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British logistics cuts carbon emissions

Tunbridge Well, UK: A voluntary scheme to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from heavy trucks and vans published its first annual report to coincide with Climate Week last week.

The Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS) has attracted the support of nearly 50 leading businesses including retailers, third party logistics providers and utility companies that operate some 40,000 commercial vehicles.

The scheme, which is managed by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), involves businesses providing details of their fuel usage, fleet and activity data. The administrative burden of providing data is minimal because it is collected routinely by operators to manage their businesses. Scheme members commit at a senior director level to participate in the scheme and to have their data independently verified by the association as part of the reporting process. The first annual report tracked emissions from 2005 to 2009 from the sector.

Participants committed collectively to an 8% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 2015 (compared to 2010 levels). Future annual reports will monitor the progress towards meeting the target.

Simon Chapman, chief economist at the FTA says: “Carbon dioxide emissions from freight represent 30 per cent of all transport emissions, and the industry recognises it has an important role in bringing overall levels of emissions down. Analysis of fuel use emissions data since 2005 by scheme members suggests that some progress has already been made, particularly through driver fuel efficiency training, use of bio fuels and increases in vehicle carrying capacity. However, better visibility of fuel costs, which the scheme promotes, suggests there is still a big prize for operators to aim at. The cost of fuel continues to represent over a third of the costs of running a truck.”

Unlike national carbon dioxide reduction targets, which commit the UK to an absolute, cut in carbon dioxide emissions, the scheme’s target focuses on producing less carbon per unit of resource or activity. Chapman says: “The 8% intensity reduction in just five years is challenging. However we believe it is achievable given the opportunities that alternative fuel and vehicle technology offer in improving fuel efficiency and the contribution that telematics and traffic office IT can make to working resources harder.

“Setting an absolute cut in emissions, whilst superficially attractive as it would tie into national targets, is impractical. Freight demand and therefore absolute levels of fuel use is heavily dependent on economic growth and changes in business of scheme members. These are not factors that businesses can predict with any certainty. What operators can commit to is how they will make use of low carbon technologies and fuels and leveraging greater productivity out of their resources.”

Whilst the scheme’s development has been industry-led, there is considerable potential for government action to reinforce the progress made by businesses to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The target reflects a business as usual scenario and current government policies that are not as helpful as they could be, he says.

Chapman says: “If government wants more then it can help us by looking at higher capacity trucks, defending double deck trailers against a possible European height limit of 4 metres, making rail freight cheaper and easier to use, restoring rail freight grants and bio fuel duty incentives and maintaining a fairer deal on fuel.”