Local authorities’ collaboration with freight partnership promotes sustainable urban deliveries in the North East

Interview: Freight in the City met with the North East Freight Partnership to find out how its role is helping its regional cities adopt more sustainable working practices for the essential movement of goods.

The North East Freight Partnership works with local government, businesses and operators to encourage sustainable movement of goods throughout the region.

Now in its 11th year, the partnership represents freight interests across seven local authorities: Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

FreightintheCity spoke to Paul Davison (pictured), principal consultant for sustainable freight and logistics at Aecom, which operates the scheme on behalf of the North East Combined Authority, about its achievements to date and future goals.

“We usuallyPaul-Davison---Aecom aim to undertake around 10 to 12 initiatives each year that encourage the sustainable movement of freight in the North East of England,” he says. “The whole partnership is geared towards efficiency and effectiveness of moving goods.”

Cycling Ambition

Newcastle, like other major cities, is preparing itself for a rapid increase in the number of bicycles on its roads. It is one of the government’s Cycle Action Cities, and following an initial £5.7m from the Cycle City Ambition Fund has been allocated a further £10.6m in government funding to improve its infrastructure to support the rise in cyclist numbers.

While fatalities involving HGVs and cyclists in the North East are still comparatively rare compared with London, the partnership is keen to address the challenge of shared road space before it becomes an issue.

Free-of-charge vulnerable road user training courses have been made available for operators, which comprise part-classroom and part on-road bike riding for HGV drivers to raise awareness of the difficulties cyclists face navigating busy roads and junctions.

In addition, the partnership is keeping a close watch on the impact any infrastructure changes will have on freight deliveries, such as the introduction of red routes on key roads into the city, with segregation where feasible for cyclists.

“There are changes taking place, but we don’t yet know what the implications will be for loading/unloading and access to the city generally. But the partnership is the perfect vehicle to address any issues if they do arise,” says Davison.

“Any loading and unloading challenges would be most pronounced in Sunderland and Newcastle city centres. But we haven’t got a sense yet that there is an issue. We’re keeping an eye on it.”

The partnership has already taken part in consultations with the engineers carrying out the infrastructure works to listen to the needs of freight deliveries.

Adopting Fors

When Transport for London announced it would be placing the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (Fors) into private management to drive its reach outside of London and across the UK, the North East had a head start with adopting the initiative.

“The North East was a vanguard for the national expansion of Fors,” explains Davison.

Following an exercise back in 2012 looking at the different types of accreditation scheme available for the freight sector, the partnership opted for Fors and began to promote its benefits to local authorities and major contractors across the region.

“We have seen membership rise significantly since then, despite the fact we are not a logistics hub on the scale of somewhere like the East Midlands or London. With the support of the partnership, we’ve been able to encourage uptake,” Davison explains.

Discussions have already taken place with all the local authorities about writing the Fors standards into their contracts. “This is an aspiration we wish to address with authority procurement teams.”

Fors Practitioner workshops are available free of charge through the partnership, with advice and guidance available to help operators achieve bronze entry level standards.

In terms of the fee structure introduced earlier this year, Davison says there has not been a drop-off in membership levels so far, but a clearer picture will be painted at the end of the first full year of charging.

The Construction Logistics & Cyclist Safety (Clocs) scheme is also starting to gain ground in the North East, as construction firms sign up to its standards, which align closely with the silver Fors accreditation level.

“The aspiration is that it is industry-led and we support Clocs in the same way we support Fors,” adds Davison.

Cleaner deliveries

Encouraging the take-up of low-emission goods vehicles and cleaner fuels is another aspiration for the partnership, although the lack of vehicle choice and higher upfront costs have so far not seen much penetration in the North East’s freight sector.

However, with the North East Combined Authority shortlisted to bid for a share of the government’s Ultra Low City Scheme fund, encouraging the shift to low-emission vehicles is certainly a significant priority for the region.

