Electric vehicle uptake would improve with better distributor and operator collaboration

Improved collaboration between electric vehicle operators and electricity distributors will see a substantial increase of battery-powered vehicles on the roads of London, delegates at the LoCity Fuels in action roadshow heard.

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

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

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

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

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

Big data will improve urban deliveries, says Microlise

Big data can improve driver and operational safety, Microlise told delegates at Freight in the City 2017, after a trial with Innovate UK captured seven billion truck miles of information.

Matt Hague, executive director – product strategy, at Microlise, said: “There is a lot of technology on the vehicle now that can help you manage risk. That’s everything from tracking, to cameras, and increasingly artificial intelligence. There is a lot of information out there to help you manage risk and manage your fleet more safely.”

Microlise has been working with Innovate UK, generating seven billion miles of truck data from throughout the UK – and has been merging it with external data sources, such as weather, traffic, and mapping.

Hague said that with the data pool growing all of the time, the information generated in the trial would allow local authorities to map to start making some planning decisions – as well as allowing operators to make smart decisions about deliveries.

“Using all of that data [HGV drivers] are generating, you can automatically understand how risky that route is. Then you make the decision on who is driving that route, a subbie or a member of staff, or do you de-route?

“It’s also about giving the driver real-time feedback when you approach those hazards – low bridges, areas where there have been cycle accidents.. but also areas of speeding, or harsh braking zones. Then you can figure out your hot-spots,” he said.

Hague said that utilising big data as part of the driving experience, warning drivers of potential hazards ahead, the plan is not to overwhelm the driver with data, but “give the driver a warning that they are about to hit a bridge – or warn them of impending risk”.

“The other reason we did this is that autonomous vehicles are going to happen. Lots of questions around that: Can our infrastructure support it? Is it safe? When the vehicle supports more and more what the driver is doing, the amount of data can only grow and grow,” he said.

“This project was about strategic planning, tactical planning and giving that information in real-time, at the right level.”

‘The vehicle is the easiest way of causing mass panic’ – counter-terrorism police tells Freight in the City 2017

HGV operators and rental suppliers have been urged to be vigilant in order to mitigate the use of the ‘vehicle as a weapon’ in a terrorist attack.

Following incidents in Nice and Berlin in 2016, where trucks were used as part of attacks in built-up and crowded areas, and incidents on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge in the capital – as well as in Manchester in May 2017 – Sergeant Wayne Watling, counter terrorism focus desk, Metropolitan Police took the opportunities to tell delegates at Freight in the City 2017 of the need to remain watchful.

How many people have drivers that go out on the same routes? They know what is normal. They will know if there is something out of the ordinary,” Watling said. “We have been at severe [risk of terrorism] since August 2014 – that is an awfully long time.

“If you look at Nice, that was a horrendous situation, and that individual was not on anyone’s radar. He was not known for terrorism,” he said.

Watling revealed that 20 attacks over the past four years have been foiled by counter-terrorism police, including seven in the past seven months. “We have to be aware of the threat but get on with things.”

He also spoke of the attacks in Nice and Berlin involving HGVs: “The vehicle is the easiest way of causing mass panic. The HGV hire industry has spent a lot in reducing that risk.”

Watling also explained that the contingencies within a company to improve safety, that businesses put in place to reduce terrorism, reduces the risk of terrorism.

Monitoring driver health will improve public safety in urban areas, says Backhouse

Operators must continue to monitor the health of their drivers in order to mitigate the risks of the business and improve the safety of the public.

Speaking at the Freight in the City Expo 2017 yesterday (7 November) James Backhouse, partner at Backhouse Jones Solicitors, cited the example of the Glasgow bin lorry crash which led to the deaths of six people in December 2014.

He said that the driver of the vehicle, in a previous employment, had an unconscious episode.

“He was in charge of a significant vehicle and suffered from medical issues that severely impacted the people around,” Backhouse said.

“After the Glasgow crash, there was an inquiry. It is important if you are employing drivers that you understand what the recommendations of that report were. The reality is, it is worth a read, as with the best will in the world you do not want it to be one of your drivers in one of your branded vehicles having a crash.”

Backhouse explained that middle-aged men – predominantly drivers – are not good at reporting issues to the doctors. He added that colleagues will spot patterns of behaviour, such as going to sleep regularly in the afternoon.

