent media coverage of autonomous delivery robots scooting around town delivering food and parcels, but are they really a viable player in the last-mile delivery sector or just a gimmick?

Launched by the creators of Skype, the Starship Technologies robots are designed to operate 99% autonomously at pedestrian speed on pavements and deliver goods within 30 minutes.

Congestion on a London street

They can carry up to 10kg of goods and have so far proven 100% tamper-proof, fitted with an array of security sensors, GPS tracking and on-board cameras.

This has been the case over the 35,000km driven in total, of which 5,000km were in the UK and at least four million people encountered one on the streets (as of spring 2017).

With these robots, Starship seeks to address the cost of the last-mile delivery, which is estimated by the ITC to be around £6-£12 (the main cost being the driver’s wage). If the company achieves the scale it desires, then it targets a cost for this last mile of £1 per delivery, around 10% the cost of a human-based operation.

A small corner shop, retailer or restaurant can hire a robot for their deliveries – similar to a lease agreement – place goods inside and dispatch it to the customer, who then enters a secure code from an app to unlock the unit.

This business model is fundamentally different to other autonomous delivery methods on trial, as Starship is selling a service, rather than a product: owning both the model and the liability solves a key issue facing the autonomous sector, according to the ITC.

Starship has also been pushing hard with countries’ governments to develop legislation to help grow this new sector.

In the UK, the company has been in talks with the DfT and the chancellor to secure a regulatory framework for what they call a Personal Delivery Device, with an expansion of its business built on the assurance this would be in place this year.

Conclusions

The ITC pulls together some key messages from its research:

  • Collaborate to succeed – it is clear that the success of urban freight solutions depends on the wide range of parties to work together and make compromises for a common good, as well as cost savings.
  • Behaviour change – at the root of all case studies was the need to change expectations and mindsets of businesses and consumers.
  • Understand the trade-offs – addressing one urban freight issue might negatively affect other objectives.
  • Support innovation – financial and/or regulatory support from policymakers is important.
  • Scale – sufficient scale is often essential to the economic viability of new schemes, such as consolidation centres.
  • Regulatory frameworks – new legislation may be needed for new technology to justify ongoing investment.

The ITC is an independent research charity that focuses on improving policy on UK transport, land use and planning.

Swedish out-of-hours delivery trial removes HGVs from rush-hour

A freight trial in the Swedish city of Stockholm has identified both business and environmental benefits from the use of out-of-hours delivery patterns.

The Off Peak City Distribution trial, led by Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, saw two trucks receive an exemption to the current night-time delivery ban in place from 10pm to 6am in Stockholm.

Researchers wanted to see if lifting the ban would drive operational efficiency for hauliers and businesses receiving their goods, as well as congestion-busting and air quality benefits from removing freight vehicles from rush-hour.

The trial

Volvo supplied a parallel hybrid (diesel-electric) FE model fitted with a geofencing device that enabled the truck to switch to quiet, clean electric operation within urban areas.

This was used for dedicated deliveries for supermarket Lidl, travelling 30km between its warehouse in Roserberg and three city centre stores in Stockholm.

A second HGV, a biogas-fuelled Scania R480 (pictured below), was used to transport consolidated goods for Swedish foodservice supplier Martin and Servera to a number of city centre hotels and restaurants.

Both were fitted with noise-reduction equipment, such as silent roll cages, and noise sensor technology.

Anna Pernestål Brenden, a researcher at KTH’s Integrated Transport Research Laboratory, said ordinarily the Lidl warehouse would deploy several fully-loaded trucks to make deliveries during peak morning rush hours between 6am and 8am, because it was too difficult for a single vehicle to make all the drops in such a short time window.

But in the study, a single truck delivered goods to three stores in central Stockholm between the prohibited hours of 10pm and 6am. It would return to the warehouse three times in the night to be reloaded, and then make its subsequent delivery.

Pernestål Brenden said. “That’s one truck doing the work of three, or in other words – morning commuters are spared having to share the road with three heavy duty trucks.”

The truck on the dedicated Lidl route was found to have a driving speed in off-peak around one-third faster than in the morning peak (31%).

Meanwhile, the Scania working to deliver to multiple city centre hotels and restaurants, was found to have a driving speed 59% higher than in the afternoon peak, as the routes could be planned more efficiently as they did not have to factor in congestion.

Enjoy the silence

On the noise pollution front, the trial wanted to examine whether deliveries were a nuisance to residents.
Drivers all had to follow special rules to ensure the quietest of night-time deliveries, such as no reversing alarms and no talking on mobile phones outside the vehicles.

“It turned out that the noise people complained about was caused mainly by unloading the truck, not driving,” Pernestål Brenden said.

KTH acoustics researchers created a sound recording system that placed microphones in the front and back of the truck.

The front microphones would record when the truck was getting unloaded, so that neighbourhood background noise could also be taken into account.

This allowed researchers to evaluate the mix of sound from both vehicle and environment and give a true picture of what difference the unloading of the vehicle actually made.