“As technology gets more trusted and certain, we will be exploring more alternative fuels across the partnership,” says Davison. “We’ve also supported the government’s longer semi-trailer trial. We researched into it for members and looked at the impact/benefits.”

Last-mile alternatives

One successful scheme the partnership managed was the use of cycle logistics for last-mile deliveries in Newcastle city centre, as a trial for possible wider roll-out across the region. This looked at the possibilities of cycle cargo carriers, rather than purely cycle couriers. “Very much the movement of goods rather than just parcels and letters,” explains Davison.

“If they have electric-assist on the bikes and they are geared a certain way, they can carry quite a substantial load of around a quarter of a tonne, which is usually enough for most city centre movements. It obviously won’t replace an HGV but where the air quality is at its worst is in the city centres, using more zero-emission cargo bikes over vans would certainly help,” he adds.

Last November, a workshop was held to inform businesses looking to use cycle logistics of their options and how to go about launching such an operation. A local bakery wanted to take the notion for a ride, and with the help of the partnership, procured the equipment that is now being successfully operated in Newcastle.

Consolidation is another idea popular with local authorities, however, the reality of a trial retail scheme carried out at Eldon Square in Newcastle city centre three years ago found little appetite from operators wanting to use the facility.

“The city just doesn’t have the same issues in terms of congestion that you see in London, so operators didn’t see the benefits of using it.”

It was closed within 12 months, and has discouraged further discussion on consolidation in city centres, he adds. However, if a low-emission zone or congestion charging were introduced, it might be looked at again. There is a commitment to an LEZ in the recently adopted Core Strategy and Urban Core Plan for Gateshead and Newcastle and the concept will be revisited during the lifetime of the plan.

Looking ahead

Current initiatives in the North East include a wide-scale trial of different types of cycle safety technology, including side proximity sensors and RFID tagging, which will be tested until April next year and include liaising with operators and cycling groups alike.

“It will enable us to help operators and see what type of technology is out there, what the impact has been on driver behaviour and the perception of cyclist,” adds Davison.

The partnership is also looking to work with researchers at Newcastle University on a piece of technology attached to a vehicle that enables it to take a priority route by co-ordinating with urban traffic management systems, for example, to control traffic lights. It has so far been tested on non-emergency vehicles, but will now be used on freight vehicles during the trial.

“It will be interesting to see what impact it has on the supply chain during the trial period,” says Davison. “Also the unit will tell you how long before a light turns green, for example, so you can manage acceleration and braking more efficiently to reduce fuel.”

Future plans for a brand-new truck park on the A1 are also afoot, with talks taking place with operators to find the optimum location. “We’ve had a few closures of sites recently and there have been some indiscriminate parking causing issues,” Davison explains.

Any such scheme is likely to need public funding to get underway, with a longer-term view for it to be self-funding.

 

All-electric Nissan e-NV200 put to work on Solihull Council’s community project fleet

An all-electric Nissan e-NV200 is joining the fleet of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.

The zero-emission van will be used by the local authority’s neighbourhood services team on a wide range of community-focused projects.

It’s one of the first 100% electric vehicles on the council’s 69-strong fleet, which includes everything from small city cars to minibuses and an 18-tonne tanker.

Team members used to operate a standard diesel Vauxhall panel van, but needed a second row of seats to accommodate apprentices and volunteers as well as a large, but not excessive, load area. The council found the five-seat e-NV200 Combi to be the right fit.

Councillor Tony Dicicco, cabinet member for environment, housing and regeneration, said: “The e-NV200 has shown us just how electric vehicles can work for us. From our perspective, the technology has come so far that every time a department has a need for a new vehicle or a lease comes up for renewal, we’ll be looking to see if there’s a viable electric option.”

He added that as well as the council’s responsibility to improve air quality, it was also important to reduce the number of large vehicles on the city’s roads. “The e-NV200 is just the right size for us, giving the team all the room they need to transport people and tools while saving on fuel bills.”

