Thursday, April 18, 2019

Freight and Logistics Associations Split on NIC Report Planning Demise of Diesel Lorries

Road Haulage and Rail Cargo Needs Government Support with New Infrastructure
Shipping News Feature
UK – The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has released a new report which recommends that Ministers should ban the sale of new diesel HGV lorries by no later than 2040, news that has split the opinions of key industry associations. The report, 'Better Delivery: the challenge for freight' looks to ensure the UK's logistics industry is fit for the future to better cope with a growing population and increasing demand for goods, leading ultimately to dire effects on the environment, particularly with reference to HGVs and the road haulage sector.

In November 2017, Chancellor Philip Hammond charged the Commission with examining the future of the freight industry, and to identify how government can help companies get their goods to the front door or factory gate faster and more efficiently.

’Better Delivery: the challenge for freight’ highlights the need for the government to prepare detailed assessments of the infrastructure needed to enable the uptake of battery electric or hydrogen lorries, and for the energy regulator Ofgem to work with the freight industry to enable charging at depots by 2025, all to support the ban of petrol and diesel HGVs by no later than 2040.

Clear long term targets are essential to enable the industry to manage the transition to cleaner fuels and vehicles and take advantage of the opportunities for increased efficiency and reduced costs from new low-carbon technologies.

The report ultimately concludes that it will be possible to decarbonise rail freight by 2050, but that the industry cannot be expected to deliver this without intervention from Government. It recommends that a full strategy should be published showing how rail freight can reach zero emissions by 2050, detailing the investments and/or subsidies that Government will provide.

The formation of a new ‘Freight Leadership Council’ is also recommended, to bring together Government departments and industry representatives to oversee the delivery of the report recommendations as well as developing a renewed focus on logistics in the UK within Government

The development of hydrogen and battery HGVs is, considered by the government as already being well advanced with such vehicles expected to be commercially available in the early 2020s, not a universally held optimism. Sir John Armitt, the Commission Chairman, said the move to ban the sale of new diesel lorries is necessary to provide the freight industry with the certainty it needs to invest in new, green technologies and prepare for an environmentally friendly future.

The UK logistics industry is one of the most efficient and competitive in the world, using air, sea, road and rail to maximise its effectiveness in the face of capacity and technical constraints. In 2016, the road and rail freight industry moved 1.4 billion tonnes of goods. But with the increase in same day delivery services, just-in-time manufacturing processes and internet shopping, demand on the sector is set to grow.

Over the next 30 years heavy freight transport in the UK is expected to increase by at least 27% and could rise by as much as 45%. The number of miles covered by vans delivering goods could increase by as much as 89% over the same period. Freight on road and rail produces around 6% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions today, but if no action is taken the sector could be responsible for around a fifth of all allowed emissions by 2050.

Both the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents all sectors of logistics, and the Rail Freight group (RFG) whose allegiance is obvious, reacted optimistically to the findings, with the FTA saying that the ban could be feasible with government support, a running theme throughout the report which itself emphasised the need for better coordination between government, planning authorities and the freight industry.

The FTA is calling for the government to ensure infrastructure is in place to support alternatively-fuelled vehicles before acting upon this recommendation of a ban. Christopher Snelling, Head of UK Policy at FTA, commented:

“The logistics sector is more than willing to make the permanent switch away from carbon-based fuels, but the government must first ensure the infrastructure and funding is in place to support this. The FTA is calling for the government to make the necessary investments into alternatively-fuelled vehicles before acting upon the NIC’s recommendation to ban the sale of new diesel HGVs by 2040.

“Similarly, the FTA is calling on government to make the necessary investments in electrification or appropriate alternative fuel to enable rail services to move to a zero-carbon-future. The FTA is very concerned about how the recommendation to consider road-based alternatives to busy rail corridors will be taken-forward. Rail already delivers greener logistics while relieving congestion on Britain’s road network.

“Britain needs the logistics industry to deliver 4.1 million tonnes of goods every day of the year to every corner of the country, from central London to the Highlands of Scotland in a wide range of vehicles appropriate to the job. There must be support for our industry if changes are to be made, since UK PLC cannot survive without the support of the logistics sector. While gradual change is already taking place within the logistics sector, operators have been moving to new forms of fuels and vehicles for some time, to implement such swift change requires an equally radical government investment. After all, operators cannot magic new vehicles out of thin air.”

For the rail industry to tackle its emissions, it needs a plan from ministers by 2021 specifying the investments and subsidies that will be available to get there. To make better use of existing capacity, councils will need planning guidance to support their efforts to minimise the impacts of freight operations in busy cities, as well as a framework for minimum standards of data collection from the industry itself to support better planning. Maggie Simpson, Rail Freight Group (RFG) Director General said:

“We are pleased that the Commission has set out a pathway for Government support in decarbonisation of rail freight. With battery and hydrogen technologies in their infancy on the rail network, and the extent of electrification still limited, the industry cannot be expected to deliver the necessary investment without the backing of Government. This recommendation gives a way forward to provide the certainty that the rail freight sector needs, and a framework to oversee delivery.”

Conversely the Road Haulage Association (RHA) was less than impressed by the report’s findings arguing that the recommendations for reducing road freight emissions are simplistic and ultimately lacking a clear roadmap by making assumptions about technologies and infrastructure that have yet to materialise. RHA Chief Executive, Richard Burnett said:

“Their recommendations are simplistic and fail to spell out how government should lead a realistic, supportive transition from diesel. New technology is welcome but it needs to be practical and affordable. A premature switch to zero-emissions lorries would disproportionately impact small freight operators.”

He added that the call to ban the sale of new diesel lorries by 2040 is not credible given there are currently no viable alternatives on the market.