They found trucks unloading within city centre environments were not noticeable to residents, with only those in one quieter, outer suburb experiencing noise disruption.

Though it was a small scale study, KTH said there was a strong indication that scaling up off-peak deliveries could increase efficiency for businesses, reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions and make a positive impact on traffic volume during peak hours.

Pernestål Brenden said: “By making small changes, we can improve transport efficiency, reduce congestion, and enable new business models for goods receivers.”

 

Self-driving Volvo FM refuse lorry makes UK debut

Volvo Group debuted a self-driving FM refuse truck at its UK Innovation Summit this week, to demonstrate the potential safety and environmental benefits for urban areas.

The concept truck has been developed and tested over the past two years in collaboration with Swedish waste and recycling firm Renova.

Volvo Group chief technology officer Lars Stenqvist said: “There is amazing potential to transform the swift pace of technical developments in automation into practical benefits for customers and, more broadly, society in general.

“Our self-driving refuse truck is leading the way in this field globally, and one of several exciting autonomous innovations we are working with.”

How does it work?

The first time the automated refuse truck is used in a location, it is driven manually while the on-board system monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS. Upon entering the area a second time, it knows exactly which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop.

At the first stop, with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it as normal. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon the driver’s command.

The driver walks the same route as the truck to have a full view of what is happening in the direction of travel.

Reversing, rather than driving forwards, enables the driver to remain closer to the compactor during collections.

“And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there is less risk of work-related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints,” said Hans Zachrisson, strategic development manager, Renova.

Volvo said the self-driving truck aims to reduce the risks associated with reversing an HGV in urban areas, even when fitted with cameras.

Sensors continuously monitor the vehicle’s vicinity and the truck stops immediately if an obstacle suddenly appears in its path, or if the driver activates the emergency stop function.

It also has potential for lowering fuel consumption and emissions, as gear changes, steering and speed are constantly optimised.

Timeframe

The joint research project with Renova will continue until the end of 2017 and will be followed by an evaluation of functionality, safety and the acceptance of drivers, road users and residents.

However, the manufacturer said a lot more R&D work remains before self-driving refuse trucks will become a reality on our roads.

Instead, it believes varying degrees of automation will probably be introduced earlier in other applications, where transport operations take place within strictly confined areas.

For example, the technology used in the refuse lorry research is also being used in a trial of a self-driving truck for mining operations in the Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden.

Volvo Group demonstrated the truck in action yesterday at its Innovation Summit in London, where it also brought its fully-electric passenger bus and the world’s first zero-emission, near-silent, all-electric excavator aimed at urban construction sites.

 

MAN and DB Schenker to use truck platooning for ‘real world’ distribution work next spring

Truck platooning will be used for distribution work in Germany as part of a trial from next spring.

In a partnership deal signed this week by truck-maker MAN and operator DB Schenker, the trial will see networked lorry convoys used on regular distribution work with HGV drivers on board, rather than dedicated testers.

An initial test phase early next year will use unladen two-truck platoons running on the A9 motorway between DB Schenker’s Munich and Nuremberg depots.

They will run without a load during this stage so driving conditions can be tested in ordinary traffic situations and the drivers trained in how to operate the vehicles and adapt to special driving techniques.

Tests will then progress throughout 2018 to move onto regular distribution work carrying real freight loads, with platoons running up to three times per day.

MAN and DB Schenker hope to answer a number of core questions relating to platooning throughout the programme, such as the best time to create a platoon and the most efficient way to form or disband a convoy according to traffic conditions.

Data transmission is also a key component under analysis, including finding the best way to monitor the platoon for operators, as well as the best way to communicate real-time traffic data to the lead driver.

In addition, the trial aims to understand the impact on and acceptance from HGV drivers of platooning.

A parallel study will involve evaluation of participating drivers to see how they cope with new technology, the best method of training, and whether additional activities could be permitted by drivers in the trailing trucks.

An autonomous future

“Networked and autonomous driving will revolutionise transport in future,” said  Ewald Kaiser, chief operating officer, freight at DB Schenker.

“Platooning provides us and our customers with a solution to the demand for completely transparent, as well as faster and more eco-friendly transport processes.

“We are confident that these tests will deliver information about the specific potential for increasing efficiency in real operating conditions over a prolonged period.”

DB Schenker is also using the trial to establish its own platooning roll-out strategy to fit in with its existing infrastructure.

For example, it will be exploring the best way to ensure its depots can facilitate the loading and unloading of a truck convoy quickly and efficiently.

MAN head of engineering central Gerhard Klein said the trial was a major milestone on the path towards autonomous driving.

The manufacturer has already conducted its ‘Konvoi’ research project between 2005 and 2009 testing platoons of up to four vehicles, as well as taking part in last year’s European Truck Platooning Challenge.

Klein said: “By working together with the logistics planners and the drivers, we are directly involving the users during the test and development phases. This is a huge step forwards which will eventually enable us to apply this technology in day-to-day operations.”