Launched last year, the Nissan e-NV200 is available in panel van or five- or seven-seat Combi form. The manufacturer said it costs two pence per mile to operate, can cover 106 miles on a single charge and can be charged from zero to 100% in 30 minutes.

Priced from £13,568 in panel van form (incorporating the government’s Plug-In Van Grant), it offers a 4.2m3 capacity and a 703kg payload.

See Freightinthecity.com’s sister website Van Advisor for a full roadtest of the Nissan e-NV200.

University of Nottingham adds nine electric Renault Kangoos to fleet

The University of Nottingham has added nine electric Renault Kangoo vans to its fleet as part of its sustainability strategy.

They will account for around 15% of the fleet vehicles used by the university’s estates and catering teams every day.

Nottingham said the new zero-CO2-emission vans will improve air quality, reduce noise pollution through their quiet running, and lower operating costs, as they cost around 3p per mile in electricity. Their ongoing operational performance would be monitored by university academics.

The Kangoos can travel up to 80 miles on one charge, and the university said early feedback from drivers had been very positive.

Colin Harley, maintenance operations manager, building services and driver of one of the new vehicles, said: “These electric vehicles are ideal for our needs at the university. They have power in abundance, are even easier to drive than a petrol or diesel automatic, and with the normal distances we drive around campus they only require charging once a week.”

To support the wider use of electric vehicles, the university has installed charging stations, where staff and visitors can charge their personal electric vehicles free of charge.

Andy Nolan, director of sustainability, said: “The electric vehicles offer significant improvements to local air quality and reduce noise levels too as well as having some carbon-reduction benefits. We are also making the charge points available to staff with electric cars for use during the day in the hope we will see more staff choose cleaner and more efficient cars to make their journey to work.”

The new Renault Kangoo electric vans are not the first sustainable vehicles to be used by the university – in 2013, the Faculty of Engineering invested in a hydrogen-fuelled van, with a refuelling station at Jubilee Campus, as both a green initiative and an opportunity to study the true cost of hydrogen fuel.

 

Scottish courier finds mid-sized electric vans a good fit for multi-drop, city centre routes

Courier and express delivery firm SGM Distribution is making significant emissions and fuel cost savings through the operation of two electric vans on multi-drop work in Aberdeen city centre.

The Forfar, Angus-based operator trialled a Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL supplied by its local dealer around 18 months ago for a two-week period.

Following a successful operation during this period and further research into the technology, the company is now the first Scottish firm to to bring two mid-sized long wheelbase E-CELLs into service on its fleet in March this year.

Averaging approximately 50 miles per day on multi-drop deliveries, company director Shaun McLean said they are “fantastic vehicles to use about the city”.

He added: “We love them. They do the work of a diesel vehicle, so we are obviously reducing the environmental impact, as well as saving on fuel costs. The drivers like driving them too, as it’s exactly the same as a normal van.”

The electric vans are leased from Mercedes-Benz UK. SGM said they cost around 25% more per month to hire than a conventional diesel van on its operation.

SGM received a grant through the Energy Saving Trust to enable it to get a Siemens charging point supplied and installed at its premises free of charge.

The vans are brought in at the end of the day, having used between 70% and 80% of their available power, and charged overnight ready for use the following morning.

McLean said the company would consider adding further electric vehicles to its 48-strong fleet, but would ideally like a larger option with a bigger payload such as a Luton-sized van. However, availability of larger electric vans remains an issue, he added.

Through the ChargePlace Scotland project, 100% grant funding is available to Scottish-based businesses for the installation of electric vehicle charge points for workplaces. The aim of this funding is to complement the national network of charge points being installed across Scotland to promote electric vehicle use.

All Scottish-based businesses meeting the appropriate criteria can apply to the scheme, which is managed by the Energy Saving Trust – once approved they can select from a list of approved suppliers.