“It is very important to be alive to this. Look at your employment procedures for induction and HR. The reputational harm of one of these incidents is not to be taken lightly…” Backhouse warned.

He did concede that there was a possibility of discrimination, as anything to do with mental health is private and personal information. “This has to be dealt with with discretion,” he warned. “It cannot form the basis of tittle tattle. There is a real risk of prosecution for manslaughter if these issues are not addressed.”

Read the full Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Glasgow Bin Lorry crash here.

Increased electric vehicle adoption means rising need for safety features

Further expanding clean air zones will increase the demand for electric vehicles and hybrids, but the industry needs to address the dangers of low noise associated with electric powertrains.

Tony Bowen, LCV project manager at Brigade Electronics, told delegates at Freight in the City 2017 : “We have to understand how dangerous an unseen and unheard slow moving vehicle can be to vulnerable road users – small children, people with restricted eyesight, those of old age, etc.

“Drivers that drive electric vehicles are aware of the problem. Owners and managers of companies have a responsibility to provide drivers of these vehicles with the ability to reduce risk among these vulnerable road users.”

He said that Brigade had reacted to EU Regulation 138 – which has led to its Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System and will be introduced from 1 July 2019.

“What are we doing about this impending regulation? Using our industry expertise we have developed the quite vehicle sounder… increased frequency and amplitude as the vehicle speeds up, mimicking the behaviour of a combustion engine.

“It operates from 0-12mph (20kms) above 20kms, then tyre noise and wind noise takes over.”

Pre-production of its Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System begin from November 2017 with production units available for operation by the end of Q1 2018.

LoCity Annual Conference points to mayor-led future

The LoCity Annual Conference took place at Freight in the City 2017, offering an opportunity for policy makers, alternative fuel trials and fleet operators to look back at the past 12 months, and ahead to the challenges LoCity faces.

Introducing the session Alex Williams, director of city planning at TfL, looked at the challenges a growing London faces over the next 25 years with a projected population growth of 8.7m to 10.5m: “The mayor’s transport strategy is very ambitious in terms of getting the cleanest and safest vehicles on our roads, and we all need to respond and accommodate that.

“The number of trips people make per day is falling and the number of car trips is falling, but the number of van trips is increasing. How do we accommodate that demand and make the road network as efficient as you can? With the exception of the Silvertown tunnel there is no extra capacity in the highway network.”

Williams said that 90% of all freight in London is carried on the road, with the value of the freight moved standing at £200bn annually. As a result TfL understands the value of road freight to the capital and its economy.

Oxford Street

In light of this he added that freight was at the heart of one of the flagship policies of mayor Sadiq Khan, to pedestrianise parts of Oxford Street (pictured above), where the biggest challenge will be to accommodate freight deliveries to stores.

Williams also discussed recent regulatory changes – noting the introduction of the T-Charge on 23 October and looking forward to the introduction of the ULEZ on 8 April 2019 – essentially 17 months early.

“A lot of people in the mayor’s consolation said that we were not moving quick enough,” he said of the move in the date of the introduction of the ULEZ. “The next ULEZ consultation will be on widening the ULEZ boundary for HGVs,” he said, adding that the zone could be bordered by the north and south circular, which he admitted would be challenging to deliver.

Up next at the annual conference was Denise Beedell, development manager, Greater London at the Federation of Small Business. She explained that LoCity was something the FSB wanted to get behind “very quickly”.

“We wanted to explore the affordability for our small and micro members. Yes, big fleets have a lot of knowledge, but smaller fleets needed simpler information to make the right decisions for their operation,” she said. “We also wanted to make sure that the planning and procurement activity worked properly, rather than use sticks to beat businesses with.”

She said that key concerns for FSB members over the past 12 months had been total cost of ownership for vehicles that met LoCity standards, while the emissions from auxiliary engines – such as refrigeration units – needed to be considered when it came to mitigating those emissions.

“We will continue to work with vehicle manufacturers as they are the ones who will deliver the vehicles for our members to buy in the showrooms,” she said of plans for 2018.


Next on the slate was Venn Chesterton, innovation lead, low emission vehicle, Innovate UK, who took a spin through several of the trials that the organisation had been helping to run over the past year. “What we already know is that gas vehicles don’t cost a lot more, and in some cases you will save money,” he said of the Air Liquide consortium trial, while noting that a UPS electric trial “had seen us look at how to charge vehicles. They have a large charging point on site with UK Power Networks managing that.”

