Climate change is happening and transport operators need to act now

As climate change is rising on the political agenda, companies are starting to take notice. That’s according to SOPHIE PUNTE, executive director of the Smart Freight Centre. So, what should transport operators be doing?

Protests by youth and other concerned citizens in countries worldwide are increasing the pressure to do more than implementing symbolic measures with little impact. The Swedish student Greta Thunberg said: “You are not radical enough.”

For the first time, governments are seriously thinking about carbon pricing and charging per kilometre driven. Pension funds and insurers are getting nervous about investments that carry a high carbon footprint, or that are vulnerable to climate disruption. How do road-freight operators translate this to their own businesses in practice?

The first rule is: measuring is knowing. The universal method to calculate logistics emissions – the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework – can help shippers and carriers to identify improvement measures and improve operational performance.

The GLEC Framework is the only globally recognised, harmonised method for calculating and reporting emissions across the multi-modal logistics supply chain. This method can be applied in combination with existing calculation tools and green freight programmes, such as the EcoTransIT tool and the Green Freight Asia programme.

Next it’s important that carriers focus on what they can control – the truck fleet – and look at efficiency measures from all angles. These can be realised through smart fleet management that consists of five pillars: fuel choice and management; involving drivers and other staff; specs, operation and maintenance of vehicles and equipment; optimal use of internet connectivity; and measurement of fuel and emissions. Aside from emission reductions, companies can save money by optimal use of trucks, drivers and fuels, as well as higher filling rates.

The good news for South African carriers is that the Road Transport Management System (RTMS), in partnership with Smart Freight Centre, is now offering training courses to fleet managers to help them identify what works best for their fleets.

Sophie Punte, executive director of the Smart Freight Centre, says transport operators need to be cognisant of climate change..

The first 27 fleet managers were trained in April and more courses will follow later this year. Aside from information on energy-efficiency technologies and measures, fleet managers get to meet their peers and discuss what does and doesn’t work.

However, even with the right training, it’s unlikely that road-freight carriers will make substantial investments without help from shippers and the government. For example: the payback period for the purchase of an electric or hybrid truck can be five years. How does a company justify this investment if the customer will only give a one-year contract, and it’s very uncertain whether the government will ensure that charging infrastructure is in place?

What does a company do if it works out a truck-train combination for a customer from Johannesburg to Cape Town, but the risk is high that this customer will want to go back to only trucks the moment that option becomes cheaper again? Shippers and governments must commit to longer-term contracts and predictable policy for carriers to move on climate action.

The Smart Freight Centre, a global non-profit organisation, was established in Amsterdam in 2013. It strives towards efficient and zero-emissions global freight.

The Smart Freight Centre believes that increased transparency will mobilise multinational companies and their logistics partners to reduce the climate and pollution impact arising from global freight. It has a lofty goal: 100+ multinationals should reduce at least 30 percent of their logistics emissions by 2030 (versus 2015).

Serco helps further driver training at Coca-Cola

Truck body and trailer manufacturer Serco has played a significant role in helping to further the safety of truck drivers at Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) by building two specialised Protec steel trailers to house vehicle simulators.

CCBSA invests heavily in the safety of its drivers, as well as road users in general and conducts training at a variety of sites around South Africa.  The company’s idea was to create mobile training centres prompting the order being awarded to Serco for the custom-built trailers.

Serco built the two high-tech Protec steel trailers at its Johannesburg factory to house the mobile training centres and simulator equipment, as well as provide capacity to add additional features or accessories as required by the customer.

The trailer interiors were configured to provide space for the simulators, computer rooms, air-conditioning units, aluminium access steps with hand rails, as well as tail lifts.

Although the mobile centres will be used specifically for the training of truck drivers, there is potential – using different simulators – to train bakkie and forklift drivers in any area in South Africa.

Riaan Harmse, national fleet logistics controller at CCBSA, says his company was impressed with the final Serco product.

The driver simulators are a valuable addition to the hands-on training by experienced, in-cab instructors. Benefits include that there are no real safety concerns for drivers and equipment while undergoing training, there is no wear and tear, and no fuel is used on the actual trucks during training activities.

Clinton Holcroft, managing director of Serco, is passionate about safety. “Road safety is a critical component for any logistics company, particularly when lives are at stake. It’s also important to bear in mind the significant impact accidents can have on a company’s bottom line,” he tells SHEQ MANAGEMENT.

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