 

Clean Air Better Business helps organisations slash emissions and save costs through freight management

Clean Air Better Business (CABB) has launched a practical toolkit to enable local authorities, businesses and freight operators to understand what measures they can take to reduce emissions from their freight activities in the capital.

Organisations are encouraged to assess and improve their impact on London’s air quality and develop their own delivery and servicing plans, which can reduce HGV movements, realise financial savings through consolidation of orders, and enhance road safety and air quality for all city users.

Access to a zero and low-emission supplier directory, free eco-driver training and information about existing schemes to slash emissions and improve supply chain efficiency are provided in the toolkits, alongside advice on how to incorporate actions into procurement policies.

Case studies highlight successful initiatives already explored through the CABB programme and the benefits gained. For example:

  • The Bloomsbury, Holborn and St Giles Business Improvement District consolidated its waste collection service for 200 businesses with a hybrid vehicle. This reduced waste collection trips by 60%, or 84,000 vehicle road km;
  • A joint procurement deal between the Natural History Museum and Science Museum for cleaning and waste services has slashed costs and reduced the number of vehicles coming to the site.
  • James McNaughton opted for an electric delivery vehicle to replace its existing diesel one, which resulted in estimated savings of £5,000 in fuel and 14 tonnes of CO2 per year.

CABB is a project run by the Cross River Partnership (CRP) – a public-private partnership that was originally formed to deliver cross-river infrastructure projects such as the Millennium Bridge, but has since diversified to deliver a range of externally-funded, multi-partner regeneration projects in the capital.

For further information contact CRP air quality champion: Uto Patrick

UPS urban delivery projects address congestion and air quality in cities

UPS is undertaking a series of delivery projects in major cities worldwide to tackle the congestion, air quality and logistical challenges associated with the increase of people moving to urban areas.

The global parcel firm’s latest corporate sustainability report said that today, half of the world’s population resides in urban areas, but by 2050, two-thirds of all people will make cities their home.

It added: “The result is overwhelming congestion, local air pollution, and demand for goods, creating logistical challenges that will need both economically feasible and environmentally sustainable solutions.”

UPS said it is already working with its customers, governments and local city planners to develop plans for intelligent transportation systems and pushing for smart mobility and more agile city infrastructures.

For example in London, which already operates both a congestion charge and low-emission zone in the city centre, UPS is working with the EU’s Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe (FREVUE) project to transform its delivery network.

Part of this initiative has seen the parcel firms converting certain delivery trucks from diesel to electric power to eliminate tailpipe emissions. UPS is currently operating 28 electric vehicles in the capital, with 40 more planned in the next few years as it works towards its goal of running an all-electric fleet in London.

UPS also operates electric vehicles in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Hamburg.

In addition, the company will look to expand its UPS Access Point locations to drive down the need for individual home deliveries. These are central pick-up and drop-off points for parcels located at shops and petrol stations.

Final-mile consolidated deliveries are also a key focus for UPS as it looks to drive down vehicle miles. UPS said collaborating with local authorities and advocating standardised regulations among cities is essential to enable delivery firms to “innovate in the most efficient manner possible”.

The operator is working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Zero Emissions Cities project to promote global action to create low-carbon cities. It is also exploring the use of an electrically assisted tricycle called a Cargo Cruiser, which addresses both air quality and congestion concerns. It is designed to travel in and around pedestrian areas of a city by operating from a container that is brought into the centre once daily. The Cargo Cruiser concept has been tested in Hamburg, Germany (pictured) since 2013 and UPS hopes to expand this initiative to other cities by the end of 2015.

 

UPS: A Greener Blueprint For City Delivery

Bala Ganesh, senior director of marketing for the US 2020 Team at UPS, blogs about how future logistics models need to adapt to cope with surging city populations.

We need a new model of logistics to ensure those city dwellers get what they want, when they want it – and in a sustainable fashion.

By 2050, two-thirds of all people will live in a city. This means roads will get even more congested. Air quality in those urban areas will likely worsen. And the demand for goods in megacities will further test already strained transportation networks.