Forthcoming trials including trailer ergonomics with Lawrence David, a gas trial with CNG Fuels – focused on refuelling options – and a KERS trial with Howdens Joinery.

But how are these trials measured? And how are they evaluated as successful, or not? “How can we prove to legislations, city authorities, operators and the general public that these things lead to improvement? One thing is around climate change and CO2 while the other is around air quality and NoX,” said Chesterton.

To that end, the equation of success is measured as: kms driven, the energy used to drive those kms, and emissions associated with that energy used. If those measures point to a reduction in emissions, then a vehicle is benchmarked against a Euro-6 diesel. This is done under several measures, including performance in areas such as urban environments or trunking routes.

The next trials will focus on refuse collection, he added, and he called on those involved in that part of the industry to participate.

Birmingham will get one of the first clean air zones

The conference finished with a panel discussion that included contributions from Carl Beet, Transport for West Midlands; Andrew Benfield, Energy Saving Trust and Martin Ellis, Joint Air Quality Unit – looking at lowering emissions in cities and towns across the UK.

Chair and business journalist Simon Jack questioned the panel on its view as to how important EU regulation was to LoCity – and what would happen as a result of Brexit. Williams admitted that EU regulation was overarching in everything they did, but that regional mayors now had such powers over their constituencies that policy would now be driven from the bottom up, rather than waiting for the EU to handle it.

“Looking at the emissions scandal that is a failing of the EU to handle those large businesses, while these metro mayors are up there and doing it,” he said.

Beet said that EU law had given the direction, but that was moving on, while Benfield said that certainty was required in this area in order for policy makers and businesses to plan ahead to make savings and reductions.

A final question was raised from one delegate on the chance of a new mayor, with polarising views on environmental sustainability, coming in to any city and changing the political and policy work done on reducing emissions.

Benfield said that the health benefits of improving air quality would “continue to be a vote winner” while the prosperity of the economy relied on “a healthy, independent, profitable and clean” transport sector for the UK.

“This topic is not going to go away because it is hitting too many buttons. It has achieved cross party support and is not going anywhere,” he said. Ellis concurred, citing cross-party experience in Somerset and Bristol.

Finally Ellis addressed the powers of metro mayors to introduce clean air zones, and said that it was absolutely necessary for freight operators to have a clear view of the requirements and costs associated with those zones. Benfield concurred that there was a need for a national framework and standard, with encouragement beyond compliance.

“If it’s not straightforward that gives people a way out,” he said.

All of the presentations from the LoCity annual conference are available online.

Autonomous Cargopod delivers for Ocado

A trial of a fully autonomous electric-powered vehicle – dubbed the Cargopod – conducting last-mile deliveries for Ocado in Greenwich concludes on Monday (3 July).

The vehicle, which has a payload of 128kg and requires two employees to accompany it at all times, has delivered groceries to more than 100 customers so far. Its use, however, has been limited to the Royal Arsenal development in the London borough, which has no public highways.

It was developed in partnership with Oxford-based artificial intelligence firm Oxbotica, and is part of a trial led by Transport Research laboratory (TRL) and its Gateway project (standing for Greenwich Automated Transport Environment).

David Sharp, head of Ocado’s 10x department (Sharp explained its 10x department aims to make things “ten times better”), said the trial was designed to take autonomous commercial vehicle technology to the “edge of what is practical”.

He also explained that the technology behind the CargoPod – particularly its software platform Selenium – could be scaled up to larger commercial vehicles to improve the payload capacity.

Simon Tong, principal research scientist at TRL and technical lead for the Gateway project, added: “This trial with Ocado Technology provides an ideal platform to help us understand how and where these vehicles could best operate and whether people would accept, trust and like them as an automated delivery service in the city.

“We envisage that cities could benefit massively if deliveries could be made by quiet, zero emission, automated vehicles when congestion is minimal,” he said.

And here is a great video explaining how it works:


Local legislation is creating a minefield for the transport industry

Local legislation, when it comes to logistics movements in the UK, is a “minefield” and TfL’s proposed Direct Vision Standard for HGVs in the capital is “not the answer”.