In some bigger cities, such problems have already surfaced. There are restrictions on when commercial vehicles can enter city limits. Some do so on even-numbered days. Others get the odd ones. And for many logistics providers, night-time delivery may become a requirement.

It’s not all that different from Ancient Rome, when wagons and carriages were barred from even entering the city during the day.

You certainly couldn’t blame city officials today for looking for ways to mitigate the effects of mass urbanization.

Luckily, this doesn’t have to be a doomsday scenario.

Forward-looking logistics companies like UPS have started transitioning to a model tailor-made for the cities of tomorrow.

The latest UPS Corporate Sustainability Report showcases how goods can flow freely in environmentally conscious ways, even in the world’s busiest cities.

A big-city twist on the supply chain

Strict travel restrictions in major cities can remove vehicles from the road during rush hour. What they can’t do, however, is convince a customer to receive a package only in the middle of the night.

So how do you create a distribution network that can dispense packages during the daytime without gridlocking an entire city?

The answer is multifaceted. And the solution has to be both economically feasible and environmentally sustainable.

As outlined in the UPS Corporate Sustainability Report, there are a number of ways to limit vehicle emissions and meet the delivery needs of those living in megacities.

Governments, customers and stakeholders all have a role to play in developing more sophisticated transportation systems.

Putting vision into action

For example, in London, where there is a congestion charge zone in the city centre and strict environmental regulations in place, UPS is working with the European Union’s Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe (FREVUE) project to transform its delivery network.

There are now 28 electric trucks operating in London, with another 40 expected in the next few years – the ultimate goal is an all-electric fleet in London’s city centre.

Across European cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Hamburg, UPS has nearly 80 electric vehicles meeting the needs of customers.

UPS recently started testing an electrically supported cargo bike for the delivery and pickup of packages in downtown Basel, Switzerland.

Such efforts extend beyond developing alternative modes of transportation.

You might be familiar with UPS Access Point locations, which allow customers to pick up their packages from a central area, such as a convenience store, effectively eliminating failed drop-off attempts – and reducing vehicle emissions.

In partnership with Shell, UPS has rolled out Access Point locations across the globe. These spots act as mini-hubs, enabling drivers to drop off a larger number of packages at once. This can happen during hours with minimal impact on traffic.

Augmenting these services is a growing focus on “final-mile” deliveries. Think of it as a ride-sharing program for packages. Bicycles, push carts and other economically friendly modes of transportation can handle the last leg in a given supply chain, helping delivery trucks avoid the most congested areas in a city.

The rise in urban consumer spending creates a growth opportunity if you make cities more sustainable.

Sustainable teamwork

This is not a task that an individual business, or even a number of the world’s largest companies, can accomplish without help.

Governments, customers and stakeholders all have a role to play in developing more sophisticated transportation systems, capable of fitting seamlessly into a city’s infrastructure.

Our approach is to engage with city officials and provide thought leadership as we work toward collaborative solutions, advocating for the harmonization of regulations so that delivery companies can innovate as efficiently as possible.

The mass migration to cities isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Neither should your work to construct a supply chain flexible enough to meet a city’s demands.

This steady increase in urban consumer spending is a huge opportunity for growth. But that’s only if you make the cities where customers live more sustainable.

 

Industry experts and top academics to speak at Freight in the City Expo

Industry experts and top academics heading up successful urban logistics projects from across Europe will be speaking at the inaugural Freight in the City Expo this autumn.

Driving down harmful emissions will be the focus of seminars in the ‘Clean’ arena, asking how far national governments and local authorities have to go to achieve acceptable levels of air quality. Speakers will explore viable alternative fuels for commercial vehicles, whether low-emission zones can be an affective tool, and how you can improve your CSR rating and prove its credentials with the correct practices.

Delegates interested in making freight deliveries safer in their city centres for all road users can find out which equipment really works on their fleets, how to ensure your vehicles and drivers are fully compliant with the latest regulations, such as London’s Safer Lorry Scheme, and learn how town design and infrastructure can improve shared road space.

Finally, those visitors attending the ‘Quiet & Efficient’ seminars will hear experts exploring what the cities of the future will expect from urban freight movements and how they will cope with increasing demand for home deliveries and the growing convenience store trend. Consolidation, last-mile deliveries by low-emission vehicles and out-of-hours operations are likely to increase, but find out which one will work best for your city.

The Freight in the City Expo takes place on 27 October at London’s Alexandra Palace. Register now to receive updates and the latest urban freight news.

FTA wants to see exempt construction vehicles brought under licensing and testing regime if using public roads

Volumetric concrete mixer lorries should be subject to the same regulations as other HGVs if they are operating on public roads, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has urged the government.

It was responding to two separate government consultations that ended in March this year, with results yet to be announced, that look at the current exemptions for certain classes of vehicle from licensing and testing requirements.

The FTA said it supported the proposal to remove the roadworthiness testing exemption for volumetric concrete mixers and that it also wanted to see them brought under the O-licensing regime. It also opposes the proposal that such vehicles should be allowed to operate outside or in excess of Construction & Use weight limits.

Christopher Snelling, FTA head of urban logistics, said: “The FTA believes that, in general, if a vehicle is operating on the public roads and has the same risk profile as an HGV, it should be subject to similar levels of regulation.  We are working with our members in the construction logistics sector to try to improve road safety, especially that of cyclists.  It is right that vehicles involved in this work, using public roads, should be incorporated into the regulatory regimes.”

The FTA also wanted to see increased targeted enforcement of driver and vehicle regulations in high risk areas, such as London, “as regulations are of no use if they are flouted”.

It said progressive improvement to regulation could deliver significant benefits, which has been proven by the 50% decrease in the number of HGVs involved in fatal incidents on Britain’s in the last 12 years.

“Maximum improvement in road safety can never achieved by addressing just one set of road users, but we all have our part to play in reducing the number of injuries and fatalities on our roads. These improvements in regulation of large commercial vehicles that FTA is supporting here are part of what the freight industry believes is the best route to taking road safety forwards,” said Snelling.

TfL announced last month it would be launching a joint intelligence commercial freight enforcement unit this summer to step up its action against uncompliant operators.

O’Donovan Waste Disposal trials Mercedes Econic skip-loader with improved driver visibility

London operator O’Donovan Waste Disposal is asking its drivers to make a cultural change by embracing an unconventional skip lorry in the form of the Mercedes-Benz Econic.

Now in operation in the capital as part of a four-week trial by the waste management company, it is the first Econic to hit the roads in skip-loader guise rather than its typical configuration as a refuse collection vehicle.

The trial is aiming to assess if the truck’s design can not only improve safety for vulnerable road users through the all-round visibility of its cab, but also remove some of the cognitive strain from the driver of having to monitor several pieces of add-on safety technology.

MD Jacqueline O’Donovan said the cab’s unconventional design had prompted initial reluctance from drivers to get behind the wheel.

However, this was one of the hurdles that the company, through its championing of the Clocs scheme, was looking to overcome.

“The Econic, with a dust cart cab and a skip back, is alien to us,” she told FreightintheCity. “But the whole purpose of Clocs is a culture change, so we’re going to trial something new and give it a run.”

She added that during the trial, the Econic will be assessed for accessibility, manoeuvrability and drivers’ reaction to on-road use.

The company already operates three skip lorries brought to market through discussions between the Clocs team and manufacturers: a Volvo FL; a Daf LF; and an MAN TGM with revised suspension to lower the cab.

“The drivers love the Volvo with the lower nearside window for view, but these are the conventional cab style,” said O’Donovan.

Longer-term, the haulier will look to replace its fleet with 
the most successful models, following trials.

The company is also carrying out trials of low-to-the-ground side skirts on its fleet of tippers.