Speaking at the Truck to The Future debate at last week’s Microlise Transport Conference, Laurence Drake, business planning director at Daf Trucks, called on local governments throughout the UK to end the “minefield” of differing local legislation and standards.

He also called for clarity on where HGV manufacturers needed be in five years’ time.

“If we know, then we can get there,” Drake said. “When you look at TfL’s requirments, the danger is they almost become laws because you cannot quote for a tender [without meeting them].”

Martin Flach, product director at Iveco, said he did not see the Direct Vision Standard in London –which assesses and rates how much an HGV driver can see directly from their cab – “as being the real answer” to improving vulnerable road user safety.

The standard, which remains under development, rates a vehicle against a five-star scoring system based on the driver’s direct vision from the cab (as opposed to indirect vision via aids such as mirrors and cameras).

Flach thinks technology is a more cost-effective way to save lives. “There is nothing quite like an advanced emergency braking system for forward-facing collisions – So, can you do that for potential collisions at the side of a truck? [This would relieve] the driver of the decision.”

Mark Grant, UK aftersales director at Scania (GB), called on local governments throughout the UK to give the industry clear guidelines.

“What do councils want? They need to agree it across all metropolitan boroughs and in London. Manufacturers are good at coming up with great designs once we know what we have got to design for. I am a great believer in devolved power but there has to be co-ordination,” he said.

“We need a single view on what we are going to build to. And we will meet it because that is what we do.

“It is the operator that will pay if we have to do different designs. Margins are thin enough in logistics,” Grant added.

DHL Supply Chain has also recently called on devolved cities to apply a consistent approach to transport requirements.

Transport for West Midlands looks to keep road network ‘running at its maximum’


Birmingham needs to think radically if it is to reduce congestion, lower noise and improve air quality – without damaging the strength of the regional economy – according to Transport for West Midlands.

Speaking exclusively to Freightinthecity.com, Laura Shoaf, MD of Transport for West Midlands, said: “Being at the centre of the road network and of the rail network gives us a competitive advantage in terms of attracting and retaining businesses, and freight plays a huge part in the regional economy.

“We have real air quality issues in the region, and we are mandated to address that,” she added. “The public have the expectation that they have a right to breath clean air.”

However, she added: “Businesses need roads to move freight to market. Moving non-essential road journeys off the road and providing well-priced, public transport alternatives will mean the network runs at its maximum.”

Shoaf is chairing a debate on ‘How to influence customers’ delivery expectations’ at Freight in the City Birmingham on 1 March and said that she would “certainly be interested” in hearing the views of the panellists when it comes to reducing the impact that final-mile deliveries have on congestion, noise and air quality.

She cited the use of electric-powered tricycles in trials in cities in Scandinavia as the kind of radical solutions required to address such challenges.

  • The Freight in the City Spring Summit takes place on 1 March at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham. It is free to attend, so make sure you reserve your place today.

FTA: ‘low carbon trucks’ need government financial support

Operators should receive financial support from the government to encourage the take-up of green fuels and technologies, the FTA has urged.

Following the publication of the final report evaluating the performance of the DfT’s Low Carbon Truck Trial yesterday, the industry association said that the number of alternatively fuelled trucks would decline if further financial support was not received to ‘bridge the gap to large-scale commercialisation’.

FTA climate change policy manager Rachael Dillon said: “The UK gas truck fleet makes up just 0.2% of the overall truck fleet and there is potential for significant progress to be made in increasing these numbers.”

She added: “If the government is serious about increasing the presence of ‘green’ trucks on our roads, it must ensure that it continues to help provide facilities and incentives for operators to use them.”

Dillon also said that the government should incentivise the production of biomethane for use as a road transport fuel, rather than a heating fuel, as it would lead to bigger emission reductions from the road transport fleet across the UK.

Yesterday the final report to the DfT Low Carbon Truck and Refuelling Infrastructure Demonstration Trial Evaluation acknowledged concerns over methane slip (an increase in greenhouse gas emissions due to the incomplete combustion of methane as the engine switches from one fuel to the other).

Although analysis into methane slip among dual fuel trucks participating in the trial was conducted independently and disputed in the official findings of the trial, operators voiced concerns that it reduced the credibility of dual fuel vehicles. This led the RHA to accuse the trial of wasting £25m of taxpayers’ money.